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ASO For Retail Apps: Create Visibility and Convert Users

The number of mobile users is growing exponentially, and mobile app usage in all categories of the app stores is up from last year, especially shopping. Retail apps have given users the power to buy anything they want straight from their mobile devices, and the ecommerce market is predicted to surpass $2 trillion in the coming years. Users are no longer shopping from their desktops, and are now primarily using a mobile device at every step of a transaction.

Companies like eBay and Amazon have basically cornered the ecommerce market, and their mobile apps are ranked in the top free apps on the App Store. These companies have made the effective shift to mobile, and are appealing to users that want to instantly buy anything. In Q4, eBay’s mobile platform delivered record-breaking results and crossed the $10 billion benchmark. On Black Friday in 2016, Amazon surpassed the $1.2 billion mark on their mobile platform for the first time. Mobile retail apps have taken over the way that users shop for their products, and it will not slow down.

eBay and Amazon dominate ecommerce, but it is because of their mobile apps that they do so well. These companies have paid attention to what users want, and are evolving with the specific user trends. By being attentive to their customers and updating the app store listing to include specific trends while being relevant to users’ searches, it has lead for better optimization in the app stores. The best companies in the ecommerce market all have one thing in common: they’re optimizing their mobile apps using App Store Optimization (ASO).

What is ASO:

ASO is critical to the foundation of mobile app marketing, and has become the standard marketing tool for developers that want more visibility in the app stores and better conversion rates. Retail apps have always been around, but the shopping category on the App Store never existed until Apple saw the reaction to retail apps. Retail apps need ASO because it is essential to mobile marketing and converting users.

Retail apps need to remember that the app store is just like any other store, which means there are competitors at every step of the way. To stay one step ahead of competitors, retail apps need to pay attention to user trends and build the app icon, title, description and screenshots around specific keywords to appeal to users and become unique in the app stores.

How to Merchandise the App:

For retail apps, it is all about transactions and selling products to users. Developers need to take into consideration that retail apps grew 31 percent in time spent by users in 2016, and captured a majority of impulse buys. The app must be merchandised in a way that it is appealing and unique to users, and the best way to do that is through the app’s title, screenshots and description.

An app’s title needs to give users a quick understanding of what the app will do and use specific keywords to help convert users. Retail apps need simple, quick titles that will explain exactly what the app will do. Take into consideration Amazon’s app title: “Amazon App: shop, scan, compare, and read reviews.” Not only is the title catchy, but it addresses the core elements of what the app does and what users can expect to do while shopping on the app.

Screenshots are another conversion tool that give users the actual look and feel of the app. For merchandising a retail app, the screenshots need to highlight the app’s functionality based off trending phases, products or shopping seasons. If it’s a heavy shopping season, the screenshots should reflect how the app will help users get the best deals and products. Most shoppers, which is about 71 percent, shop online specifically to find good deals. To increase conversion, developers need to make sure screenshots not only reflect the keywords and trends, but are also clean and appealing. Think about user behavior and understand that just like seeing an unattractive store window, if the app isn’t visually aesthetic, users will be less likely to convert.

Since there are so many retail apps on the market, developers need to make their apps standout. While the title and screenshots need to contain keywords to help convert users, the biggest part an app store listing, the description, will create visibility in the app stores. Address functions and features along with anything the title and screenshots missed using keywords. Developers need to make sure the keywords they use in the description relate to the types of products and trends that can be found on an app to encourage users to start shopping. If the description has full coverage of relevant keywords and phrases, then it will help create visibility for the app.

Key Takeaways:

ASO is the standard for marketing mobile apps, and with the ever-growing ecommerce industry, retail apps need to use an ASO strategy to increase their conversion rates and create more visibility in the app stores. Retail apps like Amazon and eBay exemplify ASO at every step of their app store listings that call out products and user trends that drive additional users to shop and make purchases.

