IOS apps risk rankings drop without focus on post-download engagement
August 29, 2013
So many apps, so little time
With rumors that Apple’s App store is shifting its algorithms to prioritize application engagement over download rates, it is more important than ever for marketers to focus on engaging consumers after the initial app download.
While Apple has yet to confirm the news, Techcrunch recently reported that Apple may be changing the way it ranks apps its App Store, and this change could have huge implications for marketers. Up until now, brands tended to focus on driving app downloads, but this App Store update would require much more effort in terms of creating a meaningful experience after the download.
“While today it is all about installs, and many companies invest a lot of money to reach a high number of app downloads in a short time, Apple is clearly aware of the way marketers and app developers can potentially manipulate user ratings, and it looks like they've decided to do something about it,” said Li-at Karpel Gurwicz, marketing director at Conduit Mobile, Foster City, CA.
“This doesn't necessarily mean an end to gaming the system in ways that will boost user ratings in the App store, but it may mean the rules of the game have changed,” she said.
“However, engaging apps that provide true value to users will always be the best measure of an app's success, and the updates to the App Store's algorithms may better reflect that.”
Marketers ought to continue reaching out to consumers past the download phase.
Ms. Gurwicz suggests that marketers provide a steady flow of fresh content that is updated regularly and gives consumers a reason to come back to the app.
She also advises basic good app practices, such as using creative design elements, easy-to-use and functional features and special deals and promotions. At the end of the day, the quality of the app itself will determine whether or not a consumer returns and engages continuously.
Beyond the quality of the app itself, marketers can employ push notifications to draw consumers back into an app.
For this to work, consumers need to OK push notifications to begin with. Assuming a consumer has given the green light, an app can reel him or her back in with a relevant message or promotion.
There is, however, some risk with push notifications.
First of all, too many push notifications can annoy a consumer. They can also unintentionally lead consumers to delete an app by reminding them that it is on their phone.
There are also other ways to interact with consumers via messaging, such as in-app slideup messages, mobile email and an in-app news feed. Marketers should decide which tactics are best suited for each individual campaign.
Tom Cummings, senior client development manager at Fiksu, Boston, sees the possible app store revolution as a positive move for the app ecosystem at large.
“While consumers might not consciously notice a difference, keeping quality apps near the top of the App Store helps the entire Apple ecosystem,” he said. “Users are more likely to be satisfied with the apps they download, developers are rewarded for creating better apps, and Apple benefits from happy users and happy developers.
“If ratings on the newest version of the app factor is more, as it appears might be the case, that should also encourage developers to fix problems with their apps on a more regular basis.”
Mr. Cummings strongly advises app develops to pay attention to ratings and reviews to figure out how to boost engagement.
"Achieving and climbing rank in the App Store is mission-critical for app discovery, driving downloads and engagement, and Apple’s new algorithm that links ratings to rankings is a significant change," said Bernd Leger, vice president of marketing at Localytics, Boston. "The reality is that marketers are competing with 800,000 other apps for eyeballs, downloads and ratings."
Marketers need to work harder to get featured in the App Store
Measuring app success
There are many different ways to measure how successful an app is.
Until now, the major marker was number of app downloads. There is also the five-star rating system within the app store.
Both of these statistics, however can be maneuvered by companies to benefit their ratings.
According to Cezary Pietrzak, director of marketing at Appboy, New York, companies can pay for five-star reviews and play with the algorithms to fix the ratings in their favor.
In order to measure true consumer engagement however, Apple can look at time spent in apps, number of opens and number of social shares.
“The launch of iOS 7 will also introduce several new features that may eventually find their way into rankings and aid in app discoverability, including better location and social sharing,” Mr. Pietrzak said. “Making rankings meaningful to everyone is a difficult challenge, but Apple seems to be moving in the right direction.”
Marketers should view the App Store update as a charge to do better in apps. They should be motivated by the challenges and put more effort into creating a relevant and meaningful app.
For example, marketers need to look to see if users need help with onboarding or are looking for specific app features after they have downloaded an app.
“Around 65 percent of people abandon an app within three months, which means that marketers are not thinking about their apps as real businesses,” Mr. Pietrzak said. “Specifically, marketers need to understand who their users are, segment them into different cohorts and engage with them in an active dialogue that incentivizes usage.
“Most of these engagement problems can be solved through various types of mobile messaging," he said. "Having the ability to submit in-app feedback is also important, as it gives people an open channel to share their issues and frustrations."
Rebecca Borison is editorial assistant on Mobile Marketer, New York
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Comments on "IOS apps risk rankings drop without focus on post-download engagement"
Ryan Lewis says:
September 3, 2013 at 3:19pm
Jai Jaisimha says:
August 29, 2013 at 1:29pm