Get an awesome app idea for your company, develop the app, launch the app on the play store, sit, relax and watch as the downloads come rushing in. That should be the way to go, right? If this was 12 years ago when there were only 500 apps in the app store, I would have told you yes. But it’s 2020 and there are more than 3 million apps on both Google and Apple play store, so the answer is no. Its an illusion that a lot of people are still living in.
As of the first quarter of 2020, Android users were able to choose between 2.56 million apps, making Google Play the app store with the biggest number of available apps. Apple’s App Store was the second-largest app store with almost 1.85 million available apps for iOS.
If that’s an illusion then what is reality? The Reality is; launching your app before you actually launch your app. It’s putting in marketing strategy and launch strategy in place long before your app thinks of getting into the app store. With the millions of apps in the app store, you can’t depend on your users randomly scrolling through the app store to find your app. You have to be intentional if you want to see the 10m+ download sign on your app in the app store. A lot of amazing apps like yours have been swallowed up in the app store because they don’t have a good launch strategy in place or have poor execution of their launch strategy. They followed the illusion, rather than following and working with reality. Let’s look at some apps that followed the illusion.
Color lab, photo-sharing app founded by Bill Nguyen, and Peter Pham, the idea was users can share photos to users close to them. Due to the idea’s uniqueness, the app had already bagged 42 million from investors before launch. Unfortunately, their “$41 million party” came crashing down. One major reason was that the app did not carry out an effective pre-launch strategy.
Since the idea of the app was centred on user usage and user-generated content, color labs needed a huge user base at the launch stage, but because they focused a lot on product development and forgot marketing, color lab did not have a high user base before their launch stage to download their app. So the app was seen as a “ghost town” to users as they saw few or no users in their location to communicate with. One year later, they had to shut down the operation on their app.
Another app that followed the illusion was Google Wave. Yes, you read it well, Google wave by the mighty Google themselves. So what could possibly have gone wrong with this app? Well, 3 things went wrong; they lacked a good communication strategy — people did not know what it was — High expectations for the product that could not be met, well because it was from mighty Google, and the end product was hard to use. After 6 months of launch, they had to pull the plug on Google wave.
According to a study carried out by Gartner, only 0.01 apps in the app store will be considered financially successful by their developers. With these examples and this statistic, it could be easy to want to shut down or not engage in app development. But don’t be quick to make that decision, just like a lot of apps were unsuccessful, they are also successful apps that are currently doing well and thriving in the app store. Apps like Starbucks, Ticktock and Instagram.
Aside from having an amazing app idea like all of them had, what else did those apps do that gave them a high user base? Well! It’s simple, they had a good launch and execution strategy.
This article is going to help you come up with a good launch strategy to help you effectively get acquisition, and retention for your app. This article will show you the best launch strategy to use from 3–6months before actually launching at the app store and 3–6 months after launch. And if you are already in the launch stage, no problem, you can also speed up some of the strategies so you can meet up with your target time and users.
P.S: The strategy on this article spans through 3–9months, so to get the best out of this article, bookmark this article and keep it as a resource guide, to guide you as you plan your launch strategy. Let’s dive in.
Table of Contents
6–3 months before launching your app
1 Research Before Action
Carrying out adequate research for your app is vital for any app’s progress and existence. Halio, a taxi-hailing app, failed to carry out market research before they expanded from London to New York, and that caused them a whole lot. Ensure sure you carry out adequate research before venturing into app launch, as it will give you insight into what to do to make your app better.
Most developers or businesses move from idea to development without carrying out research. It will be catastrophic to spend time and resources only to find out that your app has no market or someone else is already providing the solution you have developed (FYI, having a competitor does not mean you should stop developing your app).
3 type of research to consider
Market research: Who are you targeting with your app, i.e your target audience? What is their goal and what is their pain point that your app can solve? If you are planning to make your app to be paid, do your target audience pay for the type of service your app is offering? What is the market viability of your app? Knowing if there’s a target market and how big it is is crucial for business success since app development cost can run into tens of thousands of dollars.
