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Mobile Marketing

App Distribution: Alternative Routes to Market for Android Developers

For many Android app developers, the Google Play Store is the only route to market. However, this approach can be somewhat limiting because the Google Play Store, despite being the default app store on most Android devices, doesn’t reach everyone in the Android ecosystem.

In fact, depending on who you are trying to
target – your app may never achieve its full potential if your marketing
strategy is limited to promotional activities within the confines of the Google
Play Store. 

No other product or service would limit
itself to a single marketing channel. So why shouldn’t app developers explore
other options to position their apps in front of the right person at the right

The question you need to ask yourself is:
If I want to reach more of the right people, should my app delivery strategy be
more “multi-channel”?

But first …

Wrong with the Google Play Store?

At first glance, absolutely nothing. The
Google Play store is the number one route to market for app developers. It’s
the first place the majority of smartphone users will turn to when they are
looking for app recommendations or want to download the latest “must have” app.
As such, we recommend all app developers should include and optimize their app
listings on the Google Play Store.

However, this doesn’t mean the Google Play
Store isn’t without its problems.

While it could be argued that the Google
Play Store has created a level playing field, where app developers can compete
regardless of size and marketing budget, this isn’t always the case.

In a highly competitive market, there are currently more than 3.3 million apps available on the Google Play Store, getting your app seen can be something of a challenge. To remain visible and drive engagement, app developers need to invest in an ongoing App Store Optimization (ASO) program and paid promotion strategy.

Getting to the top of a category in the
Google Play Store and staying there can be really expensive – and this is
before you take into account the fact that Google will receive 30 percent of
any revenues you generate from premium downloads or via in-app purchases.

Note: The high cost of in-app purchases was just one reason why games
developer Epic decided to sidestep the Google Play Store when launching the
Android version of Fortnite.

Further Reading: Will Epic Games Change The Way Smartphone Users Download Apps?

Successful exploitation of the Google Play
Store, like any other marketing channel, requires app developers to get their
heads around concepts like cost per acquisition and customer lifetime value.
Until you know these figures – you will never truly understand the profit
potential of your app.

It’s also important to remember when your
marketing budget dries up, your apps will lose visibility.

There are other issues app developers need
to be aware of when focusing all their efforts on the Google Play Store. The
most pressing, and perhaps sounding somewhat counter-intuitive when we are
discussing the world’s biggest app store, is the fact that the vast majority of
smartphone users don’t actually download apps from app stores.

Than Half of Smartphone Users Don’t Download Apps

A recent study suggested that 51 percent of smartphone users downloaded zero apps every month. Those who do actively download apps tend to do so very sparingly with 13 percent downloading just one app per month, 11 percent downloading two, 8 percent downloading three, 5 percent downloading four, and 7 percent downloading five to seven apps. At the top of the scale, only 5 percent of smartphone users download more than eight apps every month.

There are many reasons why people don’t
download apps from the Google Play Store. These include limited device memory,
limited wi-fi connectivity, fear of fraud, or just lack of interest. If you are
going to reach these people, you’re going to have to get a little more
strategic about your app distribution plans.

App Stores

The Google Play Store isn’t the only
Android app store on the market. However, most of the big players (either
independently operated or offered by smartphone manufacturers and mobile
networks) have the same problems as the Google Play Store concerning
competition and trust (compounded with much smaller user-bases).

Is it worth making your app available on
these platforms? Yes – but pick them wisely. An app store operated by the likes
of Amazon (the Amazon App Store is the default choice for owners of Kindle Fire
devices) or Samsung will have a considerable user-based and therefore have the
potential to distribute apps in volume. Others might not have the same reach.
As you will have to invest time, effort and money in optimizing these secondary
app stores just like you would on the Google Play Store, you may find smaller
app stores don’t deliver the same bang for your buck as the big guys. Don’t be
a busy fool and try and work with everyone.

Distribution Strategies

Thanks to Android’s open platform it is
possible to distribute apps outside of the app store environment.