Retail apps need to incorporate an ASO strategy to drive traffic to their apps and stay relevant to users, as users spend more time and become more comfortable shopping on mobile apps. ASO is necessary for retail apps and will help target the app’s audience through specific keywords that address the current trends and get them shopping faster. Investing in an ASO strategy is vital for improving an app’s listing, conversion rates, and visibility to remain competitive in the increasingly mobile and ever-growing ecommerce market.

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ASO Helps Developers Struggling to Retain Users

As people increase their time on their mobile apps, it begs the question of how well apps are retaining users? Developers continue to struggle retaining users after they have downloaded an app. According to AppsFlyer, the number of users that remain on an app after downloading is roughly 10-12 percent after seven days and drops to a dismal 4-5 percent after thirty days.

AppsFlyer has the retention rates broken down into divisions for both iOS and Android that include the click-to-install rates. Retention rates are looked at from every angle, and were examined through organic and non-organic users by comprising data of users who were active on days 1, 7 and 30.

While the rates have technically improved year-over-year, developers are still finding it difficult to retain users. More developers need to improve their app’s metadata by practicing App Store Optimization (ASO), which will improve app retention rates.

Basic ASO Strategy:

Having an ASO strategy means that your app store listing targets specific keywords through the title, description, screenshots and video in the app stores to build relevancy and create visibility. Developers need to constantly readjust their app listing with updated features and general improvements to retain users and target a specific audience. Retaining users is difficult for any app, but there are specific tactics that developers use such as organic vs. non-organic users to drive their retention rates up. When an ASO strategy is used, the target audience will find your app. When your target audience is directly addressed, they are more likely to interact with the specific features of an app and make in-app purchases.

Organic vs. Non-Organic Users:

The difference between organic vs non-organic users is simple: organic users encounter an app and decide to purchase or download due to high levels of interest. Non-organic users, however, are often incentivized or encouraged to download an app through popular tactics such as incentivizing the traffic around an app and prompting users to download and install to be rewarded with virtual currency.

Organic and non-organic users’ retention rates are always different, but implementing an ASO strategy will help developers better understand who their target audience is and how to appeal to users. An app’s target audience is who the developer wants to use their apps. To specifically target and retain those users, a successful ASO strategy that optimizes the app’s metadata (title, description, etc) is necessary for improving retention rates. The bottom line, however, is that developers need to understand what is going wrong with their app to successfully retain more users.

Android Retention Rates:

The retention rates for last year are low, but looking into AppsFlyer’s breakdown of retention rates, organic users were better on Android accounting for 21 percent. In general, the only real drop in app retention rates was seen from Android organic users, which fell by 6 percent. Non-organic users, however, saw an improvement to 4 percent.

While rates in general were low, it appears that shopping apps fared the best in retentaining users. Non-organic users seem to be more engaged after downloading, and pushed Android to a 51 percent increase in shopping apps. While gaming apps saw an increase from Android users with 20 percent retention rates over 90 days, developers not using an ASO strategy are struggling to retain more users.

iOS Retention Rates:

While Android retention rates saw some improvements last year, iOS was up 9 percent overall and 25 percent for non-organic users. Organic users also tended to have more retention after an app has been downloaded for 30 days than non-organic by 7 percent. However, non-organic users saw 15 percent retention on iOS. Engaged users are more likely to purchase within the app, and the chances of a user turning into a buyer are higher by nearly 80 percent on iOS devices. Like Android, iOS users are more active on shopping apps and were 25 percent more active than Android users.

ASO Matters for Retention Rates:

The improvements in app retention rates suggest that developers are taking more measures to market apps and understand that retaining users is just as important as converting them. While developers see retention rates improving, there is still a struggle to keep users active and engaged on apps. Putting ASO into practice is necessary to the optimization efforts and to create visibility to continue retaining users.

Developers need to use an ASO strategy to improve the metadata for an app (title, description etc.), and to make sure each that part contains relevant keywords. The app needs to not only be visible in the app stores, but should be relevant to specific keywords to become more easily discoverable. Developers need to continue making changes to their apps metadata by using ASO to keep users interested and constantly coming back to the app. The tactics developers use to entice non-organic users should be applied in small doses throughout the app store listing to improve retention rates overall on both iOS and Android devices.

