Article

Mike Burgess
Mike Burgess 4 April 2016
Categories Mobile

Seven Rules for App Store Promotion

How to bag the App Of The Week slot in iTunes. A set of seven rules that we’ve discovered over time that will give you the best possible chance of getting your app promoted.

Ok let’s get the MASSIVE DISCLAIMER out of the way.

No-one can guarantee you a promotional slot on iTunes.

Not App of The Week, Recommended — any of it. If they say they can — they’re making it up. You can’t buy it either. Nor is the decision to promote you related to revenue you may drive to iTunes.

However, we have a set of seven rules that we’ve discovered over time that will give you the best possible chance of getting your app promoted.

NB: As usual the difficulty paradox comes into play. That is; the chance of promotion is inversely proportional to the ease of execution. Oooh pesky hard stuff. But do them all and that accolade could be yours and with it the many extra 100s of % increase in downloads.

1. Design is critical

Apple are famously design-focussed. You should be too. The selection process for promoting apps is an editorial one and, quite rightly, the App Store want to fill the high visibility shelves with great looking, tempting products.

The branding and appearance of your app should meet the high standards of the products that Apple sells itself. But good design doesn’t just mean a pretty icon it means a highly usable, intuitive interface. Errors, exceptions, use cases, journeys that are well planned, thought through and tested.

User-centric design is critical. We also encourage businesses launching apps to ask the question, ‘will Apple like it?’. Sorry folks, this is much more important than your CEO or the CEO’s daughter liking it. Having directly presented many apps to Apple, we have a good view of what is most likely to get their attention and we’re happy to share.

This very high, design and usability benchmark is clearly one of the reasons why, despite having half the download numbers, iTunes generates 70% more revenue than Google’s app store.

2. Use the functionality of the very latest OS

Apple is a hardware business and that means to a large extent, their share price and revenue are dependent on customers upgrading devices. A stepping stone towards updrading your device is upgrading your OS.

So any app that uses the very latest, exciting functionality and requires the user to upgrade will be viewed as a positive.

And don’t worry that’ll be limiting your potential audience. Owners of iPhones update their OS fast. Really fast.

iOS 9 was launched in September 2015 and in 4 months penetration passed 80% — graph from mixpanel.com

3. Make sure it works on the latest devices

Its always to remember why the App Store exists and it isn’t about app revenue. Great apps make people want to own iPhones, apps using the latest OS mean people need the latest iPhone. Similarly apps will drive adoption of the very latest devices such as the Apple TV and the Apple Watch.

If the Apple App Store was its own company, it would rank high among the Fortune 500. It brought in over $20 billion in gross revenue through the App Store during 2015. Apple keeps $0.30 on every dollar, so selling apps generated about $6 billion in revenue for Apple last year. But $6 billion hardly moves the needle for Apple.
— Adam Levy, Fool.com

Take a look at the promoted apps in the iTunes store right now and more and more have Apple Watch or Apple TV versions. Few to none of those businesses will be making serious revenue out of their Apple Watch app. Some will be doing it to appear innovative but the vast majority will be doing it beacause they feel it gives them a better chance of their mobile/iPad app being promoted.

Graph from statista.com

They are also much less competitive environments. Approximately 50,000 new apps are released EACH MONTH. The app stores for the very latest devices are so much less cluttered and Apple really want great content for their new devices.

4. Involve Apple early

The App Store and Devloper relations guys at Apple are always astounded that even big consumer brands just fling their apps into the store without so much as a phonecall, email conversation, Yo! or Snapchat. The main reason the Apple app ecosystem has flourished is that they are amazing at Developer Relations.

Just watch the WWDC videos with all those guys going crazy when an announcement is made about an API or some-such. Amazing at developer relations.

Involve Apple at an early stage and you can get process advice, technical guidance, feedback on your product. All great stuff. And whats more, you can get them excited about your amazing new proposition. Of course for this to be most effective, you need an amazing new proposition (come see us).

5. Never give away Apple products

They really don’t like it. Think about it — would you?

6. Contra promotion

Ok contra-promotion isn’t the right word. There is no qui-pro-quo arrangement to be had here. Being featured is an editorial decision. But think about it — they are giving you an amazing distribution platform and route to market. The least you could do is mention the app in your ad, pr, tweets, whatever.

Having a tiny media budget is by no means a deal breaker (remember ‘Editorial Decision’) but if you have a big campaign kicking off, it wouldn’t hurt to let them know. We’ve found ASO, PR and social to be most effective but thats a whole other Medium article.

Oh... and whatever you do, follow brand guidelines.

7. Build it for iOS

Being iOS only is a smart move if you want promotion. And not just for competitive reasons. An app conceived, designed, built for iOS is going to operate much better than an app that is ported across multiple platforms.

If you need an Android app to address the whole mobile market, try iOS and mobile web first and launch Android later. Whatever you do make sure you are designing and building for the platform your app will live on.

Using frameworks and software such as Appcelerator or Phonegap to help portability across platforms (much as we admire their ease of use) will be a false economy if promotion is your aim. Apps that function natively perform so much better and Apple know it.

How many apps built using these frameworks have been promoted in iTunes? Coincidence?

So what next?

There are many nuances, caveats, exceptions and approaches. There are unknowns. Of course you should never base your business model on the premise that you will get your app promoted. But don’t preclude the opportunity by fumbling one of the above rules.

If you would like to know more about the above, plan to launch a mobile product or need help defining that killer proposition, get in touch.

This month BAM are offering a free consultation on your App Store readiness. If you feel you need help shaping up for the best chance for promotion, get in touch or see our website for more details.

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