You can use Google keyword planner to see if people are checking for your app’s solution. Google keyword planner shows you the monthly search for any keyword. A high monthly keyword search can indicate that a lot of people are searching for your app’s solution.
Also, if you are building an app for your business, you can also ask your current customers for their current challenges and if they will need and appreciate your app. A lot of companies have leveraged mobile solutions to bring about awareness and sales. Under Armour, Inc., an American sports clothing and accessories company, used mobile apps that strategically solve challenges and provide value to their target market to increase their brand awareness, sales and customer engagement. The success of the mobile apps brought about 100,000 new users daily for the brand.
Competitors research: After knowing your market, you need to find out if your app idea is already on the app store, and except your idea is highly niched or specific, odds are your idea is already on the app store. Like I said earlier, having competitors does not mean you shouldn’t move forward with your app idea. Being the first on the app store does not mean that you will have the highest market share, in the world of business outranking your competitors is highly allowed and anticipated. Looking at zoom and skype case study, we can all agree on that.
You can search for your competitors by going to the app store and searching for your keyword(s) to see the apps that are already ranking for your target keyword, check out the apps solving the problems you want to solve. Check the downloads — your competitors download will show you if the idea is accepted by people — look at the reviews of the app, what are their customers complaining about, what functionality are their customers asking for that they don’t have on the app. Carrying out a competitor’s analysis, will help you to carve out your unique selling proposition, and better position your app.
You can use App Annie to carry out a competitors analysis, App Annie is a mobile market data and analytics platform that helps you to see the apps that are currently doing well on the app store and other helpful features that you will need. Although their paid plan is quite expensive, their free plan also has good and nice features, like keyword research.
Keyword research: Keyword research is also another helpful research you should carry out, as it will help you during the App Store Optimization (ASO) stage and in your app’s messaging strategy. Keyword research is all about knowing the words people are using to search for other apps’ similar to your’s or the keyword your potential customer is using to search for problems that your app plan to solve or already solves. You can use Google keyword planner to see keywords, you can also use App Annie.
2 Define Success metrics for your App
The goal is for your app to succeed, but what exactly is a success for your app? Depending on your app’s business model and the key solution they are different success metrics that you can use to measure your app. Success metrics help you to define a benchmark in which your app will be judged and termed “successful”. Some popular success metrics can be a certain amount of downloads, ratings, 5 stars or 4.5 stars, a high average revenue per user. Whatever success metric you decide to work with, spend adequate time to create a framework by which you can measure your success. Ensure your have your success metric written down before launching your app.
3 Establish A Strategic Pricing Approach
In the end, the resources spent on the building your app is seen as an investment, because the aim of the app is to bring in revenue. So with that in mind, it is important to come up with a strong business model of how the app will generate revenue.
Unlike traditional retail, there are different ways your app can generate revenue, by advertising, sponsorship, native ads, and subscription pricing to enjoy special features or a one time off payment before downloading the app, selling virtual goods with In-App purchase, In-app upgrade etc. One important thing to note is that each of these pricing models has its pros and cons.
The most popular pricing models for top apps is freemium pricing, with In-app purchase, advertising, In-app grade. Choose the pricing model that best suits your business goal.
Deciding on a price for your app does not happen in isolation, you have to consider 3 important aspect
Competitors: Am sure you would have look at how much your competitors are pricing their services, except you are offering something different or unique or your business model is totally different from theirs, you should stay in that same price range. If it’s too high from your competitors and your users are not seeing why they should buy your services then they will likely move to your competitors. And nobody wants that.
Service/USP: You can decide to deviate a little from your competitor’s pricing structure if the quality of your service or your USP is completely different from theirs. Apple’s USP and Android’s USP is quite different, thus their high difference in price, but they have the same product structure. So your service quality can also affect your app’s price. you need to answer the question; How much are the competitors charging? How much value does my app offer when compared to theirs?
