Mobile app marketing – 10 most common mistakes

As of 2017 you can find almost 5.3 million iOS and Android mobile apps in App Stores which makes mobile app marketing a huge challenge for new mobile app developers and mobile app marketers.

The mobile apps market is highly developed and an increasing challenge for developers with Google Play adding almost 50 000 new mobile apps monthly. Mobile user acquisition cost (UAC) is also growing year by year which does not make it any easier with the average iOS app costing $3.04 in the United States according to Chartboost data.

Mobile app developers have many more ways to reach their customers, than those in “classic” commodities and services marketing, although this can be a bigger challenge as well.
What most characterizes mobile app marketing is its aim on return on investment (ROI). This factor provides data about the relation between– customer lifetime value (CLV), which provides the potential value of a customer compared to the customer acquisition cost (CAC).  Another important influence on income is the churn rate (yearly percentage of customers which unsubscribe), as a high churn rate creates the necessity of increasing efforts to find new mobile app users. Churn rate is relevant to each one of the following subparagraphs.

If you want your mobile app be on top one day, you need to pay attention to avoid the following mistakes:

1. Lack of knowledge about ASO – (App Store Optimization)
2. Mobile app development without a monetization strategy
3. Absence of critical app data analysis
4. Focusing on traditional forms of marketing
5. Low recognition of the app icon and its name
6. Absence of a pre-launch mobile app marketing plan
7. Focusing on obtaining new users without a strategy on how to keep existing ones
8. Lack of communication between the app developer and its users
9. No marketing actions taken before the official launch of the app
10. Not applying a viral strategy

1. Lack of knowledge about ASO – (App Store Optimization)

App Store Optimization (ASO) is an effective method of reaching potential users from the App Store and Google Play. Optimizing search results provides a way to not get left out from the very beginning. Over 60% of users discover new apps through searching in the App Store, which is why App Store Optimization (ASO) is so essential. The higher the mobile app appears in search results, the greater chance it will end up in the memory bank of new user’s mobile phone.

The following factors affect ASO (App Store Optimization) the most:
App name – amplifying efforts on positioning the app in the App Store is most important, as it brings the app closer to the majority of users. Taking time to figure out appropriate keywords that potential customers may use is also helpful. Also remember that changing the name of an existing mobile app might create a problem. Grapevine communication between users can also greatly increases an app’s popularity.

Keywords – the app’s description in the store is where we should use words our users look for. Speak their language! Research of your competition that has a higher search ranking can help provide some useful clues in this matter. After finding out what’s important for consumers, it is time for optimization, as there is always room for improvement of a mobile app’s description. According to marketing research, apps that have a keyword in their names have 10% higher ranking than ones that don’t, so keeping that in mind is most certainly helpful.

App Store Optmization mobile game
Competitive keywords directly affect the number of app downloads, and both factors affect an app’s position in search results. In this case, the difference between the App Store and Google Play is that Apple stores results from the app’s first 3 days, with an emphasis on the first 24 hours, whereas Google Play takes results from the last 30 days under consideration. Compared to other factors, it’s much harder to influence the number of downloads in ASO, which is why advertising the app from the very beginning is so essential. It’s also wise to consider additional actions on social networks as well as separate advertising campaigns.
App ratings and user’s reviews are also a part of ASO – the higher the rating, the higher the position in search results on both App Store and Google Play platforms. Unquestionably, the higher the mobile app’s rating, the better the conversion rate. If the app is to be offered globally, localizing it permits reaching a much larger target audience and increases the chance for more positive reviews. Well prepared in-app messaging, utilizing call-to-action (CTA) techniques, as well as a push of notifications may also encourage the user to leave a note or a comment. To minimize the amount of negative feedback from clients it’s useful to implement a bug report system or a contact form in the software.
Performing all the above actions in the right directions may not only double, but even result in tenfold the number of downloads. Some ASO actions may take quite a while to take effect, therefore ASO needs to be constantly monitored. The optimal set of keywords after a few months is usually very different from the original ones created during the first optimization. In most cases ASO is greatly neglected by software developers, therefore giving it close attention may result in gaining a significant upper hand over the competition.