Users are hardly active after downloading an app, but implementing an ASO strategy will make the app more discoverable, improve conversion rates and retain more users. Once the app has been improved with ASO, developers will see improvements in retaining users, prompting them to stay active on an app.

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App Icons Can Now be Tested in iOS 10.3

As companies roll out new software, it opens new opportunities for developers to explore features that will benefit an app’s conversion rate and what it means for the future of mobile apps.

When Apple released its public beta of iOS 10.3, the biggest buzz introduced was developers getting the opportunity to respond to reviews. Not only can users interact with developers, it gives the developers the chance to improve conversion rates. However, many are taking note of another function hidden in the update.

Developers noticed a new function in the SDK that allows for multiple app icons to be added to each application. Apple released the new instance method that developers can use to specify what they want as the primary app icon and what would be the alternate icons. Apps would not need to go through the App Store for an update, and instead would change in real time.

To understand the use for multiple app icons, think of a weather app. Depending on what weather is outside, users would notice the icon reflecting the weather instead of having to open the app. The idea of real time changes has been limited to when physically using the app, not when it’s closed. If an app’s icon could change, the weather would be reflected on the app’s icon while closed on the home screen. Developers could change icons during the holidays without issuing an update, giving an app a fresh look to increase conversion rates.

Steven Troughton-Smith, an Irish programmer that mostly focuses on iPhone software, reported that for the app’s icon to change, the app will ask for permission to the change the icon. Presently, the current app icon must be visible on the screen to change, and it is unclear if permission will be asked every time the icon is going to change or just once.

Despite Apple introducing app icon changes to iOS 10.3, Google introduced a feature similar that allows developers to run tests to better optimize the most effective graphics for an app. Google calls this optimization A/B tests, which allow developers to use published apps and test variants against the current version in the store to see which performs best.

These tests can be run as global experiments, which only look at graphics, or localized experiments, which account for text and graphics. Developers must run the test themselves by creating an experiment to target information and specific attributes. Once the experiment has been run, they can review the results and apply any necessary changes, which usually results in more downloads of the app.

Introducing multiple app icons is the next logical step for Apple.  iOS 10.3 shifts the focus toward the developers’ side to increase app conversion rates and downloads. The newest software update will help developers increase download rates to apps, and the new feature seems like the next logical step for the App Store to take.

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Mobile App Usage Skyrockets

As the mobile app market continues to grow, it comes as no shock that the time users spend on these apps has also grown within the past year. According to the analytics firm Flurry, US users are spending at least five hours a day on their mobile devices, and that time is mostly spent on mobile apps.

Five hours a day is a 20 percent increase, which is massive compared to the usage in the fourth quarter of 2015. While year-over-year the time spent on mobile apps has increased by 69 percent, leaving mobile browser usage at a dismal 8 percent of users’ time. There must be a reason why users are spending more time on mobile apps, and it’s possible that ASO has something to do with converting more users on annual basis.

As the app stores continue to grow, the amount of options in each category grows as well. Flurry broke down the percentage based on the categories of apps users spend their time on. Here are the percentages for some of the app categories and how ASO has aided in the massive increase of time spent on mobile apps.

Social Media:

It comes as no surprise that social media mobile apps dominate the majority of users’ time at a whopping 51 percent. The 51 percent gets further broken down into categories like Facebook, Snapchat, Messaging and Social, YouTube and Music, Media and Entertainment. Facebook is in a category of its own since it owns Whatsapp and Instagram, but ultimately accounts for 19 percent of time spent on mobile apps. In general, Facebook dominates the space with the addition of Facebook Live and Instagram Stories taking up more of users’ time.