Cost Structure: How much will it take to maintain your app? You should consider the cost structure of your app before setting your price, make sure that the revenue obtained from your app is able to cover all or most of the expenses for the app and still have sufficient amount for expansion.
Everpix app helped people to organize their pictures and made it easier to access their memories. This brilliant app idea was founded by Pierre-Olivier Latour and his former coworker at Apple Kevin Quennesson, the app got $2.3 million dollars in funding.
Apart from them making the mistake of spending much money on developing the perfect app, $1.4 million, and little on marketing(more on that later), Everpix also made a mistake in their pricing strategy, so much so that it was generating enough money from its users to meet up their expenses. their pricing model was on subscription basics and they were able to generate $254,000 from subscriptions, which was far lower than their $2.3 million funding. And also revenue was not enough to pay $35,000 to Amazon Web Service for hosting 400 million users’ photos. So Everpix with a great product had to shut down services.
Important questions to ask before setting your price;
- How much money does it cost to keep the app running?
- Should I offer features that could be leveraged as an up-sell or upgrade?
- How many downloads at what price point would I need to cover those fees?
4. Publish Your App Landing Page
Say after me: “I will launch my app’s landing page long before I build my app!”
Creating a landing page for your app is a vital step to make while your app is still at the development stage. Three main reasons for creating a landing page for your app; test your app’s positioning, pricing, and communication strategy, get leads for your app before launch, and secure your online presence/domain name.
You can build your website or landing page with page-building tools like Unbounce, Instapage, Strikingly, LeadPages, or if you want more functionality you can build through WordPress, with a more customizable theme like theme forest (app’s coming soon themes).
In building your website, make sure it accurately communicates your app’s USP. You can add pictures of your app, add your demo video of the flow of your app, add a FAQ page/section to answer pending questions users might have concerning your app. Then make sure to add a CTA, like “get invite link” or “send launch date alert”.
After creating your website for your app, you can push ads on Google or social media platforms for your target users to your website, the response gotten from the ads can give you an idea if your app idea will be widely accepted or not. You can also test your pricing page to see which ones are accepted by your target audience.
5 Leverage Social Media
Social media is an awesome medium to build advocates and “die-hard” fans. Open social media accounts where your target audience is located e.g Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Instagram, etc, create content that blends with those platforms -so you don’t look spammy- and build anticipation for your app.
source:GIG Facebook page
Post contents about your soon-to-be-launched app, build user-generated content by offering incentives or carrying out quizzes or app games, direct people from your social media platform to your website, so they can sign up to be first users for your app, build virality by encouraging followers to share your contents.
source: ThankX Facebook page
Social media is vital for all stages of your app launch, as you can use it for customer acquisition, retention, and customer advocacy. When you create your social media account, make sure to be active, you only benefit from social media when you are actively engaging on your social media platforms.
6. Build A Connection With Content Marketing
With the daily rise of ad cost, especially on app installs, depending solely on paid medium in getting users for your app is an illusion. That’s why content marketing must be included in your strategy. A lot of businesses have their main marketing strategy on content marketing and use paid marketing as a supporting medium.
Unbounce CEO/Founder Rick Perreault started using their blog as a marketing platform the day they started building their application. They were blogging a year before they had a product on ground.
Well, before they launched they were having 20,000 unique visitors per month to their blog and had built their email list to over 5,000. This approach is called blog-from-the-beginning-approach.
You provide value with content, value, in turn, build trust and trust build loyalty.
7. Create An App Preview Video
Having Screenshots of your app is good but a video is better. Your app previews video will show your users the flow of your app, and experience the look and feel of your app.
The aim of creating an app video is to showcase your app’s functionality, features, and user experience of your app. You can also emphasize on special features that you can’t showcase with just pictures of your app.
Your video should be like a 5 min pitch of why your users should use it, it should be able to hook your users into downloading your app.
You can build a simple app preview video by recording sessions of your app with tools like Quicktime or iMovie or outsource it to agencies like Apptamin.