Here are some of the tools useful for optimizing an app:

2. Mobile apps development without monetization strategy

Some companies have been looking for the right monetization model for years as it isn’t easy to find the optimal solution. Many players still tend to enter the market with a focus on obtaining new users, with the hope that they will eventually figure out a way to monetize their efforts. How we plan to make money from a mobile app should be written into its DNA. Monetization can’t be something we discover after years have gone by, as developing the right strategy for an app from the beginning will help guide its success and help find more of the “right” users.

Here is a short list of effective app monetizing strategies:
E-Mail – there are several ways of monetizing with the use of e-mail addresses. Mailing lists can be used to develop newsletters and offers that redirect the mobile users from the app to your home or partner websites. By using this method, you can create valuable content for your recipients, thereby increasing their conversion rate. Another solution which provides very good results is monetizing through affiliate networks by inserting links that lead to offers in partner programs. One other idea for monetizing is to put your sponsored content and native advertising into an e-mail message, which may give certain results, however it’s not as precise and effective as partnership networks. Simply having a mailing list provides options to share it or sell other subjects.
Paid mobile apps – this solution is not applicable for all types of apps, but in some cases, it gives good results. Oftentimes in shops we can find the same app in two versions – one free and the other paid. The free app usually contains just a small part of what’s in the full (paid) version which encourages a potential user to buy it. A similar method is to establish a free-trial period during which the mobile app is free for users, and then once it expires a one-time payment or a monthly fee is charged for further use of the app.

SMS advertising – it is always worth utilizing the users’ phone numbers database. Using an SMS on the registration and marketing agreements that follow, can create great new ways of reaching customers. As few software developers use this kind of solution, proper use of SMS marketing may give promising results simply because it is an area that’s not so crowded with other advertisers.
What’s the best type of message users should receive? According to feedback from clients – a message about discounts! It’s best if the message contains additional phrases amplifying the feeling of a timely, one-time opportunity, such as “Today only” and outlines a specific offer. Using SMS marketing channels can also help build a base of users that will later receive additional offers through filling forms on landing pages, such as: “fill out our survey and receive a 50% discount!” or “subscribe for our price alerts – don’t miss our special offers!”. It’s also important to know the destination your client goes to after following your message. The website users are redirected to has to be compatible with mobile phones – there is no room for compromises in this area of optimization. Ideally, the URL should be as short as possible. Also, it’s always good practice to add to the text message information on how to resign from receiving further notifications.

Sponsorship and partnership – mutual promotion can greatly influence the way companies are perceived. With partnership, it’s best to find a subject having a similar base of users with whom you can find a common thread. A good example of this is when localized functions used by one app utilize solutions offered and implemented in the other app. A new payment method implemented in the app may redirect to the app that originally offers this payment method. The positive side effect of such actions is usually improving the image of your app.
When it comes to sponsorship, one of the best examples of this kind of relationship was established between 3M and Evernote brands. The Evernote app allowed quick and easy transfer of notes made with “Post-it® Notes” from 3M. Their software automatically detected one of 4 colours of adhesive notes produced by 3M, and allowed adding functions to each one of them, such as applying a category to it or directly putting it into a category or adding a reminder to it. As a culmination of their co-operation, these two companies even released a special desktop dispenser that is designed to allow their users to profit from all the functionalities both parties offer.

Microtransactions and In-app purchases (IAP) – the foundation of this solution is to offer additional paid content as a part of an app that is otherwise free to use. This method is mostly used in games, where by an additional payment, players can get access to unique and special content such as skins, levels, virtual currency, new characters etc. Adding such a solution on platforms such as App Store or Google Play allows the user to spend money without leaving your app. When this was first used, this method of monetization caused a controversy amongst users, since some of them were spending resources unwittingly, or in some cases money was spent by children using their parent’s devices. However, after time, appropriate measures such as notifications and restrictions were introduced to make such transactions more transparent. The developers of some mobile apps utilise a model called “paywall”, which makes the mobile app impossible or very burdensome to work with without making some sort of payment.
There are several techniques that can help make this monetization solution effective and encourage the users to willingly pay for additional content inside the app.

