There are well over two million apps in the Google Play and Apple app stores each, and the overall market is hyper competitive and rapidly maturing. As the fads, clones and reskinned apps gradually disappear; the gap between good and bad apps continues to diminish, while that between good and great apps continues to grow.
One reason that potentially great apps struggle to make a foothold is that the marketers fail to utilize the full app marketing lifecycle. The key to launching, growing and maintaining a successful app is to understand the various stages of the app marketing lifecycle and using the most strategic techniques for each.
1. Acquisition Marketing
Acquiring new users for your app or service is hard; finding the right users is even harder. Acquisition marketing focuses on creating awareness of your product in the right markets, identifying the right users, making it easy for them to try the product, and, most importantly, personalizing the onboarding experience to convert new users into loyal users.
There are a number of channels and venues for creating product awareness and advertising to the right audience:
Organic Search – Optimize your product’s web page and app store description for higher visibility in search results on Google, Bing, and Yahoo. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is applicable to both mobile and web apps. Writing blogs and articles on relevant topics can serve to educate the market, demonstrate your expertise and drive traffic to your website simultaneously. For a wider reach, you can write on Medium, DZone or Quora, or post the content on your blog first and then on Medium a day or two later.
Paid Search Engine Advertising – Promote your product by paying for higher visibility in the search results. Search Engine Marketing (SEM) traditionally refers to paying for placement in the results, and Search Ads use the same meta-data that app publishers use for display ads. App stores are relying more and more on usage and engagement metrics for discovery, which are also key factors in Search Ads. The more engaging your app is for existing users, the more discoverable it will be for new users.
App Store Optimization (ASO) vastly improves app discoverability and helps apps become more discoverable among the right users. There are both White Hat and Black hat ASO techniques to explore.
A/B Testing works best when you don’t know which types of content resonate with your users, which is often the case this early in the marketing lifecycle.
It’s also important not to neglect the value of PR, social media (posting, engaging with others, and advertising), and traditional advertising at this stage. All of these channels and methods can be optimized to drive awareness and discoverability.
2. Retention Marketing
As we know, simply acquiring users is never enough, as only two-thirds of users launch an app or visit your site more than once. First impressions clearly matter and, unfortunately, even the best A/B tested onboarding experience does not work for every user. In order to sustain growth, app marketers must be able to keep their users coming back. This is where retention marketing comes in, which, depending on granted permissions from users, may include:
Push notifications for status updates, actionable content and marketing services via Apple Notification Services, Firebase cloud messaging, and Web Push Notifications
SMS and MMS for simple and multimedia notifications to users
Social media direct messages for status updates and opt-in content
Transactional email for promotions and updates to users
At this stage of the app marketing lifecycle, you have already acquired the users and should be able to know a thing or two about them, such as device technographics, demographics, usage behavior, geography, etc. Use this data to your (and your users’) by personalizing every interaction them. Which brings us to…
3. Engagement Marketing
App marketers must keep users engaged with unique individualized experiences, personalized content, and relevant updates. Engagement marketing involves interacting with users at a personal level, based on what you already know about them and their behavior within an app or website. This should happen throughout the usage of an app or service. Tactics may include:
Local Notifications – These are meant to be informative and valuable to an individual user and are not pushed by the server. Ex: “You have items worth $47 in your cart. Orders over $50 ship for free!”
In-App Messages – Marketers can send these to individual users based on certain criteria. Ex: “John, here is 20% off coupon for items in your cart.”
Personalized Feed Content – Similar to in-app messages, personalized content can be shown in the feed in your product.
Again, marketers should use the data they have about users to personalize every engagement and experience.
4. Resurrection Marketing
Resurrection marketing is to target dormant users who have stopped using the app but have not uninstalled it. For a specific period of time, you can encourage them to return to the app with personalized messages and calls to action.
Channels for resurrection marketing include: SMS, MMS, email, push notifications, web notifications and direct messages on social media, depending on what users have enabled.
5. Reacquisition Marketing
Users who have uninstalled the app or have stopped using it for an extended period may need to be re-acquired when new features or enhancements are available. Channels that work best for reacquisition marketing are the same as acquisition marketing, however the key difference is that you can now create more personalized interactions based on the user data you have gathered throughout the marketing lifecycle.
As you continue to grow your app over time, all five of these stages will become essential to your marketing strategy at one point or another. The important thing to remember is that each stage represents a new opportunity for you to learn more about who your users are, how to engage with them and keep them coming back for more.