A common phrase known around the world is “there’s an app for that.” If there’s an app for nearly every need, why aren’t more companies making mobile apps? Well, big-name businesses like Starbucks, Macy’s, and more have successfully shifted their business platforms to incorporate mobile. Thanks to their efforts, they’ve managed to capitalize on m-commerce, which alone is forecasted to reach $284 billion (roughly 45% of total US e-commerce) by 2020.
Google has been quietly removing the feature graphic from their Google Play Store, as seen by devices running the latest OS and play store versions. While the update began in late April 2018, more users are reporting that the feature graphic has been removed completely. While it’s uncertain if all Android devices are affected, it’s presumed that the change will soon appear.
The New Year is here, and with it comes a whole new batch of trends to stay on top of.
With regards to mobile trends 2017 has the potential to be a unique year. Last fall Apple shook up the world of mobile in a major way by shortening their Title field and introducing Search Ads. This quarter, expect app developers to refine their technique when it comes to mastering the new App Store ecosystem.
Look out for these trends in Q1 2017:
Search Ads Get Refined
As the year moves on, more and more app developers will begin to discover what performs best for Search Ads. Look for major developers to hit Search Ads even harder in an attempt to expand their search footprint into any relevant keywords.
Similarly, as more developers begin to target wider swaths of Search Ads, they will also refine how to best convert users from Search Ads.
As the New Year begins, make it a priority to learn the best practices for landing and converting from Search Ads.
Services Continue to Grow
App Store Services picked up major traction in 2016. Expect that trend to continue as 2017 winds on.
Service subscriptions have traditionally been confined to service-based apps like Netflix and Spotify. However, games like Boom Beach have also experimented with subscription plans, showing that recurring payments can be molded to work in a number of formats.
Services have been popular for Apple, too. Service revenue grew by 24% in the fourth fiscal quarter of 2016. Earlier, Apple had announced they would be offering successful Service subscriptions a more favorable revenue split of 85-15, as opposed to the usual 70-30. In order to qualify for the new split, developers would simply need to maintain a user’s subscription for one year consistently.
Superbowl LI Drives Sports Searches
Sports apps will have a field day with February’s Superbowl LI. News apps, fantasy apps and football games stand to benefit the most directly. If your app is relevant for “football”-related terms, update your metadata and creative to reflect this.
Cards, Dates and Flowers Go In Demand
The first major holiday of 2017, Valentine’s Day will be accompanied by a surge in searches for dating, events, shopping and gift apps.
Whether your app offers gifts for couples, flowers for the parents or in-person meetup opportunities for everyone else, you can capitalize on Valentine’s Day by including relevant keywords and expanding upon them in your description and creative.
Following Valentine’s Day, some apps may want to look ahead to Easter. While the holiday falls in early Q2, apps that offer relevant services (flowers, gift baskets, candy, etc.) will want to pivot towards Easter sooner than that. Change out your Valentine’s Day marketing language and keywords for Easter by early Spring.
While gift apps will have a field day, games can get in on the holiday fun too. The later winter to early spring season is often a popular time for game developers to run special events, like last year’s Angry Birds Epic mini-campaign. This event introduced a miniaturized version of a standard Angry Birds Epic campaign for Valentine’s Day, featuring new levels, special items and more.
If your app can be positioned as relevant for winter and spring holidays, be sure to have your metadata and creative updated in advance so that you have already begun indexing by the holiday.
Like Pokémon GO before it, Super Mario Run hit the App Store hard when it launched on December 15th and quickly rose to number one on the Top Grossing charts. The game’s whirlwind success is certainly worth celebrating, and shows the enduring strength of Nintendo’s key properties. But in a market dominated by King and Supercell, will Nintendo have the savvy to keep Mario on top?
That is the question we aim to answer with Super Mario Run’s first ASO report card. Nintendo is still new to the mobile market, after all, and they are facing off against companies that have had years of practice creating lasting brands in the App Store. Apple conferences and press tours have given Super Mario Run a fantastic start, but Nintendo also needs to consider the long tail profits of the app.
With that in mind, it’s important to first examine the history of Nintendo products in the App Store. While Mario might be the most prolific of Nintendo’s characters to enter the App Store, he isn’t the first. Nintendo launched Miitomo in North America on March 31, and the app peaked at number one on the App Store’s Top Free Downloads chart. The app never got so high on the Top Grossing chart, topping out at just under 100 before falling back off. Today, the app does not place on either of the two charts.
Perhaps a more immediate point of comparison, though, would be Pokémon GO. While not technically developed by Nintendo, the Pokémon brand is partially owned by the gaming giant, and Pikachu is considered one of Nintendo’s most recognizable mascots. The game also launched to a similar level of success as Super Mario Run, placing number one on both the Top Free Downloads and Top Grossing charts. It eventually went on to become the fastest mobile game to gross $600 million.
But again, the initial success of the app was not necessarily indicative of long-term legs. Pokémon GO currently sits at number six on the Top Grossing charts (certainly not a bad position, but still a steep drop from number one) and number 50 on the Top Free Downloads chart. Keep in mind this is just after the launch of new collectable Pokémon, a time when the user base should be expanding.
The quick success and sharp decline of Miitomo and Pokémon GO tell a story of big brands drawing mainstream attention, but a lack of long-term marketing coordination to keep those brands at the top. As we pointed out in a similar piece about Pokémon GO, these trends have a lot to do with the app’s keyword rankings.