Gradually increasing the difficulty level – this technique is utilised mostly in games. It allows the user to take full advantage of the product while simultaneously giving them an option to make purchases that makes further progression much easier. Bonus content offers usually work great with users that have exploited all the mobile app’s features. When making such offers, it’s good to offer a free sample of what is to come after the purchase. One good example of this are the options of “Revive” or “Save me” in games that allow the user to immediately continue gameplay. In most cases to receive such a possibility users pay with special currency that’s used in the game such as coins, crystals or credits that can be purchased in-game or otherwise obtained through a long and much more ardurous progression. Additional ways of luring customers to spend more are sometimes applied, such as in “Pokemon GO”. When users buy coins, they usually receive 6 different offers, each one being progressively better than the other, with an increasingly better yield of coins per amount of money spent. Another idea for additional paid content which might come in handy, is using a paid option to remove ads that appear during gameplay. However, it is important that it’s the user’s choice, not a painful necessity. If a large part of the screen is covered with add banner and too many full screen pop-ups are being served to the user it’s highly unlikely they will decide to express gratitude for letting them use the mobile app. It’s good to create sales bundles that aside from removing ads, offer additional features and benefits.
Receiving decent income from your app is also possible by implementing limited-time offers – the more exclusive and unique they are the better – some developers even customize offers and dedicate them to a specified user. Another interesting tactic is to create add-ons that differ highly from the normal offer and comparatively have much higher prices. This model of monetization is open for experimentation so don’t only look at “freemium” as a shortcut for some players, but think big. There are titles which have sold material goods through in-game purchases – for example Angry Birds offered plush toys or Fruit Ninja a wide array of mobile covers. Such models of monetization usually go along with advertisements as few users normally decide to buy. However, a very small percentage are oftentimes willing to spend large amounts for in-game purchases (around 2% of users can bring in over 90% of your profits). In this context, it is worth noting that part of the money spent by app users is taken by the store as a transaction fee – both App Store and Google Play charge 30%.
Display advertisement inside a mobile app is considered the future of promotion for the mobile channel by many marketers. The largest companies follow this lead, knowing that there aren’t many ways of reaching a potential customer that allow a high level of personalisation in marketing. Additionally, if the amount of time users spend on phones is taken into consideration, resources spent on advertising in that channel are still relatively low in comparison to other forms of media. On a daily basis, users can spend 3 hours or more on mobile devices, with some 80% of that time being used for mobile apps. Monetization using a personalized display advertisement can be very efficient and rewarding for various reasons. First, this helps to understand the context of use as well as helps gather data about the users’ locality, which is a help with geo targeting.
New ways of utilizing collected data are constantly being invented and developed. By using big data and self-developing algorithms user’s behaviour can be predicted much more accurately. Display advertisements come in various formats – from lower or upper screen banners, to self-playing video clips. Choosing the right format for your mobile app may require some testing to tune in with consumers, but again, the base to this is leveraging information and targeting. The right format for display advertisements is the one that is “appropriate” for users, although most of them usually declare they “don’t trust banner ads”.

3. Absence of appropriate mobile app analytics

Understanding the behaviour of mobile app users is vital when developing and monetizing a mobile app. As it is supported by many new tools, mobile analytics may give answers to many questions as well as provide new possibilities. Oftentimes, mobile app developers focus on getting new users and tend to neglect taking care of the ones they already have. Mobile app analytics not only answers the question of “how many?” but also “why?”. Each of the two major app stores prepare their own analytic tools corresponding to the following platforms (Google AnalyticsApp Store).

There are many tools available that can help you advertise and promote your mobile app using analytics.