8. Leverage your Existing Connections And Influence
Why bother starting from scratch when you can leverage your connections. It’s much easier, because of familiarity they can easily turn to “raving fans” and brand advocates.
Connect with friends and family, your Facebook, Linkedin and Instagram connections, and ask them to share, review, and download the app when the app launches. In reaching out, it is important to note that persistence is key. You can continue to create some buzz from your connections till you launch date and even after launch.
“Most app marketing strategies need a little kickstart to get going. App Store Optimization (ASO) doesn’t work if you have zero downloads. Content marketing doesn’t work well if you have zero readers. Social media doesn’t work when no one shares your work.” — Reinder de Vries
You can also leverage communities with your target audience, between blogs, subreddits, social media groups, you can find 2 or more online communities where your target audience are located. Actively participate in those groups, build trust, find affiliate and promotional opportunities from those platforms, and remember do not spam. You don’t want to get a bad image before your app is launched.
9. Review Official Submission Guidelines
It will be bad publicity to notify the press and your email list about your app’s launch and finally not get your app on the either Google play store or Apple play store because your app is not in line with the guidelines, that’s why it’s important that you know before time the guidelines to follow when building your app and launching your app to the app store.
Apple and Google provide guidelines that all apps should follow before their app will be approved on the app’s store. While Google is quite lenient, Apple, on the other hand, has a no mercy law.
List of official play store’s guideline
- Apple App Store Review Guidelines
- Common Reasons for Apple App Store Rejections
- Understanding the Google Play Publishing Process
- Amazon Appstore Submission Guidelines
10. Identify Potential Integrations
Look out for apps/software that works well with your app, you can leverage the software’s image and user base to build your own.
Integration means you and the other business win, so you have to find a common ground by which you can use to build integration. Spotify built integrations with Alexa, Slack and many other Softwares to build user acquisition and retention rates.
3-4 weeks before launching your app
11. Create a press kit
At this stage of your app’s launch, you need to put together a press kit. What’s a press kit? According to Wikipedia “A press kit, often referred to as a media kit in business environments, is a pre-packaged set of promotional materials that provide information about a person, company, organization or cause and which is distributed to members of the media for promotional use.”
A press kit is vital especially when you want to start connecting with press, influencers or bloggers to talk about your app (more on that later). Having a press kit makes it easy for bloggers and news personnel to find information, it maximizes your odds of getting press coverage.
Your press kit should contain all or some of the following:
- Your app’s logo, icon, screenshots, and promo video
- Your boilerplate description or app store product page description
- Links to your public marketing site and social media accounts
- Links to recent press releases or coverage
- Press contact information
12. Pitch your app to press
Getting PR for your app is vital, it can give you more boost as you get closer to your launch date. Armed with your press kit, you can reach out to tech, mobile, and industry journalists, and bloggers.
Press coverage from a popular journalist or blogger can build trust with your users and also increase awareness either in the local or global space. Before reaching out, make sure your app is available for testing and demo when it is requested.
You should start pitching at least a few weeks in advance so they have time to experiment with your app and write a compelling story without being rushed. Plus, the more time they have, the more likely they can fit you into their editorial calendar.
13. Optimize for the App Store(App Store Optimization)
Just like search engine optimization (SEO) is important for getting your websites on the first page of your reader’s query, so app store optimization (ASO) is vital for getting your app on the top spot in the play store.
The play store (mostly Apple and Google play store) are first place users will go to when searching for the solutions your app provides, so it’s imperative for your app to show up when your potential users are searching for the solution your app provides. When planning an ASO strategy, you need to consider 4 factors that can affect your app’s ranking factor; App’s title, Targeted keywords, Number of downloads, and Positive rating. A comprehensive ASO strategy will include the following:
- Target keywords and Meta description. Like SEO, keywords are important in deciding your app’s ranking factor in the app’s store. Find keywords that your potential users are using to search for your app’s solution and optimize your app for those keywords, brevity is key to a good app’s description.
