by Tim Waldenback, co-founder of Zutobi Drivers Ed
Between the iOS App Store and Google Play, there are nearly 5 million apps vying for your customers’ attention. But don’t let these stats discourage you! If you approach building your app with the idea of expertly delivering solutions that address real pain points, you’ll be off to a promising start. Always develop with your customers in mind and prepare to scale at the very beginning of the process.
But without strategic marketing, it will be difficult to meet your goals. Use this cheat sheet to guide your efforts to get downloads, installs, and retain the users you sought so hard to acquire.
Don’t Develop What YOU Want – Develop What Your USERS Want
As an app developer, you’re probably also an avid app user. That means you’re likely to have a lot of opinions about what you believe would be a cool idea for a new app. But there’s only one situation in which you should move forward with developing what you want in an app, and that’s if you can clearly identify a marketable group of users who will also see value in what you’re proposing to create.
However, you should absolutely use your experience with apps as a basis for determining why particular apps were a disappointment. Did the app crash often? Did it offer a poor user experience? Did it deliver on its promises? Take the time to research what your customers want and use your development talent to create an app that functions well and provides value.
Develop an App That Can Handle Growth
Prepare yourself for the prospect of having a hugely successful app. That mindset definitely works as a motivating factor, but it also ensures that when the app does take off, it will be able to support a large user base. The last thing you need is for the technology to fail because too many people are trying to access the app at the same time.
But failure to scale is not just a technical issue. If users see that they can’t rely on the app when they need it, that’s going to cause a backlash. Disgruntled users may even end up deleting it. Worse, bad word-of-mouth travels fast and you’ll be hard-pressed to persuade potential users that they can count on your app to perform.
Learn About Your Customers to Ensure Your Idea is Spot On
Every good marketing plan begins with in-depth knowledge of your target customers. As stated earlier, the development process shouldn’t even begin before you know why users will want to download and install the app you plan to create. We discovered that teen drivers were stressed out about passing their learner exams, so we made sure to design the state permit tests to address the unique learning hurdles and specific driving conditions in each of our users’ localities.
You can learn a lot about what motivates potential users by monitoring online industry forums, reading reviews for competitive apps, and by reaching out directly on your social media pages. Ask your followers for their input. Not only will you gain valuable knowledge about what customers want and need but you’ll also send the message that you truly care about developing an app that addresses their pain points.
Marketing Mobile Apps Involves Understanding the Customer Journey
The path to customer acquisition and retention is indeed a journey. Learn about the sales funnel for mobile apps and the different marketing approaches for each distinct stage.
Prior to launch, focus on customer awareness. Since social media is set up for sharing, post a strong pitch for the upcoming app that makes followers excited about it. You could begin with a teaser post and then follow-up with more details about how the app will serve your customers. Social media influencers can also play a big role in creating buzz around the app before it launches. Find relevant influencers with a large platform and give them early access to the app. If they endorse it, they could end up being your best resource for a successful launch.
Once your app goes live in the app stores, you’ll have a dual goal of user acquisition (downloads and installs) and user retention. For the acquisition stage of the user journey, use both organic and paid strategies to make the app discoverable and to increase conversion (installation). Third-party research can help you better understand what causes people to install your app. Also consider using incentives to encourage current users to share the app with their friends or colleagues.
Finally, develop a retention strategy that enables you to hold on to your current customers and persuade them to use the app more frequently. We discuss acquisition and retention marketing strategies in the next two sections.
Use App Store Optimization (ASO) to Bring in the Highest Value Clients
Current data indicates that two-thirds of app downloads occur as a result of searching or exploring within the two app stores. App store optimization (ASO) is a continuous process that aims to make your app more discoverable in the very place where people go to learn about and download apps.
Use research to learn which search terms your target customers are using to find apps like yours. We know that the Zutobi target app user is looking to pass their driver’s permit exam, so we researched to find the keywords that would be most impactful for our app store title and description.