Which metrics are worth measuring?
Session length tells how much time is spent by users after launching the mobile app. Session length is measured differently and has a different meaning for different types of apps. For mobile apps running in the background, such as Spotify, the intervals between when a user makes any kind of activity are taken into consideration. In this case, the level of user’s engagement with the app is what is measured. For apps that run one time and are actively used, the rule is – as long as the user “stays inside” the app the better. If on the other hand, we take a closer look at traffic and navigation related mobile apps, longer session lengths do not necessarily mean the users are happy. Such situations may occur because of difficulties users experience with the app, and the fact they need to spend more time to do what they want to do.
Retention Rate – this is one of the most important factors for marketers and provides especially good guidance for developers. It’s a factor that serves as benchmarking for many things, such as areas needful to work on to maintain the user base, to calculate how fast the app can be developed, how good is your customer service and finally how loyal your clients are. To calculate the user retention rate for a specific time period the number of users at the beginning of the period, the number of users throughout the period and number at the end of the period are used. For example – let’s say we had 100 users at the beginning of the month. During that month 25 of them resigned and we obtained 30 new ones, which results in a total of 105 users. The calculation looks like this: (105 – 30)/100 x 100 = 75%.User retention at the end of this month is 75% (meaning ¾ of the users “remained with us” – for mobile apps such a score is extraordinary). Why is retention so important? Research shows that the cost of obtaining a new client is 5 to 7 times higher than the cost of keeping existing ones. In addition, according to statistics, loyal clients are worth 10 times the amount of their first purchase.
ARPU is short for average revenue per user. This factor measures the median income received from one user by dividing the total income by the number of users. ARPU lets us test how efficient the monetization strategies we used are, and other factors to help set directions we should follow and goals we can strive for to reach further development. ARPU is also very helpful while implementing new services into software – when measured in specific time periods, it clearly shows how any changes made have influenced the overall mobile app.
App downloads statistics – is also a vital source of information for developing ASO strategies. Statistics of other developers are not easy to estimate as the exact number of downloads is available only for the creators of their own mobile app. With the help of other statistics concerning your personal users, the number of downloads helps verify how many times the app was downloaded, but wasn’t launched. For many developers, download statistics provide the first measure of success for their products.
Active users – this is the best metric to show how interested users are in our mobile app. It’s usually measured over three periods – daily, weekly, and monthly. If this factor is not favourable it means that additional promotion actions may need to be undertaken. If the active user’s ratio is high during a short period then lowers drastically, it means users probably didn’t find what they expected from the mobile app. It’s also possible that the mobile app didn’t provide a high enough level of value to keep the users for longer.

4. Focusing on traditional forms of marketing

The definition of advertising varies widely and the differences between marketing, PR, customer service and the traditional understanding of sales fade away. If we attempt to market a mobile app just like any other product, we will have much lower chances of reaching our clients. If we invest only in traditional media advertisement – radio, newspapers, TV, or billboards, we simply won’t be where our users are. On the other hand, focusing only on the internet side (banner ads and e-mails) may decrease our chances when dealing with competition. As already mentioned, the main sources from which users can get to know about your mobile app are Google Play and the App Store and this is where the real fight for the user’s attention begins. Therefore, the best investment is to use mobile ad networks. Various methods can be used, such as CPC – cost per click, CPM – cost per thousand impressions, CPI – cost per install, which are among the many new formats of advertising that can be targeted for particular groups – all of which make mobile ad networks the most efficient way to promote a mobile app. It’s almost always better to focus on this area rather than on the “classic” channels.

5. Low recognition of the app icon and its name

First impressions usually determine whether a user is willing to get to know more about your mobile app or not. This is why the looks of the icon directly affects the number of downloads that can be counted on. A mobile app’s icon is the first thing that is going to draw a potential user’s attention in the shop, therefore it should be readable and correspond as much as possible with the nature of the mobile app.
What should a mobile app’s icon look like?

Scalable – this means the icon should look the same regardless of its size. When the project is ready, it’s useful to check it not only in different sizes, but also on different types of displays. The level of detail an icon contains may have direct impact on that question, so it’s worth paying attention to it in the early stages of design process.
Recognizable – an icon should stand out as one of a kind, so that it becomes engraved in the user’s memory. Again, too much detail in icon design may have a negative influence on its usability. It may be worth studying the icons of the most popular mobile apps in the shop, to see how their creators managed to attract attention to them. Creating a few versions of the icon and comparing them to one another, as well as to other icons in the shop may help in determining which ones look original and don’t stand out in a negative way.
Consistency – this means the icon should correspond with the overall artwork of the mobile app, screenshots in the store and the description provided to potential users. Well planned icons say much of what can be expected from a mobile app. One basic thing to remember when creating the icon is to stick to the same colour palette.
Quite often we hear about major mobile app developers changing their icons. One well known change was made by Instagram (changing the icon was ultimately considered a good choice)

Instagram mobile app icon
and Uber was another (in their case, users consider this change to be totally “off the mark”)
Uber mobile app icon
To find examples of a good icon look at “top productivity” in Google Play.