Snapchat currently accounts for 2 percent of users’ time spent on mobile apps, but is quickly closing in on YouTube, who only accounts for 3 percent of users’ time. This comes as no surprise since Snapchat’s parent company Snap recently released its IPO, which quickly soared in the market. On the App Store and Google play, however, Snapchat and Facebook’s app listings lack solid descriptions that contains relevant keywords. Each has entertaining screenshots that show users the core features of the app, but ultimately rely heavily on the already formed user base. Neither app worries much about converting new users or really adhering to ASO standards, but still dominate usage percentages.

Mobile Goes After TV:

Media and entertainment apps currently account for 15 percent of the time spent on mobile apps. Instead of users engaging in television programming, apps have become the new means of watching TV. Streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Video, Hulu and others have mobile apps, which give users direct access to shows or movies and takes time away from cable providers. That is not to say that companies like DirectTV haven’t made the move to mobile apps that will still count as television programming. Despite cable companies making mobile streaming apps available for users, the bottom line is the program is viewed on an app, meaning users are still spending time on a mobile device.

Apps like Netflix are appealing to users when searching for a mobile streaming service because it uses relevant keywords in the app’s description and screenshots. Not to mention, the screenshots and description appear to be updated for massive changes or when new original content is released. Netflix is also available on multiple platforms, which gives users more than one way to use the mobile app and account for more usage.

Mobile Games:

Games are still a huge money-maker for developers despite their usage dropping from last year. This year, Apple reported that New Year’s Day was the biggest day for the App Store in terms of users purchasing and downloading mobile game apps, but according to Flurry, games only account for 11 percent of time spent on mobile apps. More users are willing to spend money on apps, most likely due to improvements developers have made to the descriptions and screenshots, and users are often finding more relevant apps through their searches.

There is a constant influx of new games added to the App Store and Google Play each year, if not each month. It is surprising that time spent on mobile games has decreased, but does not come as that big of a shock when looking at Pokémon GO’s poor use of ASO standards. Despite receiving multiple awards for being the best mobile game of 2016, Pokémon GO is a prime example of why utilizing ASO standards like relevant keywords and updated screenshots are important for converting users.

ASO Matters to Time Spent on Mobile Apps:

Developers can be part of the boom to make their apps more discoverable and can continue to convert users by utilizing ASO standards. The mobile app market is continually growing and developers are constantly making updates to their apps, giving them many opportunities to create new strategies for converting users.

The surge to make an app more discoverable and convert users is nothing new, but has become more of an issue as time spent on mobile devices has increased year-over-year. Apps have no problem converting users, especially apps that adhere to ASO practices. The time spent on mobile apps will only continue to grow each year as more apps flood the market, and the best way for developers to retain users is by taking advantage of ASO standards.

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Looking Back on GDC 2017

The Game Developers Conference wrapped up last week in in San Francisco, CA, where masses of developers presented their new strategies for gaming in 2017. GDC is one of the major conferences for the year that game developers in all fields can showcase their new games, bring visibility to indie games and set precedents for the gaming industry.

This year, GDC had everything from the latest in VR technology to new game engines that will improve the graphics for mobile gaming. Console, PC and mobile users will be happy with what this year’s GDC provided for the future of the game industry in 2017. Here are some of the highlights from last week.

Improved Game Engines:

The future of mobile gaming is bright and developers are trying to improve one core feature: graphics. On mobile devices, that is somewhat difficult to achieve, but Epic’s Unreal Engine 4 has recently made revisions that enable developers to use it for the foundation of mobile games. Unity Technologies released something similar, which allows devices to run better 2D and 3D graphics. Many developers are currently using Unity, which powers 38 percent of the top 1,000 free games. But Netmarbles’s Lineage2 Revolution, which is powered by Unreal, garnered almost $200 million in its first month on mobile for both iOS and Android in South Korea. Both companies are attacking the mobile market to improve mobile game apps and increase the experience for gamers on the go.