- Review and Rating. Like I mentioned earlier, having a positive review for your app is crucial in getting your app among the top guns. Just like you can’t control what flies over your head, so you can’t control the ratings on the app store. But you can make sure you give your users a good app user experience so you can keep the 5-star rating up.
- Screenshots and demo video: Your app’s demo video and picture can convince a user to download your app or not. So make sure your pictures clearly illustrate the benefits your users will gain when they download your app. Screenshots or videos and reviews are the first things users look at before downloading your app.
14. Conduct Beta Testing
Almost time to launch, your great innovation to the world, maybe some agitations in the air. It can be tempting to want to jump-start launching your app to the app store, but make sure you run a beta test.
Don’t release your app in the app store without doing a beta test, I repeat don’t launch without testing. I know during the development process the devs and product managers have been doing their own form of testing but that’s not enough, you need to involve your ideal users and get their opinions from it.
Let’s look at the mighty Google wave. One major reason for the fall was that the platform was too complicated to use. It tried to solve a lot of problems for their users but the users just didn’t know how to use it to solve their problems, so they ditched it.
The main reason for doing a beta test before launching your app is to find out if your target users can effectively use your app and use it to their satisfaction — good user experience and are able to use it to solve their problems — so make sure you push out a beta test. You can leverage on your friends and family, connections that you’ve made contact within section 9, the email list you’ve gotten from your website, your social media followers and the groups and communities you are now acquainted with to get your beta testers (you see why reaching out months before your app launch is crucial).
Carrying out a beta test is a good way to create a sense of exclusivity, which in turn creates an excitement that brings buzz to your app. Furthermore, you can ask for testimonials from your beta testers so you can put on your website, social media platforms and on the play store.
Lastly, make it easy for your beta testers to communicate their feedback to you. Create an in-app feedback communication system where they can report bugs, UI/UX problems in your app. This will bring us to our next point.
15. Establish a feedback loop for your app
2 things are vital for any app’s success; an in-app feedback loop and in-app social sharing option. Make sure you draft in a way users can leave feedback in your app, this idea is mostly good when the app is in its early stage in case of little bug fixes or glitch the app might face in other phones.
Having an in-app feedback loop will limit the number of negative reviews you get on the app store, as people will like to connect with the developers personally and tell them their issues without having to go through the app store. Leaving a support email alone on the app does not do it. You need to go the extra mile to show that you really care about their feedback, good or bad, this will not only help build a strong relationship with your users but leave a favourable perception of your app in the mind of your users.
Also, adding a way for your users to share or talk about your app is a great way to get free Word of Mouth marketing, you can add a share button to their social media page or give incentives — like virtual points/life or discount — to motivate your users to share your app. Users will gladly share especially when they are having a good experience with your app. Adding a share option in your app builds virality on your app.
16. Submit your app to the app store
This is the time we’ve been waiting for, time for the big launch. The type of app you build- android, iOS or hybrid- will determine the app store you will submit your app too.
I am sure you have gone through the app store guidelines, we look at, in section 9, and have made sure that your app is not breaking any rules or guidelines. If not your app might be rejected by the app store or they will be a delay on your app. So make sure you go through the guidelines thoroughly before submitting it.
17. Notify your email list, influencers and press of your app’s availability
Once your app is live on the app store, you need to raise up the volume. Notify your connections, email list, social media followers about your app. Make sure you attached the download link with your marketing contents so your followers can easily click on it and get to your app in the app store to download your app.
Also, create some buzz for your app with PR by notifying your press list and influencers in your industry space of the official launch of your app, don’t hold yourself back in spreading the news, make sure you leverage on those connections you’ve been building months before your app’s launch.
18. Promote Your App With Paid Marketing strategy
Combining organic and paid medium is a great way to get more users for your app. Push ads on social media, Search engine or through the app store. Your ads should clearly communicate the benefits to users and have a clear CTA — most likely to the download page in the app store — so they can see how the app will help them and easily download your app.
Another way to reach out to more users is by doing affiliate marketing. Create an affiliate program to encourage people — especially influencers — to share your app. Find top influencers in your industry whom you can incentivize in publicizing your app. You can create a special link that tracks purchases or downloads, so you can keep track of their reward and your marketing efforts.