Mobile apps icons
Among the top 10 free mobile apps, most of them use a flat design and maintain a simple and compact appearance, however positions 2,5 and 6 stand out from the rest. The two flashlight icons are almost the same, in addition, they both use “realistic” graphics – something that many developers tend to avoid (example Instagram).
In the same category, mobile apps that allow creating interactive lists can be found. Most them basically rehash the same ideas, and even though they hold onto the appropriate minimalist form, they don’t look too original compared to their competition. One exception is Wunderlist, which looks quite original and well-thought-out (it was also redesigned to be flat).

Todo Mobile Apps icons

6. Absence of a pre-launch mobile app marketing plan

Aside from classic channels of reaching customers, mobile app marketing should include actions in the fields of e-mail, SMS, social web browsers, in-game messaging as well as push notifications. Planning the marketing strategy for your app should be divided into 3 stages: obtaining the client, winning their involvement, and finally, retention and monetization. To obtain a new customer, actions on many fields need to be undertaken. To come out on top when facing competition with many other mobile apps, it may be necessary to utilise viral loops – take advantage of users commitment and encourage them to share with others. One good example of a developer using this type of marketing campaign is Candy Crush, who awarded players that shared information about their game on social media. Further customer acquisition may come from partnerships. For example, co-operating with a phone manufacturer may get your mobile app pre-installed on their products or distributed along with others in bundles. Another, very reliable method of promoting a mobile app is using performance marketing. Co-operation with various ad networks is a very convenient opportunity to pay only for expected results. One great example of such a network is tapjoy.com. Even the internet giants such as Google created its original solution for its own platform – Admob. The basics of gaining user involvement and retention, optimize the mobile app towards UX (user experience). This means being sure you create a good first impression, perhaps prepare a nice tutorial, and monitoring of the flow inside the app. It’s well worth creating user accounts in a way so that they function well on many devices and platforms to maintain a consistency of user experience. Taking good care of the user is a goal which is achieved by developers not only inside the mobile app, but this includes notifications, support and caring for the community that grows around your product.

7. Focusing on acquiring new users without a strategy of how to keep existing ones

User retention is a critically important factor, although most creators often focus mainly on acquiring new clients and make them the main target of their efforts. The number of active users tells how many loyal clients you have. It is well worth taking care of the existing ones since, with time, they’ll become the “advocates and ambassadors” of your brand and their value will increase. Statistics in this case provide harsh results – just a few months after their launch, many mobile apps lose their entire base of initial users. It’s is a normal occurrence, that after the first three days over 70% of users that started discard the mobile app. Maintaining a retention rate of 25% after three months is considered quite a success. Having a high outflow of clients is a very bad thing – it’s possible the app didn’t meet their demands and expectations and simply “doesn’t do what it’s supposed to”. Similarly, too many options in software may cause some issues – in general a mobile app works well, when it fulfils one single function or performs a certain narrow task users expect it to. Using personalization – recommendations and personalized search results can give a significant upper hand in keeping existing customers. When a mobile app seems to be “tailor-made” and offers unique content it may work wonders. In many cases using push notifications may help – for example after a user has finished a level it provides the user with statistics encouraging him to beat his previous record.
Duolingo uses this method to lure their customers into completing further courses. A very creative way of using push notifications can be noticed in Tinder – the app informs inactive users that their profile has been made less visible since they didn’t “swipe” for some time. Naturally, if the mobile app works too slow or freezes from time to time it will most certainly be hard to make someone “keep in touch with it” and a complete workaround may be needed.

8. Lack of communication between the app developer and their users

Even the best FAQ is not able to answer all the questions and solve all issues users may have. Being able to have constant contact with a live person can sometimes turn disappointed customers into brand ambassadors. When working on your project, it’s best to consider several ways in which users can contact the developer – the mobile app level included. Customer service is an important part of marketing! Being available to your users helps you to get to know more about their needs and expectations, therefore enabling you to make your product even better and thus more likely to draw the attention of loyal customers. Quick contact, especially on social media is considered a sign of great respect towards users – it sends the simple message “This company really takes care of its clients”. It’s also another ASO element – in the App Store, a “customer support” button can be placed right next to the “leave a review” section which is a very smart move. In this way, if the user is redirected to an appropriate form, he may give feedback about what doesn’t work so well in the app instead of leaving a negative and discouraging comment.

