What is App Marketing?
Mobile application marketing aims to create targeted awareness of a mobile application and acquire relevant users to nurture throughout a user journey lifecycle. Mobile app marketing starts with the strategic research of user personas, creation of key value propositions, formation of strategies to retain users and facilitation of virality.
Mobile app marketing shares a lot of similarities with traditional product marketing, but there are a few unique elements that you need to be aware of when you’re marketing an app. No matter whether you’re launching an iOS, Android, or multi-platform app, it will require a slightly different approach for it to have a chance at success. Considering that US adults spend 3 hours and 25 minutes every day using mobile devices, getting your marketing strategy just right can mean big bucks.
If you’re considering your app marketing strategy, rather than looking for an individual sale as many marketing techniques do, it’s more worthwhile to focus on acquiring users who are likely to continue using your app for the long-term. Focusing on fast sales and short-term results won’t win you the sustainable success that your company will need to grow.
If you attract the wrong users you’re essentially just renting users.
Monetization strategies differ from app to app. The prominent trend is to convert users of your free ‘trial’ product into customers that will pay for premium features or be highly engaged enough for advertisers to want to pay for their attention.
Your mobile marketing strategy will determine your success and there are several different ways to go about it. But before you start, it’s important to know your measurables. Without the right metrics, it’s almost impossible to know what’s working for your app and where you’re burning cash.
How Do You Successfully Promote an App?
As of March 2017, 42% of small businesses had an app. Almost all large businesses have an app too – so you’ve got some serious competition. This is why a strong mobile marketing strategy is incredibly important. The first thing to do when considering how to market an app is to determine your KPIs. As with everything in business, if you don’t have the right data on hand you won’t be able to improve your product and your potential for growth could stagnate.
Any knowledgeable app marketer will tell you that a specific data-driven funnel which follows a user’s journey through your app is imperative to perfecting your product. Without a data driven approach, how will you be able to identify bottlenecks in your user’s journey which are costing you users and profit?
Using suitable measurables at each stage of your user journey will help you to spot points of friction that could be prohibiting users from moving from the initial awareness stage to the final referral stage. By focusing on data and using it to analyze your app’s performance, you’ll have a much clearer overview from which to correct and optimize.
You’re essentially blindly operating your app business without access to this data. You would be forced to guess where your app is performing well and where it’s costing you unnecessary resources. This guesswork could result in the investment into poor performing channels and abandonment of successful channels.
As much as you’ll want to avoid them, it’s important to remember that drop offs happen. No matter what you do there will always be more of them further through the user journey, so the aim is to reduce the friction and bottlenecks to keep that drop off figure as low as possible. Let’s take an indepth look at some of the measurables which will help us achieve this.
KPI’s for each App Marketing Funnel Stage
Every app requires a different set of KPIs, and whether you’re creating a game, an organizational tool or a photo-sharing app, it will have an effect on the data you choose to measure. Uber, for example, will most likely track metrics such as ‘average trip duration’, but this obviously would not work if you’re creating a recipe book app.
That being said, there is a key set of KPIs that most apps should track through each stage of the user’s journey.
When you’re setting up your metrics for your app it’s important to ensure that every stage of your product’s user journey is being covered, as there will inevitably be different goals at each stage of the process. From awareness and onboarding, right through to the buying process, metrics will need to change to suit each of the following stages.
The Awareness Stage –
At this point, your user has encountered your app for the first time. There’s a large chance they’ve found it thanks to your marketing collateral. Based on your communications they will decide whether or not they are interested in downloading your app.
The key metrics for this stage are as follows:
- CPM (cost per mille) – otherwise known as Cost Per Thousand, this metric is used to calculate the price of 1,000 advertisement impressions on your app. It is the most common metric used to price web ads.
- Traffic Source – this refers to where the user sees your app or finds your webpage. Use this to track the output of your individual marketing communications to see which are working and which are failing.
- Click Through Rate – this is used in the form of a percentage to determine how many users click through to links, landing pages and any other locations of your choosing from collateral including social media ads and Google AdWords.