Apps can be made available for download via
your own site or even by email.

This can be an attractive route to market
if you have a high-traffic website, extensive social media following or
extensive email subscriber base.

By offering your apps direct to users, you
may be able to bypass those hefty Google Play Store fees for premium (paid) app
downloads and in-app purchases. However, while this might be an incredibly
lucrative strategy for high profile apps, such as the aforementioned Fortnite,
for most developers this strategy may not be worth the additional development
time to create a standalone application (completely outside of the Google Play
eco-system which will manage things like payments and subscriptions).

and Security

The biggest challenge app developers have
in going direct is one relating to trust and security. Users will be very wary
about downloading an application or sharing credit card details with an
organization they are not familiar with. 
As such, conversions (downloads) may be limited and fail to deliver an
acceptable return-on-investment. It’s also worth pointing out if you are
delivering apps via a website or email – there is a greater potential for
piracy and fraud.

Because of this, most developers who
promote their apps via their websites and email, tend to direct users back to
the, you guessed it, Google Play Store. The reason for this is simple. Online
marketing is difficult enough – why do something that will ultimately restrict
your conversions – when a perfectly usable (and secure) solution is at hand.

It’s also worth noting that 30 percent of
nothing is nothing – so don’t try and save money by cutting off your supply.

a Rock and Hard Place

OK, we may be painting a rather bleak
picture here. App developers have a choice between investing heavily in App
Store Optimization and then giving a further substantial sum of money away in
the event of a download and future engagement, or spending a considerable
amount of time, effort and money promoting an app via an environment which
might not be suited to most smartphone users and will definitely restrict
downloads and any future potential.

Thankfully, there are a number of alternative
and highly successful routes to market.

SingleTap™ Installs

For app developers who want to emulate Epic
Games and offer their apps direct to their public, Digital Turbine’s SingleTap™ solution takes care of all the heavy lifting involved with such a
distribution strategy.

The SingleTap™ soluton does exactly what it says on the tin — it downloads an app
from a simple link or banner on a website or email from a single tap. By
bypassing the Google Play store, users do not experience the disjointed brand
experience of jumping from website to app store to app and save money by
avoiding the 30% tariff charged by the marketplace.

As well as maintaining brand integrity and
saving money on acquisition fees, this creates opportunities for app developers
to explore alternative (more low cost) app marketing strategies, including
email marketing, social media marketing and content marketing.

The SingleTap solution is particularly
beneficial to organizations with high traffic websites, large email lists and
social media followings. But what if you are starting from a less prominent


Digital Turbine helps developers of all
shapes and sizes deliver pre-loaded apps to highly engaged audiences all over
the world.

A pre-loaded app is presented to the smartphone
user at the time of maximum device engagement – the moment of unboxing.
Pre-loaded apps can be targeted by device, geography, network, and many other
criteria, ensuring your app is essentially delivered to the right person at the
right time.

Pre-loading takes the problem of
discoverability out of the equation. Your app is available from the moment a
device is first activated. In fact, pre-loading may be your only chance to
favorably position an app in front of the 51 percent of smartphone users who
never visit the Google Play Store. It also guarantees user trust and
dramatically reduces the risk of marketing fraud.

Further Reading: How Pre-Loading Apps Can Help Developers Circumnavigate Fraud.

A pre-loaded app is primed for engagement
and will not disappear from view the moment your marketing budget runs out or a
competitor prices you out of the market. This means engagement does not end
just because your campaign has.

Further Reading: Smartphone Apps with a Future – Long Tail Profitability.

Depending on your target market, we may
even be able to guarantee engagement with our Cost-Per-Acquisition (CPA)
pricing strategy.

If you are looking for a real alternative
to the Google Play Store, Pre-Loading your apps across Digital Turbines network
of device manufacturers, and mobile networks will almost certainly give you’re
the edge.

To learn more about pre-loading your app,
speak to one of our app marketing and distribution experts today.

Marissa Camilli

By Marissa Delisle

Marketing Specialist

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