Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy sh*t we don't need.
- Tyler Durden, Fight Club
As a college dropout, a Tinder user with zero matches, and someone whose best friend is a parrot, you may discount my credibility in helping you increase your number of app downloads. But before you write me off, I do have one thing going for me here: I’ve spent the last 27 months at July Rapid, a company that has built apps for over 1,000 companies including the NFL, Disney, CNN, ESPN, the PGA tour, CBS, NBC, Toys ‘R’ Us, Cisco, and Oracle.
As a result, I’ve had the opportunity to spend substantial time with the main players behind the apps (the developers, designers, marketers, etc.) who have collectively contributed to over 30 million downloads in industries like sports, media, entertainment, retail, and hi-tech. Some enjoyed over 10 million app downloads while others had less than 1,000. There are five rules that those working on apps on the higher end of the spectrum seemed to follow, and I’ll share them with you here.
1. Set Realistic Targets
Imagine you take on a job at Instagram and are responsible for increasing the number of active monthly users. You are settling down and starting to move things in the right direction. Your boss, Mark, calls you for a meeting and sets a target of 10 billion active Instagram users in a month with no cap on a budget for marketing. Um, for the record Mark, the world population is 7.4 billion. That one’s going to be a bit tough to reach...
Getting more downloads than your competitors is a more realistic target than getting every human in the world to download it. Look at your target audience — their geographical makeup, what percentage use iOS vs. Android, their age group, and other composition metrics specific to your product to start setting targets.
2. Have a Plan of Action
Why should anyone download your app? The less complicated your answer is, the easier getting downloads will be. To know what number you can shoot for, there is no shortcut to collecting competitor data to gain that perspective.
It’s very important to plan your course of action from the moment you start developing your app. If you have clarity on when the development will finish, ensure that you have all the supporting systems in place to help you launch it. Whether you’re throwing a massive launch party or holding a private gathering for select users, you’ll want to plan ahead. You don’t want the app to crash with a full-blown launch where the servers can’t handle the traffic. Similarly, you won’t want a small, private launch to make your app look empty.
We’ve noticed apps being designed with review meters for the first versions. When they are launched for the first time, those review meters will be empty and not yet appealing to users. Similarly, there are several features you’ll need to reconsider before your first launch. Consider whether it would make sense for someone who is the first person to download it, or if you will be facing a chicken-egg situation. Scale the features in accordance with the number of users. The first 1,000 can be considered the first set. From there have checkpoints for the number of users and scale the features and app support accordingly.
3. Set Up Channels
Following the plan of action, it’s important to consider what the channels are that you’ll use to eventually promote the app. ASO? SEO? Blogs? Videos? App reviews? Emails? Your website? Social media?
There are free and paid app promotion strategies. If you have a budget for paid promotions, your best bet to find your target audience is dividing it among social media promotions, paid app reviews, and in-app ads. It is critical that you collect data from these channels and then compare it with industry standards to gauge where you stand. If the budget is too low (less than $1,000), don’t spend it on multiple channels to test your luck. Most of these channels work better with more ad spend. Paid ad reviews are also a good way to get yourself featured. The more reviews, the more room you’re allowing for discoverability. This can take a while for people to download and start using the app. But, if you’re looking for instantaneous results, paid app promotions in social media will be the best call.
We all, of course, want to promote our work without spending a dime. This is where ASO, SEO, blogs and the key players fall in. If your app has competitors, they are already ahead of you in terms of ASO and SEO. The drawback for these channels is that the results are not instantaneous. With a persistent and deliberate attempt to improve your ranking, you’ll be surprised with the organic discoverability and increase in app downloads. Investing in ASO and SEO should be your highest priority. Your content and app description are both critical as well.
When someone lands on the app page of App Store or Play Store, ensure that you have screenshots of the app to explain what it is about. Display a consistent storyline when the screenshots are arranged. Have texts on the screenshot to explain what that screen is all about. It’s the first impression a user will have — make it count.
Reviews on the App Store and Play Store are critical. Don’t force your users to give you a review, but gently let them know you would appreciate them doing so. Perhaps reward them if they give you some nice feedback. Which leads me to my next point.
4. Implement a Reward and Referral System
If you reward each user who downloads the app, you’ll get their attention. For e-commerce apps, you often see first-time user offers. The in-app referral system is essential to grow your user base. Even if you don’t have a referral award, an in-app feature that will help a user to invite their peers will boost app downloads! The advantage of a referral system is that you’re buying the loyalty of a user. Even if the user doesn’t come back after their first transaction in the app, they will still remember you when they have a need. It’s a worthy wild card and a much better alternative to not having any system to retain their attention.
Gamifying features will easily bring in more users without a lot of effort. If you club that with the referral system, you’re setting up a domino effect. It is human nature to compete, so this combination helps tap into that tendency.
5. Become Shameless
It’s important to be shameless when it comes to promoting your app. You should be ready with your elevator pitch and app story even when you're sleeping. If you’re the CEO or one of the marketers of the app, establish the standard that you will do everything it takes to increase the number of downloads. If it means you have to cook for the developers who are working day in and out, do it! If it means you have to drive people home after office hours, fill up your tank! If you are in the elevator with someone in your target audience, get them to install it before they get out! If you’re pooling a cab, get everyone in the cab to download! If you’re at a party, you know what to do. If increasing app downloads is all you can think of, you should be doing a great deal of shameless marketing.
And some additional tips, for good measure:
The more downloads and positive reviews you have, the higher your ranking on the App Store and Play Store.
A happy user brings in more users than an unhappy one. Give them the best support possible and you’ll have their unequivocal loyalty.
Don’t settle! You can’t get by with the same features, targets and marketing channels. You have to be on the move and be open to changes!
Be honest in your approach and don’t buy fake users and get fake reviews. Google and Apple will shut you down if you plan anything like that.
Don’t be ashamed!
A push notification can bring a user back to the app. If the app doesn't add value to the user, a push notification will remind them of the internal space that they can clear up. Increasing app downloads is not rocket science. If you are consistent in your approach, authoritative in the quality of product and service, and get your users to like you, you can be certain of a high app download number!
You got this. Good luck!