9. No marketing actions before the official launch of the app

Google Play and the AppStore are full of brilliant and perfectly designed apps that no one ever heard about. Their potential users may have already found similar solutions that were simply presented better, or they’re still looking for such an app, not knowing it’s even there. This is the reason the launch of the mobile app should be carefully thought out earlier, during the first stages of its creation. It’s even possible to create an initial base of users before submitting the app to the store. Incorporating this “early adopters” strategy and creating a base of “pioneers”, who will be the first to get their hands on new software may be a great first step towards gaining a large following. They can also be invited for beta testing, such as with the help of www.preapps.com/.
It’s always a good idea to launch a landing page to give feedback about your mobile app and how it’s developing as well as to provide the information about when it will have its launch. In this case, the most important thing is to offer a quick and easy way of signing up for a newsletter.
Users attention (as well as the attention of the whole industry) can be captured by mixing content marketing with good PR which can cause your mobile app to be talked about and commented on long before its actual launch. Posting messages on social media channels helps in finding recipients who will react to our efforts. It’s always worthwhile to make a bit of “noise” around your project – try to build up a certain aura of suspense as well as discuss it with people. In this way you can build public interest and create a following that will afterwards come looking for you. A good example of such actions is the Robinhood app.

Its developers were able to gather a huge base of 350,000 users before their actual launch!

Robinhood mobile app

10. Not applying a viral strategy

Thanks to having a viral strategy many mobile app developers have achieved spectacular success in a very short time, Zynga being a very good example. The company built its promotion strategies mostly around users, who were awarded with additional content inside apps for sharing information on social media about the entire variety of Zynga products. A well thought out, viral loop strategy can significantly decrease the cost of new customer acquisition – all that is involved is letting the users advertise the app for you. People enjoy sharing experiences that gave them a certain thrill or bring positive value. If the mobile app is good and useful, and additionally an option to share it with friends for extra benefits, is implemented, people will definitely do so. Regardless of the type of mobile app, the more involved the user gets, the more likely they will be willing to share your content with others, therefore becoming your own brand ambassador. A smart way of using this type of app marketing can be found in a game called Timberman, in which players can share the score they achieved with others, daring them to try to beat it. The person who is challenged clicks on the link and goes directly to the game download, becomes a new user, and shares his/her own score.

Viral loop strategy is especially helpful for fitness mobile apps, since such users tend to brag about their scores and achievements more than others. For this type of app, a “share” button is a must. When implementing such a functionality, it’s good to know that personalizing it will make it work much better. If the user is a part of a certain social media community, if possible find out which one and give them the option to share it there. When it comes to traffic or navigation mobile apps, it’s good to add an option for sharing pictures on channels such as Instagram – visual content always brings more converts. When working with such a service it’s worth noticing that adding a picture and text option to an ordinary message form by users is always going to bring more attention.
Something to avoid is involving users into unintentional content sharing. Such actions are always perceived as spam and gives the developers and their mobile app a bad reputation. Using recommendation strategies can be a help to make viral strategies work for your mobile app. A good example is Uber, that offers additional resources for further rides to a person that recommends the app, as well as for the person who accepts the recommendation and joins as a new user. If it’s not possible to share profit from the app in this way, remember that there are many other ways to award recommendations – the only important things is that both sides should be satisfied.
There are many other mistakes made in mobile app marketing. Some of which have different kinds of influences on the factors already mentioned, but they pretty much have the same common feature – they inevitably increase the cost of all the actions that are supposed to get your mobile app installed on user’s device.
Therefore, if a mobile app developer manages to avoid the mistakes mentioned above, it will be much easier to tackle any obstacles that may be encountered and eventually achieve success. As you could see, the key to almost every strategy mentioned and a clear mindset is planning ahead and drawing the right conclusions.
What about your mobile app marketing strategy for your mobile app?

App Marketing – 10 most common mistakes
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