ASO goes beyond keywords, however. Users are also influenced by the images and videos they see on your app listing and pay close attention to ratings and reviews. By responding quickly to negative ratings, you’ll show potential users that you care about delivering a quality product.
The way you react to your customers – even when things go wrong – may persuade a disgruntled user to remove a bad rating or even give you a good one for excellent customer service. Plus, ratings and reviews are a ranking factor in the Google Play store, so improving in this area boosts your position in search.
Remember that ASO is a process, and not something you think about only at launch. Examine your analytics reports to find out what’s working and what needs to be changed, and experiment with different elements until you meet your acquisition goals.
A/B Test Your Way to Success
A/B testing can provide valuable feedback before you make changes to your app features, store listing, or ad creative. Working with only one variable at a time – let’s say it’s your store listing’s color scheme – show two different versions to a split sample group pulled from your total user base. When results show which version performed better, you can feel confident about introducing changes that everyone can see.
A/B testing is often used as part of the ASO process, either before launch or when you notice that your app is not meeting its goals. It’s important to come up with a good hypothesis (selecting the correct variable to test) to get the most out of the testing process.
Look for Incentives that will Motivate your Customers to Share the App
Another strategy that will help you acquire more users is to incentivize current customers to share your app. Referral programs have a history of being highly effective when the rewards are meaningful and useful.
The kind of incentives you offer will depend on their relevance to your industry and on what you think users will find most valuable. An e-commerce app might offer a free item or a heavy discount on a product. An educational app could offer bonus content not available to the entirety of your user base. Consider awarding badges to top referrers, and perhaps even introduce them on social media if they are motivated by this type of recognition.
Use social media to get a read on which types of incentives are most attractive to your users, then find as many free ways to promote your new referral program. Social media is the perfect place to introduce a sharing program, and then take advantage of your influencers to get the message out. Paid tactics include ads that send targeted users to your website to explain the new program. And an email campaign is also an effective method for introducing the program since recipients can easily forward the email to their contacts.
You should also dedicate a section of your app to the referral effort and make it a simple exercise to invite people to download the app. Push notifications are an excellent way to remind users about the program and the rewards available for adding new users.
Include In-App Incentives to Entice Users to Come Back
Your app’s success depends not only on acquiring new users but on keeping the ones you currently have. It’s also necessary to encourage existing users to take actions inside the app more frequently and on a regular basis.
If some of your users have dropped off or are using the app less often, remind them about the value of the app and create a loyalty program that rewards users for every in-app action they take.
Develop a rewards structure that delivers what users will value upon reaching a desired level of in-app actions. As with the referral program, you could also award badges to those users who reach the highest levels. Perhaps, as a reward, interview the top users to get their personal feedback on the app. The important step to take is to find out what users feel are meaningful rewards.
Keep Tabs on your Performance to Ensure your Value Proposition Remains Relevant
Launching and growing a successful app is an active process. Users’ needs change over time – and so does your industry. Keep up with industry news and its impact on your customers, and be sure to watch your goal metrics closely and carefully. You’ll need to be prepared to take quick action if you notice your downloads are slipping and usage is falling off. If you fail to deliver value in your product, users will move onto something else.
At Zutobi, we looked at new research that showed which states had the lowest passing rates for the driving permit exam. Then we rewrote our content to address the fact that we help users pass the test on the first try, such as this Ohio test.
Developing and Launching a Successful Mobile App is Hard Work – But it’s also Rewarding
Expect to be very busy! From concept to development and then marketing your app, you’ll spend many hours of the day working to perfect and optimize your product. But there’s tremendous satisfaction in knowing your efforts have helped users become more efficient, learn a skill, save money, or whatever your app promises to deliver. You may experience some setbacks, but don’t give up. If you put your customers’ needs in the front of their minds and strive to solve problems better than your competitors, you’re going to succeed!
Tim Waldenback is the co-founder of Zutobi Drivers Ed, a gamified e-learning platform focused on online drivers education to help teens get their license. Tim founded Zutobi to make world-class driver’s education fun, affordable, and easily accessible for all.