App marketing is a bit different than B2B or even B2C. With apps, not only do brands need to focus on acquisition via an install, but they have to drive post-install usage and then remarket to uninstallers. It can be tricky as each phase is extremely important. Big brands generally feel that their apps will simply get installed and used by their customer base—but again and again, that has not proven to be enough for app success.
It’s not hard to understand why app marketing is far down the prioritization list for big brands and at the top of the list for challenger brands. Put yourself in the shoes of a CMO at a Fortune 1000 retailer and imagine all of the issues and challenges you have as a global enterprise that could seem far more important to tackle than marketing an app when you figure your big name brand can carry the load.
Yet, the reverse can be true, and too often is. By entering the app marketplace without an offense strategy, a proven brand can actually subject itself to new competitive threats. A big brand cannot afford to rely on brand equity alone to get its app on millions of devices. A thorough, dedicated marketing strategy is needed in the same way that a new product launch is supported, from audience definition to adoption targets and marketing channel analysis.
Investing in an app without a clear marketing plan could amount to a huge waste of time and money.
Far too often, app marketing is an “if we build it, they will come” approach
The 3 Phases of App Marketing that Big Brands Hardly Ever Get Right
App marketing phase #1 – The Install
The first step in marketing an app is getting consumers to install it. To do this correctly, a full-funnel approach is required—marketing to build awareness at the top, educating the benefits at the middle, and pushing device owners over the last mile to the install is what is required.
Search marketing has proven itself over the last two decades to be an incredible driver of conversion activity, and this opportunity now exists within the app stores—chiefly the iOS store for Apple users and the Google Play store for Android users. Just as the debate is pretty much over whether or not brands should be using paid search on the web for their brand terms—of course, they should!—the same argument holds true for app stores.
On the standard web, bidding for your branded search terms is a tried-and-true best practice even if you own the first organic result on the search engine results page (SERP). If you don’t, competitors will bid on your brand terms and their paid ads will appear above the organic results, trumping your organic placement and disrupting the demonstrated customer intent you’re trying to capture.
This is why Apple Search Ads have quickly become a critical new channel for app marketers. iOS device owners who are actively searching for apps to install are, by default, one of the most highly engaged audiences for app owners to reach. Opportunities like Apple Search Ads can help across the funnel by driving awareness, getting device owners to read your app profile page to educate them, and making sure that when they’re ready to install, that they install your app and not a competitor’s.
If you’re not yet using Apple Search Ads for your app, you are missing one of the best ways to drive the install.
App marketing phase #2 – App Engagement
Getting a consumer to download your app is one thing, but getting them to actually use it is another. With most apps now relying on micro-transactions to be profitable, the install is simply the beginning of the customer journey, not the end.
Low app usage = Low app value for brands
“The average app loses 77% of its DAUs [daily average users] within the first 3 days after the install. Within 30 days, it’s lost 90% of DAUs. Within 90 days, it’s over 95%. Stunning. The other way to say this is that the average app mostly loses its entire user base within a few months, which is why of the >1.5 million apps in the Google Play store, only a few thousand sustain meaningful traffic.”
This is where many app developers fail. They chase the lowest cost-per-install without tracking which marketing efforts actually bring in the most valuable users. For example, one channel might have impressive cost-per-install but what if only a fraction of those people even use the app? On the other hand, a different channel drives a higher cost-per-install—in many cases that channel’s budget might get reallocated to the more efficient converter. However, if any of those installers become valuable app users, then the math tells a different story.
So, of course, if your app doesn’t get used, then it has zero value to your business. For a retail brand, apps are another channel that can bring in sales. For financial services brands, the apps are there to drive convenience and create more reliance on your brand and another reason to stay a customer. News and other publishers rely on page views to drive ad sales. All of these profit models require app usage, not just installation.
Apps shouldn’t be marketed like a product with a one-time sale. Apps should be marketed like a subscription service which knows that it must keep hammering home the value to its audience for repeat purchases or like a restaurant that wants its customers to keep coming back to eat.
“Users try out a lot of apps but decide which ones they want to ‘stop using’ within the first 3-7 days,” writes Ankit Jain of Gradient Ventures. “For ‘decent’ apps, the majority of users retained for 7 days stick around much longer. The key to success is to get the users hooked during that critical first 3-7 day period.”
So how do you stay top of mind, and become a habit?
To keep users engaged and drive lifetime value with an app, an always-on marketing approach is needed. New features need to be marketed both inside the app as well as in the real world. Even if you have a free app without micro-purchases or retail functionality—such as a banking app—the app won’t drive the business value it was designed to support without user engagement. You can even create specific segments of your app users and retarget them around the web-based on which parts of the apps they’ve used and haven’t used. For example, if there’s a specific app functionality that a group of your users hasn’t yet touched, you can market to them to drive adoption to that feature.
App marketing phase #3 – The Reinstall
Here’s where apps differ from most product purchases. Imagine spending so much time, money, and energy into getting a consumer to install your app and then a month later they uninstall it.
In fact, data across various app usage studies over the last few years shows that somewhere in the neighborhood of 25% to 35% of apps get deleted within the first 30 days of installation.
Apps get uninstalled as often as they get installed
Why do apps get deleted?
Not enough space. This is generally the top reason consumers report deleting apps and especially true for some of the budget Android smartphones that have limited capacity. As a device fills up with music, photos, videos, and other apps, users have to pick and choose which apps they can keep making room for other stuff.
They don’t work. Technology doesn’t always work as expected and many times it might not even be the app itself but rather network or operating system issues. However, apps are at risk with two-thirds of respondents to a 2017 survey said they’ve uninstalled an application if it didn’t perform well after its first use. This is a hard pill to swallow for app developers banking their entire business on app usage.
Tried it but didn’t like it. It’s so easy to install an app, which is a bit of a double-edged sword for app developers because it’s just as easy to uninstall them. Often—especially with free apps—there’s no penalty to try them. Just click the install and then check it out. But, if the app doesn’t deliver on its promise or simply the user decides to try something else, it’s easy enough to delete them and reinstall them later if there’s a reason to in the future.
There are probably as many reasons why app users delete apps as there are app users. That’s why it’s important to remain persistent with your marketing. Worldwide, app reinstallation rates can be 42% of total installs. That means that more than 2 out of 5 installs are actually the same users reinstalling apps which they had previously deleted.
App marketers need to recognize that the reinstall is just part of the app economy and continue hammering home their value to existing users knowing that one day those people might be ex-users who just might be willing to try them again.
Conclusion: A failure to plan is a plan to fail
The app opportunity is huge for brands. Whether it’s legacy brands extending another engagement point or sales channel for customers or a challenger brand looking to build a business via an app, consumer time spent with mobile devices and apps is growing year-over-year.
What brands can’t do is simply expect their brand name and existing customer base to build an app audience. It’s clear that a real, marketing plan is needed at all three phases (the install, user engagement, the reinstall) to help drive business value.
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