3 Weeks after launch
19. Design a dashboard for recording and analyzing your metrics
If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it — Peter Drucker
Remember the success metrics you drafted out in section 2; it’s time to bring it out and start analyzing. Create a performance dashboard, where you can put in your key metric and your KPI’s, so you can clearly see if your app is performing the way it should.
With the buzz of launch, you can easily get carried away with downloads, but if downloads is not your key metrics, you need to monitor what is, and make sure that your app is meeting its target. If not, you can twitch your marketing strategy, communication plan to help you achieve your goals.
You need to also track installs, purchases, app store rank, specific in-app user actions, like where your best-converting users come from, action and triggers.
20. Monitor Feedback and encourage reviews
After launch, you need to make sure you monitor feedback from your users and respond appropriately.
3 reasons why you should pay close attention to your feedback after launch
- Identifying bugs that you didn’t actually see before: 1000 people using your app is different from 1 million people using your app. So you might identify bugs that you didn’t point out during your beta test. With the complexity of devices, you are bound to get reports of bugs in your app. So make sure you pay attention to the complaints of your users
- Improve your ratings on the app store: Ratings on your app affects your app’s ranking. So make sure you avoid or limit the number of 1–3-star reviews on your app. You can ask them to review the app, after 3 weeks of usage, when they have just succeeded in a win or gotten a free discount from the app. Make sure you respond to reviews, good or bad reviews, so your users will know that you are paying attention and are consciously working for their satisfaction.
- Don’t scare people away from your App : Aside from the ranking in your app, 60% of users check out an app’s rating, number of downloads before downloading the app. So having a lot of negative reviews on your app might scare away users from downloading your app.
21. Release your first update.
Once you get those feedback, it’s time to collaborate with your developers in coming up with bug fixing and QA testing. It is important that you are proactive about improving your app. Release your first update on your app, fix bugs, add little improvements on your app and notify your users to update the app on their phones.
3 months after launching your app
22. Incentivize continued usage
With loads of information, the attention span of users has died down drastically, and within 1–2 month(s) after launch it is possible for the hype to have died down. So you have to continuously engage and incentivize for your early users to keep them hooked on your app.
You have to incentive your users by giving them reasons to re-launch your app, add new contents, give daily bonuses, or like Starbucks, put a loyalty reward program to keep your customers engaged in your app.
23. Optimize the frequency of push notifications and marketing communication
Never stop marketing your app, your marketing strategy starts from when you decide to develop your app and it never stops. You would think a company like Google would stop their marketing strategy because they have gained popularity. But they still carry out marketing activities because they understand that marketing never ends, they are always one user that has not heard from you or needs to be reassured of your app before downloading your app.
24. Monitor App Performance
Use in-app analytics to measure your success metric. You can also use your app’s analytics to better understand your users and their usage patterns. Identify where your apps can be improved and note them down so you can communicate with your developers in adding those features.
Make sure you continuously monitor your app’s store ranking, social signals, customers ratification level, trends in download growth etc.
25. Create Regular App Updates
Continuously push out updates that are needed to improve your users’ experience and improve user’s satisfaction. Release bug fixes, add more features that you realise is needed by your users to bring about an increase in your app’s usage and customer satisfaction.
Conclusion — Beyond launch
At the end of the day, creativity always pays. Sometimes you don’t need much money to launch an app that goes global, you just need much creativity in your launch strategy. A good app market itself, while a bad product dies by itself, so make sure your app is top-notch, the mobile app agency you are working with should be able to understand and translate effectively your app’s idea into a solution you can sell.
This might look like a lot to take in, but it’s a gradual process, you don’t have to take it all at once, you work with the strategies you need at a particular time and add a touch of innovation to your strategies. A lot of apps are successful on the app store, they played their cards right and I know playing your cards right will also put your app at the top. And always remember that marketing never ends. See you at the top of the app chart.