If your ads aren’t getting any traction, these KPIs will help you work out why. It could be that you’re targeting the wrong people, or that you’re advertising in the wrong place, or that your communications just aren’t connecting with your audience in the way you imagined they would. Conversely, if a tactic is proven to be converting well and offering great value, you’ll be able to double down or expand on that strategy.
Acquisition Stage –
At this stage, your audience is acquainted with your app. They like what your marketing material expressed and your app’s aesthetic looks great, so they make the decision to download it.
Here, you’ll need to track the following data:
- User Demographics – these are the psychographics of users and include gender, age, income, and marital status, as well as additional information such as spending habits and values. You need to understand and identify common threads among your key users if you’re to target them effectively with marketing.
- Number of Downloads – this is perhaps the most simple way of tracking your marketing success. Knowing how many people were motivated to download your app lets you know whether your communication is persuasive.
- Devices – are your downloads coming from Android, iOS, Blackberry or tablets? This is a useful metric for knowing your customer base and narrowing down your targeting.
- Cost Per Download – this is your total marketing expenditure divided by total installs. According to Statista, as of February 2017, the global average cost per install for iOS apps was $0.44 and $0.86 for Android apps.
From these metrics, you’ll know whether or not your mobile app acquisition strategy is working. By noticing where the bulk of your downloads are originating from, you can focus your efforts on those channels.
If these channels aren’t working, it’s time to strengthen your call to actions and provide a better incentive for users to move to the next stage of the funnel.
Then, if that doesn’t work, use your data points to see whether one channel is experiencing significantly fewer downloads than the others. If that’s the case, maybe there’s a problem with your landing page or links which can be smoothed out.
Activation Stage –
So, your user has clicked through to your app and successfully downloaded it. Unfortunately downloads aren’t enough to make your app a success. Once the app is on the user’s device, will they actually use it? According to research, in 2017 there were 178.1 billion app downloads, but people only tend to use an average of 10 apps on a daily basis and 30 on a monthly basis. Unfortunately, up to 90% of your users will uninstall your app shortly after downloading it.
Even if your download figures are looking good, you need to make sure that people are actually engaging with your product.
How do you make this happen? Well essentially, your user needs to experience an ‘aha’ moment where they discover the value your product has to offer. Otherwise known as ‘the eureka effect’, this needs to happen as soon as possible, ideally during the first time your user interacts with your app. If your app doesn’t convey or spark an ‘aha’ moment, the likelihood of your user continuing to use your app to solve their problem long into the future, is very low.
Typically, app developers use the completion of an ‘onboarding process’ to measure success at the activation stage. Depending on your app, your onboarding process can ressemble a sign up, an initial post or adding 3 friends.
Uber, for example, counts its onboarding signifier as completing the first trip, rather than when you sign up to their app. Facebook’s signifier triggers when a user adds seven friends. These are quite advanced metrics as they have the data to back up their unique ‘aha’ moment.
Ideally, your onboarding sequence should be tailored to your app and aligned to spark an ‘aha’ moment in your users.
The metrics for this stage are as follows:
- Onboarding Sequence – this could be creating an account, uploading your first image, or following your first person. Of course, this metric will depend on what type of app you’ve created.
- Activation Percentage – the percentage of people that download your app and then go on to complete the activation or onboarding sequence.
If your users download your app but then don’t interact with it, this could be a clue that your onboarding process needs optimization. It might need simplifying, or that users need some additional encouragement to create an account or follow a friend before they’re directed to the activation screen with no additional explanation.
Retention Stage –
Your user has downloaded your app and has successfully completed the onboarding process. At the retention stage, you need to know how long and how frequently they’re using your app. Typically, you’ll need a couple of thousand users to be able to notice patterns that you can analyze with the intention of improving your app.
The following metrics should be used to measure retention:
- Active Users – track your daily and monthly users to decipher who is actually using your product frequently. This will help to optimize your target user.
- Session Duration – how long a user is active on your app per session. This data helps to unravel screens or tasks where users are commonly dropping off.