Pokémon, for example, failed to pick up rankings for feature-related keywords like “RPG, collect, catch, raise”, etc. It even missed out on rankings for famous Pokémon like Mewtwo and Charmander. Its rankings for more generic terms like “Pokémon game” and “mobile games” were strong, but ultimately it failed to reach out to a wider audience by neglecting feature-based keywords that users might be searching for.
At this early stage, Super Mario Run looks to be following this trend closely. Take a look at a sample of its relatively limited rankings below.
Currently, the majority of Super Mario Run’s rankings revolve around the Mario franchise itself – See “Mario Games” and “Mario Bros” above. A few come from the company itself, like “Nintendo”. The app also ranks well for its major characters – “Mario” and “Luigi” are number one, and “Peach” is number 33.
But when it comes to genre or feature terms, there are many highly-searched areas that Super Mario Run leaves on the table. The app is unranked for very popular, relevant terms like:
- Running Game
The absence of rankings for Running-related terms is especially surprising given the “Run” in the game’s name. The app also fails to capitalize on its platforming gameplay, its asynchronous multiplayer mode, or its kingdom-building feature in its keyword bank. These are all popular search terms that would serve to expand the app’s search rankings and notify users of important features.
If Super Mario Run continues with its current rankings, it’s not hard to see the app following a similar path as Pokémon GO or Miitomo. All three launched at a high point, but have limited rankings that fail to capitalize on all the app’s features. Super Mario Run in particular may drop farther on the Top Grossing charts than Pokémon because of its in-app purchase structure – Mario only has a one-time in-app purchase of $9.99 to unlock the full game.
Ultimately, Super Mario Run fails to capitalize on its features and genre. A strong optimization could expand the app’s keywords to more relevant areas, ensuring that it maintains a high place on the charts and expands to an even wider audience.
This Fall Apple is preparing to initiate the biggest shift for App Store search yet in the form of Search Ads, sponsored app placements that will appear at the top of certain searches within the App Store.
Apple’s developer page bills Search Ads as “an efficient and easy way for you to promote your app within the U.S. App Store search results, helping people discover or reengage with your app at the very moment they are searching for apps like yours”. Sounds helpful, but to developers who make their living from apps, any change in the App Store can seem worrying. How will Search Ads impact the store’s ecosystem? Nobody knows for sure, but we can make a few points with confidence that show Search Ads may be the next great thing for developers.
To start, let’s talk about just what a Search Ad will look like in the App Store. When a user types in a targeted search term (“photo filters” is the example used by Apple), if a developer has bought an ad and Apple deems the app relevant for that term, it will appear at the top of the search results above the first organic search result. That means the ad will now be the first app users see. However, top ranking apps don’t have to worry about being pushed off of the front page, because Apple has designed the search ad to be smaller than a traditional search result. This means that both the ad and the top organically-ranking app will be visible to searchers right away.
A Search Ad also differs from a traditional listing in the number of screenshots shown. There are many different display options when your search ad goes live. Portrait ads generally seem to display three screens, at a smaller size than a standard App Store search result. Screenshots can also be displayed in landscape, or even not at all. Potentially, though, apps advertising through Search Ads will have one more chance at converting a user than traditional app listings.
A small blue “Ad” notification will appear next to the developer name, indicating to users that this is not a standard organic search result. Pertinent information such as an “Editor’s Choice” banner can also be displayed, should your app have received the honor from Apple in the past.
Aside from these differences, it’s business as usual for Search Ads being displayed in the App Store. The app’s title, visual elements and developer are all displayed front and center. The “Get” button is the same as well, meaning that users will be able to download advertised apps with one tap.
According to Apple, “various targeting features will enable deeper discovery of apps, including lesser known or niche apps”, and “by default a user won’t see ads for apps they already have downloaded”. Similarly, a Search Ad for your app will be shown when Apple deems your product to be relevant for a user’s search, so you won’t have to worry about your app only appearing for users who type in one specific phrase.
Continuing on that theme, Apple will by default automate much of the process of buying the ad for you, should you choose. When you buy a Search Ad, Apple will automatically match your app to relevant user searches in the U.S. store. You don’t have to type in any terms off the top of your head or search up the most popular terms, by default at least. If you do want that granular level of control, Apple will allow you to target specific keywords and audiences, and provide APIs for campaign creation, management and reporting.
Once your ad is live, payment will function similarly to a Google Adwords campaign. Purchasing an ad plays out like an auction, and you only pay when a user actually taps on your ad. There’s no minimum amount to spend and no contracts, so it seems as if Apple is keeping things flexible, for now at least. This also means that anyone who has spent time with Google Adwords should be able to pick up Search Ads relatively quickly.
Apple’s insights suite offers buyers a chance to track the impact that their Search Ad is making on their product. The Attribution API breaks down results by each keyword bid upon, and supposedly emphasizes privacy for both you and the user as information lookup occurs exclusively on the user’s device.
All of that sounds great, but how will Apple’s Search Ads actually play out when millions of apps potentially have access to them? To find out, we’ll turn to Google’s Search Ads as example. Google released Search Ads for the Google Play storefront a year ago, and were met with a similar mixture of excitement and trepidation from developers.
Even during the beta period, though, Search Ads were found to be a great way of converting high-quality users. Nordeus CEO Tomislav Mihajlovic, for example, told TechCrunch that his company saw “significantly more app installs from Search with the addition of Google Play inventory for [their] game Top Eleven”. Other developers, like Uber competitor Honk, claimed that Search Ads through Google cost as little as one-third the price of a Facebook ad campaign.
History shows, then, that Apple’s Search Ads could very well be a boon to developers in the App Store.
The Apple Search Ads beta is available now for curious developers out there.