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Mobile Apps: When Eyeballs Meet Engagement – Sanity Overcomes Vanity

Marissa Delisle
Marketing Specialist at Digital Turbine
Jul 14, 2017

Ask any mobile app developer and they will tell you that the only metric worth measuring when it comes to successfully launching a product is engagement. If nobody is using your app, it doesn’t matter how well coded, designed and potentially useful or commercially viable it is, the project is doomed to failure.

In an overcrowded market, failure isn’t only reserved for badly designed products. Amazing apps are overlooked everyday just because developers struggle to capture the public’s attention. This is why it’s so important to make sure your app gets in the hands of your potential users as quickly and as easily as possible.

Remember: Although app developers will face many challenges when distributing their products, the potential for even a moderately successful app is huge. In 2017, the app market represents an $80 billion opportunity. Get the right app in front of the right people at the right time and you may find you have grossly underestimated your understanding of success – a good problem to have.

Make No Mistake – Competition is Fierce

With an estimated 2,500 new apps made available on marketplaces like Google Play every day, it’s easy to see why so many developers struggle to gain traction.

Big budget developers will throw significant marketing resources at projects, making sure their apps are discoverable. From App Store Optimization (ASO) to paid search, banner advertising and social media promotion, and even more expensive offline advertising in the press, on billboards and TV – if the budget is available, some organizations will try anything to encourage consumers to download their apps.

There are many problems with these “old school” acquisition marketing techniques:

  1. Campaigns have to capture the public’s imagination at the right time and the right place.
  2. Campaigns have to be memorable enough to stay with a person until they are ready to acquire the app. This might mean a campaign has to be viewed multiple times before the consumer is ready to take action.
  3. Consumers may be distracted by alternative offers or dissuaded by negative reviews (beyond your control) once in they arrive in the Play Store.
  4. Inevitably, someone will always have a bigger budget than you and no matter how well optimized your app listing is, your position in the Play Store is never guaranteed in a competitive market.
  5. Click Fraud (the act of repeatedly clicking on an online advert to illicitly generate revenue for a publisher or drain a developer’s advertising budget and cut off revenue generating) can push up acquisition costs and make it difficult to analyse the success of specific channels. We’ll be taking a more detailed look at Click Fraud in a future blog post.
  6. When promoting apps across multiple platforms, the problem of multi-channel attribution becomes increasingly difficult (especially when combining on and off-line strategies). In a “last touch attribution” model, highly influential channels may not receive the recognition they deserve. This makes the allocation of budget and marketing resource a significant challenge.
  7. The high costs of acquisition may make it difficult for your app to deliver a return-on-investment. This is especially important when you consider the average shelf life of a mobile app (see below).

Mobile App Shelf Life

Mobile Apps don’t tend to have a very long shelf life. According to research by Adobe, most apps see half of their use during their first five or six months of life. Usage then tends to fall off rather dramatically. It should also be remembered, and surely this is a stat that app developers fear the most, a quarter of all mobile apps are only ever opened once. With such a short shelf-life, Customer Lifetime Value (CLV) cannot always guarantee a long term income.

Giving Your Apps the Best Possible Start in Life

With all this in mind, you’ll want to give your app the best possible start in life.

Pre-loading apps on mobile devices offers developers an amazing opportunity to cut out the middleman (acquisition marketing channels) and position their apps in front of consumers when they are most engaged with their smartphone (when they take it out of the box for the first time).

With worldwide smartphone sales approaching nearly 1.5 billion units in 2016 and estimated to top 1.7 billion in the coming years, the opportunity to place your app in a prominent position on a brand new screen seems almost too good to be true.

Pre-loading reduces the risk of not connecting with your public via expensive acquisition channels or being restricted by the ever-changing environment of the Play Store and in-exact science of App Store Optimization.

Pre-loading also enables developers to target users by:

  • Geography: Enabling developers to target groups of people based on the specific city, region or country where they live. For example: a local or regional news service may only wish to target people within its circulation area or a start-up business may wish to test a service in a particular area before rolling it out to a wider audience.
  • Mobile providers: Another great way to target people by geography or language. We work with mobile providers all over the world helping you put localized services in the hands of a global audience.
  • Mobile contract type: Pre-loading apps based on Pay-as-you-go or standard pay-monthly contracts allows developers to target potential users based on socioeconomic factors       
  • Device type: Enabling developers to exploit multi-million-dollar product launches and associate their apps with the latest technologies.

Bring Your App to the Unboxing Party

When you pre-load your app to a new device, you dramatically improve your chance of user engagement. This is because your app is very much part of the wider experience of owning a new device.

Users take the smartphone out of the package, insert the battery, peel off the protective film from the screen and start exploring the apps.

If your app is well designed and its functions are relevant to the users’ needs, why would they need to go to the Play Store to explore competitive options?

In the users mind, preloaded apps have been carefully selected and endorsed by the mobile carriers and device manufacturers. This means you can tie your brand to huge corporate names like Verizon, Vodafone, T-Mobile, Samsung and Sony.

You should never underestimate the immense value pre-loading an app gives you in marketing clout both directly and indirectly.

While major mobile device manufacturers and carriers will not normally spend marketing budget to promote a specific developer’s app, there are many benefits open to developers who consider where to place their apps based on new device launches and associated marketing activities.

For example, in 2016 a leading mobile manufacturer spent a staggering $10 billion dollars on marketing. $4 billion of this spent went on advertisements. And it’s not uncommon for mobile carriers to spend in excess of $100 million every month on high profile TV advertising. In an incredibly competitive market, these budgets aren’t about to be cut. You can bet these aggressive marketing strategies sell a lot of smartphones and many of these smartphones could potentially be pre-loaded with your apps, generating an incredible opportunity to win new users and generate significant streams of revenue.

Consider this: How many smartphone users never visit the Play Store. Pre-loading your app on a new device might be your only chance of putting your app in the hands of a user.

You should also take note where you see the logos of major mobile carriers and manufacturers. They appear everywhere from advertising billboards at international airports to sponsorships at major sporting events. Most app developers could never dream of such marketing excess but when you pre-load your app to a particular carrier or device, you will undoubtedly benefit from some of this brand marketing spend.

Put Your App Directly in Users Hands

So what are you going to do? Are you going to risk months of development time and cost to the uncertain world of an app store where users may or may not find your app? Are you going to sit back and wait for the public to stumble across you and hope that your product goes viral? Or are you going to do something that actually puts your app in your users hands, where it is ready to be used and stands at far greater chance of engagement and potentially starts delivering returns from the moment a device is unboxed.

Digital Turbine work with app developers of all shapes and sizes and can build pre-loaded strategies to suit your individual organization’s needs.

From regional launches to global placements, anything is possible.

We also offer a number of different solutions to suit your specific marketing budget. These include Cost-per-Acquisition (CPA) pricing models which mean you only pay for users who successfully engage with your app – reducing your risk even further.

Wouldn’t you want to give your app the best possible start in life? Speak to Digital Turbine today about pre-loading your app on popular devices via the major mobile carriers.