- Uninstall Rate – how many people are uninstalling the app. As of June 2018, the average uninstall rate was 28% after 30 days.
You might find that users aren’t returning to your app after a couple of weeks. If so, your marketing team can consider implementing push notifications or emails to remind and incentivize the user to continue using the app before it’s uninstalled.
Monetization Stage –
Your users have become frequent customers over the course of several weeks: they’ve had a taste of your product and they like the benefits that it offers. Now is the point at which you should be making moves to convert them into paying users. It’s likely they may be interested in purchasing additional or premium features at this stage in their user journey. Your users will be familiar with your product and will, therefore, see the value in spending their money.
Use the following metrics to track monetization:
- Free to Paid Conversion Percentage – how many regular users convert to paid users. The percentage to aim for will vary between apps, but Slack manages an incredible 30% conversion from freemium to paid customers.
- Purchase Time Frame – how long it takes for users to convert to paid users.
If your conversion percentage is low but your app is being frequently used, these metrics can be used to deduce where it might be beneficial to introduce a special offer. By analyzing the average purchase time frame, it’s possible to decipher when customers are most interested in purchasing additional or premium features.
Referral Stage –
Once your user has spent their money on additional features and they’re happy with your service, they’re probably likely to recommend it to a friend. At this point, it’s time to incentivize them to give the app a high review rating in whichever app store they downloaded it from.
The metrics involved in this are as follows:
- App Review – a short written review of how the app functionality felt, the effect it’s had on the user and much more.
- App Rating – a rating of up to 5 stars on the Google Play Store or Apple App Store.
- Social Shares – the number of times your app has been shared on social media.
It’s important to remember that 59% of users when deciding between two similar apps, download the app with the highest rating. So, it’s extremely important to get this stage right to ensure positive word of mouth referrals. If a user hasn’t written a review, it’s absolutely worth prompting them.
Bear in mind that the timing of when to prompt the user to create a review needs to be carefully planned. A review from a user who has just opened your app for the first time will most likely be less valuable than from a user who has been using your app frequently for 15 days.
Mobile App Marketing Tools for Each Stage of the Funnel
Each app is unique, and will require different tools for its own tailored marketing strategy. Depending on what it is and what it does, you’ll need to invest time and money into tools that suit your marketing funnel. The way you market a hotel price comparison app will differ hugely from an app that connects users with people in their area, for example.
Of course, there are a set of tools that almost every app will benefit from and will work for you at each stage of your app marketing funnel. Let’s take a look at the most common tools for each stage:
Tools for the Awareness Stage:
ASO (App store optimization, Algorithms, and App Reviews) –
App store optimization is a key way of increasing the visibility of your app so it has an increased chance of being downloaded. It works in a similar way to SEO for websites, with the main difference being that it operates within the App Store. Used correctly, it will boost your app store ranking to ensure that your app is presented higher up in relevant search results. According to research, 63% of apps are discovered through app store searches, so getting ASO right can translate into higher amounts of traffic for your product.
To improve your ranking you’ll need to optimize your app title, description, keywords and images, among other aspects of your listing. ASO guidelines and common practices aren’t straightforward, so click here to see an in-depth guide.
Campaign Measurement –
You’ll most likely be using social media to advertise your app, and if so, you’ll need a social media ad manager to measure traffic and impressions to calculate your ROI. You’ll also need campaign measurement software to conduct split tests on your copy, graphics, and videos to ensure that they’re all working well for you. The platforms you’re using will affect which tools you’ll use, but the idea is that you’ll be able to post different versions of ads to be able to test which is most effective for your audience.
With a social media ad manager, you’ll also be able to automatically retarget anyone who visited your landing page and website, or who might be interested in your product courtesy of a lookalike audience.
Search Engine Marketing –
Speaking of Google AdWords, let’s talk about search engine marketing tools in a little more detail. These smart tools allows you to create targeted advertisements within search engines. All you have to do is select the right keywords for your app and it will be posted at the top of the page when potential customers search for those phrases. Whenever your advertisement is clicked, you are charged.