Amazon has made the move into game engines to compete with companies like Unity Technologies and Epic Games, and is working with AWS and Twitch to integrate their technology. Amazon Lumberyard is a free AAA game engine that has no seat fees, subscription fees, or requirements to share revenue. They have worked on helping developers create multiplayer and connected gaming experiences through AWS Cloud services that uses Twitch to engage and grow a gaming community. Amazon Lumberyard worked hard to showcase their new technology at GDC and wants to help build the highest quality PC, console and mobile games to meet players’ demands.

VR Succeeds Again:

VR’s introduction into gaming has quickly begun growing on a global scale, and many developers are trying to integrate their games with the technology. Companies like Sony, Microsoft, HTC, Valve and Oculus already have headsets fully developed, and have nearly set the standard for how to create them. The Khronos VR initiative, formed by the Khronos Group, is an American nonprofit that focuses on creating open standards for technology. The group has seen the market for VR increase tremendously over the past year, and are looking to give developers an easier platform to create VR experiences. The Khronos VR initiative is currently working on making the market easier for developers to decide what device to offer their games on. The group has combined the smaller markets in hopes that it will make the market more viable for future and current developers.

Google Play’s New Developer Tools and Games:

2016 was a good year for Google as over 300 million new users embraced Android devices, and over 100 million new users could use relevant forms of payment. This allowed more people globally to access and buy new or favorite games from Google Play. The Nougat version of Android enabled 3D graphics in conjunction with the Vulkan applications programming interface and launched the first Daydream VR devices.

Developers utilized new ways to create more visibility for their apps and games in Google Play, and Google has started working on algorithms to optimize user engagement. This means the use of ASO standards such as titles, screenshots, descriptions and the use of relevant keywords will greatly help developers bring more users to an app.

Google also revealed new games that will be released on Google Play later this year. Some of those games are Transformers: Forged to Fight (Kabam), Battle Breakers (Epic Games), Virtual Rabbids (Ubisoft) and Beartopia (Spry Fox). Old and new Android users should look forward to the new games and improvements headed to Google Play this year. 

Pokémon Go Scored:

Pokémon GO dominated mobile gaming in 2016 and attracted millions of non-gamers to play on their mobile devices. Despite Pokémon GO not utilizing any of ASO’s common standards like updating screenshots or using relevant keywords, it was still named by GDC as the best mobile game of the year. Even though Ninantic received an award for the mobile phenomenon, if ASO standards were utilized more effectively, it would continue converting new users. The craze revolved around the game has slowly dwindled, but if the creative behind the game such as their screenshots, description, and use of relevant keywords were increased, the game could see another great year in the App Store again.

Indie Games:

Users have waited for new games, and this year will be interesting as new games on console and mobile devices will start rolling out soon. Sometimes, independent mobile developers have converted the most users, and this year, indie developers are bringing new indie games that should be just as successful as the year before. Indie games like Dandara are expected to hit the App Store and Google Play and are highly anticipated by users, especially those that are fans of Metroid. Developers for Hero Generations, Rodeo Stampede and Looty Dungeon were at last week GDC and discussed the process of making great mobile indie games and how it affects the mobile market.

Summary:

This year’s GDC gave tons of great information on the future of gaming and gave mobile developers more to look forward to as they integrate better technology to improve game graphics. GDC proved that the game industry isn’t slowing down, and mobile developers are a huge presence. Developers should keep in mind ASO standards and how to effectively utilize and implement these standards in newly strategized ways to convert more users.

Companies like Unity Technologies, Epic Games and the newcomer Amazon Lumberyard, have created better game engines for developers to improve graphics, and create more growth in the mobile game industry. End users demands have been heard, and developers are looking to improve graphics, and improve visibility to the new games headed to the App Store and Google Play later this year. The developers present at GDC have been working diligently to integrate not only better graphics, but have tried to implement the use of VR technology.

The game industry has opened its doors not only to PC and console games, but to mobile games that have paved the way for the future of mobile gaming. With better game engines, and Google’s improvements to algorithms that specifically target the way visibility is brought to an app, mobile developers are in for a great year.

Photo credit to the Official GDC Flickr page. Follow them here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/officialgdc/