More than half of the world now uses a smartphone – a truly staggering statistic, especially considering it’s only been 25 years since Tim Berners-Lee made the ‘World Wide Web’ available to the public. Smartphones have truly become an extension of ourselves – a study conducted by Flurry shows that Americans spend over 5 hours a day on mobile devices, and about 92% of this time is spent in apps.

As the use of apps has skyrocketed, so has the number of e-commerce apps and mobile commerce users. Competition is high, and its not enough to simply have a good retail app for it to be successful. Many developers make the mistake of spending countless hours perfecting the interface, design and functionality of their app, but overlooking another equally important factor: getting people to actually download it.

While there is no surefire way to make people download your app, there are a number of steps you can take to increase the likelihood of your app being successful in the app store. These techniques begin before you even start building your app:

Before Building

Before even starting the development process, it’s important to ask yourself ‘what problem will users solve with my app?’ If there is no clear way that your app will improve the shopping experience for your customers, then there is no reason to build it. Having a clear idea of who your users will be and what they will want out of your app will help guide you in the process of building the app.

To begin, ask yourself these questions:

  • Why will people want to use my app?
  • How will my app fit into the customer’s shopping experience?
  • What will be the primary user flow through the app?
  • Who will my primary users be?

If you can’t answer these questions, you my need to consider going back to the drawing board and rethinking your idea. The goal is to have a clear picture of what your app will look like and who your users will be by the time you start the building process. You should keep in mind that users of your retail website or even shoppers at your brick and mortar store (if you have one), are not necessarily the same customers who will use your app. If you already have an established brand, it is likely that your app’s users will consist largely of your most loyal preexisting customers. Therefore, targeting your app to loyal returning customers is typically a good strategy.

By considering all of these things before actually building the app, you will eliminate some of the time and money waste that often happens when people don’t think their app through and fully understand the target users before beginning.

Increase App Store Performance

Ok, so you’ve built a killer app, now comes the hard part. How do you get people to notice your app among the millions in the app store and google play?

Well, this begins with ASO, or app store optimization. There are a number of ways to make sure your app floats to the top of the search results and gets more downloads on the app store, and I’ve put together a guide to help this process:

1. Title

One of the most important choices you’ll make for your app’s success is choosing its name. Sounds simple, but within a few seconds this title needs to catch a user’s eye and tell them the basic functionality of your app. The most successful title will be unique, catchy and descriptive, while using a keyword with heavy search traffic. Having a keyword in your title can improve your app’s search ranking for that keyword by an average of 10.3%, and to capitalize off of this the most you should place your most relevant keyword, regardless of the keyword difficulty, in the title. If you already have a brand name, use that tied to some keywords.

2. Keywords

While most of these techniques will be the same across the board, the App Store and Google Play Store have quite different approaches when it comes to ASO keywords.

App Store

Apple offers a keyword bank of 100 characters to fill in with keywords relevant to the app. The keywords you choose here work with the keywords in your title to build the two-three word phrases that most app store users search for, so it’s unnecessary to repeat keywords that are already in your title. Your declared keywords are second only to the title in terms of indexation weight, so it’s important to use all of the allotted characters and carefully research your keywords to maximize your organic traffic. It is helpful to monitor competitors in order to understand how you compare week to week.

Google Play Store

Google, on the other hand, uses your app’s description to gather relevant keywords. This means that you have to sprinkle your description with keywords, while still making it sound natural, readable and informative. A Sensor Tower study showed that the optimal number of times to repeat a keyword in an app store product page is five, at which point you will maximize the likelihood of ranking prominently for that keyword. The best method is to write for the customer first, and make edits to add in keywords next.

3. Description

Your app’s description is the place where you can target your customer base and describe why the user should download your app. This should be a call to action, make a convincing argument for why the user would benefit from your app. The first few sentences are the most important, so be succinct, persuasive and to the point. You shouldn’t be too focused on keywords here (more so with google play, as mentioned above), you should focus instead on appealing to your target user.

With so many retail apps in the app store, odds are people have several options similar to yours. This means your job is to describe your app’s unique features, and give a compelling reason that the user should care about these unique features. Look at other popular retail app’s descriptions to see what works and what you should measure your app against.

4. Visual Content

After addressing the search-ability of your app, you want to make sure that once found, users are inclined to download it. This can be done with the app’s icon, a preview video, and screenshots.

  • Icon: Your icon should be a visually appealing and easily identifiable representation of your app and brand. Icons should be clear enough that the user can understand what your app does at a glance, even in its scaled-down form within the apps menu. Don’t clutter your icon with unnecessary words or logos that demand extra attention or thought from your customers.
  • Preview Video: a preview video is the absolute best conversion tool because it clearly and quickly shows users how your app works and what it looks like. A good preview video should be both engaging and informative, and show an accurate representation of your user’s in-app experience. Choose an eye-catching frame of your video to be set as your poster frame, because this will act as a screenshot and be the first creative asset users will see (besides your icon.)
  • Screenshots: screenshots are a user’s first look at what the app actually looks like. These should highlight the best or core features of your app. Add a description with keywords to each screenshot in order to reinforce your keywords and features to both users and Apple’s Review Team.

Outside Marketing

In addition to optimizing your app’s performance within the app store, there are several things you can do outside the app store to boost your app’s downloads. These include social media, email marketing, Faceboook ads, and several more. You can learn more about marketing for e-commerce in our last blog post by clicking here.


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