Content Marketing –
Content marketing is essentially the practice of using interesting and valuable content to advertise your app, rather than using traditional ads.
Content marketing can come in the form of blog posts, videos, infographics, podcasts, web shows, free guides and many more. Demand Metric state that 90% of organizations use content marketing, and their research also states that it costs 62% less than outbound marketing while generating 3x as many leads. So, if you’re not already doing it you should definitely be considering it.
Influencer Marketing –
If you have a social media account, you’ll surely have noticed the rise of influencer marketing over the past couple of years. This technique plays on the relationship between a niche leader and their respective audience. Basically, a trusted personality vouches for the value of your product to their followers and consumers are much more responsive to an influencer-endorsed or reviewed product than they are of a cold marketing campaign.
Influencer marketing can be done across any digital platform. To engage with influencers, you can work with a dedicated agency or contact influencers directly yourself. Just be careful to select the right person to endorse your product: consumers can smell a paid ad a mile away and they won’t trust it if the relationship between your influencer and your product doesn’t seem authentic.
Email Marketing for Lead Generation –
Cold email campaigns can be used as soon as a target audience has been identified. Other than simply seeking out the email addresses of individuals you want to target, there are a number of tactics used for collecting email addresses including Facebook ads, newsletter promotions through your website, and contests.
This method is particularly useful for communicating directly with industry or niche leaders who make the decisions that affect thousands of employees or users. In other words, one successful email to the right industry leader can result in a ripple effect that travels through entire teams, departments and divisions.
Additionally, email marketing can be used to supplement content marketing (like free guides and whitepapers) and build an email newsletter list which can then be retargeted.
Tools for the Acquisition Stage:
Landing Page Software –
Once you have reached out to an audience and they have expressed interest in your communications, you may want to take them to a landing page to reiterate your products features, benefits and social proof. Websites like Unbounce are perfect for this and will provide you with data regarding which copy, formats, and features convert the most downloads. They’ll also give you data relating to the ‘bounce rate’ of each page, so you can identify where your communications are failing you.
Attribution Tools –
It’s important to dig into your data to see which users made it through to your acquisition phase and downloaded your app. Armed with this knowledge, you’ll know which subset of users to focus your marketing strategy on.
Google Analytics can give you great data which can help you optimize your most successful target demographic, but there are other great tools out there that offer similar services such as Branch and Appsflyer.
Heat Mapping Software –
Heat mapping is the practice of using color to show which areas of your website or app are getting the most attention. Literally, which areas are the hottest real estate. This information allows you to understand where users are spending the most time, and therefore what aspect of your product they care about the most. By using software such as HotJar, you can drastically improve your user experience which should improve acquisition rates.
Tools for the Activation Stage:
Event Tracking SDK –
An SDK, or software development kit, provides developers with the data they need to be able to see how a user behaves within their app. SDKs track every event and action including app opens, sign-ups, screen flows, link and button touches, purchases and more.
These tools provide marketers with some insight into where users might be dropping off in the app, or where they might be bypassing screens. If it’s found that users are dropping off at certain points, developers can then address the issue by improving or removing certain screens to improve the overall user experience. Without doing this, there’s a real risk that customers won’t make it to the monetization stage of the funnel.
Push Notifications and Emails –
Push notifications and emails are used by app developers to prompt users to re-engage with their app. Some notifications are triggered when a specific onboarding task has not been completed or when another user has performed an interesting action.
Uber, for example, may send a message to new users to let them know there are drivers in the local area if they haven’t booked their first trip yet. If a user hasn’t logged into Facebook in the last week, an email may be sent to the user which outlines their friends activity they missed. These push notifications and emails are important to round up lost or infrequent users back into the app’s viral loop.
Some push notification services also contain deep links which take the user directly to a specified place in the app. For example, a user might receive an email prompting them to enter their bank details to access premium features. That email can contain a link which will take the user directly to the settings screen where those details need to be entered.
Tools such as Mixpanel are great for completing these tasks.
Tools for the Retention Stage:
Campaign dashboards display all the important figures you need at a glance which makes tracking data so much easier. You’ll have figures on sales, daily active users (DAU), monthly active users (MAU), app crashes and platform-specific measurables such as levels completed or, in the case of an app like Uber, average trip duration. Mixpanel can be used for this process, as well as other products such as Amplitude.
Social Media Content Schedulers –
Keeping up with regular social media posting across multiple platforms can be a real chore, so tools like Buffer and Hootsuite can be huge time savers. They allow you to build up an online presence and retain engagement with your fans and followers with much less manual effort.
These tools can help you conduct organic content marketing and can incentivize users to engage with your app by reiterating its benefits, sharing success stories from happy customers, offering free guides, and providing updates and community-based content. It’s also possible to use them to create competitions and organize giveaways which are great acquisition, retention and referral strategies.
Push Notifications for Re-Engagement –
Push notifications remind users to engage with your app without them needing to have it open. Urban Ship is a fantastic resource for push notification management and can really help to increase retention.
There are various types of push notifications, including ‘active notifications’ which show what other users have done or remind a user to complete a process that is still outstanding, and even ‘location notifications’ which let users know when there’s an event happening near them.
Chat Bots –
Sometimes, users might find that they’re having issues completing simple or complex tasks, and if there’s no help available to them, they may get confused and be unable to progress to the next stage of your app’s funnel. This can lead to frustration and often causes the user to give up and delete the app. Chatbots can avoid this by offering the instant help that your users need. They can be programmed to automatically help users resolve the problems that they’re having, which can improve retention and provide a much more positive user experience.
Setting up chatbots can be tricky and it will take time to correctly anticipate questions and confusion, but it’s worth the effort if it means retaining your hard-won customers.
Community Building Tools –
Chat bots won’t always be able to solve the problems that your users are having. Each customer is unique and will have their own set of frustrations that even the most advanced chat bots won’t be able to understand. So, sometimes you’ll need to turn to actual people to resolve issues. Community help desks and forums can bridge that gap and allows your users to help each other solve problems. These communities go even further than that and can develop valuable interactions between users that can solidify the relationship between your product and its customer base.
As an example, a real estate management app might create a forum where people can ask each other about raising funds to invest, tips on saving money or even how to refurbish on a budget. All of these reasons result in a deeper connection to your app and its corresponding brand.
Tools for the Monetisation Stage:
Revenue and Bill Tracking Software –
At the end of the day, apps are businesses. They are developed with the purpose of making money, so they need to be prepared to keep track of cash flow. Be careful to record all revenue and bills associated with your monetization strategy, and take advantage of dashboards designed to give you a deeper insight into how much your app is making and which bills are outstanding.
Again, Mixpanel is a superb tool for the job and can give you an accurate account of exactly how much money is flowing in for any given time period.
Email Marketing for Special Offers –
To increase your app’s income, consider emailing people on your mailing list to offer them discounted premium subscription models when they sign up. You can also use this method to promote in-app purchases if that’s something you plan to offer. Email marketing is a great way of prompting long-time users or hesitant buyers to make purchases for the first or second time.
Affiliate Marketing Programs –
A popular marketing strategy at the monetization stage is to turn your users into your very own marketing team. It works by offering a cut of the profits, a discount, or another kind of incentive to anyone who can get other people to sign up. Airbnb does this by offering free credit to users when other people sign up using their personalized referral code, for example.
This can be a very effective way of attracting new users as it provides existing users with a reason to talk about your app to their friends and family. Tools such as Amazon Mobile Affiliates and Apple App Store Affiliates are popular tools for this type of marketing.
In-App Advertising –
Your app might be collecting valuable user data in a particular niche, and this can be very appealing to advertisers. For example, if your app gathers a large community of gardeners, a business who sells gardening equipment may request to pay your platform for the opportunity to directly reach them.
Consider implementing advertising functionality within your app so advertisers can market their products to your customers and pay you for the privilege. Depending on your company setup, you can create your own system or use third-party solutions such as Google AdMob.
Tools for the Referral Stage:
Push Notifications for Referrals –
Push notifications can also be used at the referral stage to prompt users into leaving reviews and rating your app on the App Store. It’s best to find the optimal time in the user’s journey to prompt users in order to gain quality reviews.
Social Media Sharing –
Adding social media compatibility to your app encourages users to share achievements or celebrate special events with their friends. This will create referrals and spread awareness of your app to a broader audience. People are always more likely to download an app if it was recommended to them by someone they know, so don’t underestimate the power of social sharing. This isn’t the right move for all types of apps – so be cautious in choosing to implement this functionality.
Identifying Your App’s Target Users
As soon as your KPIs are defined it’s time to start thinking about your target users. It’s worth putting aside the time to thoroughly research your target demographic and ideal users, as it will save you a lot of time and money ensuring that you’re funneling the right people into your marketing strategy.
If you don’t take the effort to figure this out, you’re likely to waste even more valuable resources than necessary.
Be very particular and specific in the people who you’re reaching out to. There’s not much use in marketing your martial arts training app to 65+ retired seniors, for example, when people aged between 20-40 are much more likely to use it. This is an exaggerated analogy of course, but you will be surprised by the intricacies your research and data will reveal about your ideal users.
Once you’ve conducted your research, you will have a targeted group of users that are most likely to continue using your app, and therefore convert into paying users.
Here are a few key things you need to know about your users.
What is the age group of your target demographic? Determining this will affect everything from the platforms you market your app on, to the language you use to communicate with your audience. If your app is solving a particular problem, at what age is that problem the biggest burden? These are some things to consider to narrow down your marketing spend while sourcing ideal users.
Researching locations can help you to determine which regions to aim your marketing efforts at, and where to launch for optimal traction. The problem your app is solving may be more prevalent in one particular location, so it makes sense to focus resources there. You may intend to bring your app to a global market, but it’s usually a smarter strategy to start small than spread your marketing spend too thin.
If your app relates to a specific industry, it will be beneficial to identify the key leaders within that industry. These people can possibly spread the word of your app to thousands of potential users, so failing to identify them could mean the loss of a potentially huge new customer base.
Interests and Lifestyle –
By identifying your customer’s interests and lifestyle choices, you can tailor your marketing communications to appeal to users on a more personal level. There are so many niches present on the internet, and your app could be the perfect product to cater for their needs.
Apps aren’t novelty items created just for fun: they’re businesses. In order for your company to succeed you need to ensure that enough of your users can afford to participate in your monetization strategy. If you aim your marketing materials on people with the disposable income to subscribe and/or make in-app purchases, you’ll likely make more profit.
Online Presence/Communities –
You need to find out where your audience hangs out online. Which social media channels do they use? Which websites do they frequent? Knowing the answers to these questions can really benefit your marketing efforts. Think about it: if your demographic is 55+, there’s little use in using Snapchat to market your app as its users are predominantly under 20. But, it would make sense to use Facebook where 55+ users are set to be the second largest age group active on the platform.
Finally, always pay attention to what your competitors are doing. Take note of how they’re interacting with their users, and where they’re creating those conversations. Doing this will give you an idea of where you should be marketing your app, and can also give insight into what doesn’t work before you spend any of your own marketing budget.
Marketing an app can be a complex process. With a data driven approach and strategic planning, you can achieve successful results with the least amount of time and resources.
Your primary marketing channel is probably going to account for around 80% of your downloads, so it’s imperative that you identify it quickly and optimize for greater success.
Data is key to monitoring and measuring your marketing efforts, and is the only truly effective way of knowing whether your mobile app marketing strategy is working or not. If your techniques aren’t having a desired effect, your metrics will give you the information you need to be able to act fast and avoid wasting time, money and resources on ineffective marketing communication.
An app’s marketing funnel is complex with many moving parts. It’s wise to appoint a head of growth in the early stages of your business who can put together a robust roadmap to successfully market and manage the growth of your product.
Don’t know where to begin? We can help you out with this, just click here for a free 30 minute consultation about your app.