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Mobile App Trends: What to Look Out for in 2018

2017 was a huge year for app developers, and companies, publishers and more have realized that mobile apps are more than a novelty: they’re a necessity.

The number of mobile apps on the App Store and Google Play Store exploded past 2 million combined in 2017. Along with the number of mobile apps increasing, according to Statista, the number of free mobile downloads is supposed to surpass 253 billion at the end of 2017.

The mobile apps market is thriving, and if 2017 has been any indicator, 2018 will be just as big, perhaps even bigger. While 2017 was finally the year that developers realized ASO is no longer a hidden gem but instead a necessary tool, they also noticed specific trends such as augmented reality, wearable apps and others.

Here’s a list of some mobile app trends to out for in 2018:

1. Augmented Reality (AR) Apps – Another Element to Life

While Pokémon Go was the big AR app for 2016, it’s popularity carried over into 2017, and made way for more app developers to integrate the technology into their apps.

AR technology has been introduced to tons of apps, including shopping apps like Amazon and Ikea. Even children’s apps have begun integrating the technology into their apps to allow kids to draw, play or even create 3D models.

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As we move into 2018, we’ll see more developers such as ones in real estate, healthcare and more hop on the AR bandwagon. These developers have already started integrating the technology into their apps in 2017, but it’s likely to become more rampant in 2018.

2. Wearable Apps – Keep Apps in Your Pocket & on Your Wrist

Companies like Apple and Fitbit released more wearable devices in 2017, leading to the development of more wearable apps.

Now, there are apps compatible with Fitbit devices, and apps get added daily to the Apple Watch App Store. Some of the industries that have taken advantage of wearable apps, and will continue to do so moving into 2018, are:

  • Education
  • Health (fitness, weight tracker, sleep tracker, etc.)
  • Smart homes
  • Games

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3. On-Demand Apps – Instant Access to the World

Craved a pizza but didn’t feel like driving? This need for pizza, or the laziness to go out and get it, is one of the key reasons why on-demand apps have gained popularity in 2017.

On-demand apps have simplified life for many and made things more convenient. From being able to instantly get your dinner to having a ride just waiting for you, on-demand apps have given users the ability to do whatever they want, whenever they want.

In 2018, the popularity for on-demand apps is expected to continue growing and even expand past the food and ride share industries.

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4. Android Instant Apps – Explore Apps without Installing

Back in May 2017, Google announced Android Instant Apps. This feature gives users an opportunity to instantly use an app without having to install. Not having to go through the trouble of installing and downloading allows users to essentially test run an app while saving space on their device.

In 2018, developers are likely to continue offering their apps as an Instant App so users can get a feel for their app without taking the plunge and installing.

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5. Shopping Apps – Targeting & Acquiring Users

Shopping and retail apps are on the rise, and 2018 will be their year to shine. Since more retail apps are integrating trends like AR, they’re also realizing that the market is booming.

Along with integrating AR, retail apps are using their users’ location to target them with special push notifications and emails while they’re in the store. This helps target users more and entice them to spend more money.

As we move into 2018, retailers will need to put their audience first when developing and marketing their mobile apps. They’ll need to make sure that their product page looks similar to a store window and displays enticing products.

Moving into 2018

While these aren’t al the possible mobile app trends for 2018, this list gives developers something to look forward to in the new year. Mobile apps are here to stay, and developers need to make sure that they’re staying up-to-date on the trends that may or may not happen.

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The Pros & Cons of Apple Pre-Order: Is it Right for You?

On Dec. 11th, Apple announced a new feature in the App Store for all developers: Apple Pre-Order. The new feature presents developers with the option to let users pre-order their app before its official release date. The addition of Apple Pre-Order adds another layer of discovery, benefitting app developers. It drives initial hype around their app, allowing them to create their app store listing to start driving visibility.

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Contrary to a similar feature that the Google Play Store has called Pre-Register, the quietly released Apple Pre-Order will provide users a faster way of getting the latest apps before they’re released. Google’s service only notifies a user when the newly released app is available, but doesn’t automatically download the app to the customers’ device or lock in the pre-order price. Apple Pre-Order, on the other hand, automatically downloads to the user’s device, and sends a notification.

How it Works

Developers can opt for the Pre-Order feature roughly 2 to 90 days before their app is released. Once it’s live on the App Store, it will automatically download onto users’ phones along with a notification once the download is complete. For paid apps, customers won’t be charged until the day of release. If the price happens to change during the pre-order period, then users will automatically be charged the lower price of either the initial price or the launch price.

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Pre-Orders are available on all Apple platforms running iOS 11.2, tvOS 11.2, and macOS 10.13.2 or later. Like any other app, users are still able to discover apps with the pre-order feature from the products page, search results, or the Today, Games, and Apps tabs.

While the concept of Apple’s new feature sounds fantastic, the real question is whether Pre-Order is right for everyone? We’ve looked at the pros and cons to help you decide.

Pros

  • Developers will have the tools to better understand the demand of their market to see how many users opt for Pre-Order.
  • With the Pre-Order feature, brand new apps will have the ability to improve their metadata and make sure it’s optimized before their release. This way, their app and keywords can start indexing even before they go live.
  • Developers will be able to use the soft launch of their app to test its positioning in the App Store.
  • As an example, Apple Pre-Order can benefit all apps, especially mobile games. Before the mobile game is released, developers can bring awareness and generate more buzz around the release. This gets users excited for the game and starts building a loyal fan base before it is even out.

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Cons

  • If the app has initial bugs and issues, it will make a negative first impression on its first users, which could tarnish the app’s reputation and retention rate.
  • Developers that opt for Pre-Order might have a lower opening rate (also known as its “first open”) because users pre-order the app too early. They need to make sure that they’re constantly trying to gear their marketing strategy toward these users so they don’t forget about the app and are excited when it finally releases.
  • Developers want to avoid a fiasco similar to the one that occurred with Star Wars: Battlefront. While users were incredibly excited about being able to pre-order the game, there was massive backlash when they found out that most of the game’s content was only available via DLCs. This backlash then forced the publishers to push the game’s release back from the proposed launch date.

Key Takeaways

Developers must decide if Apple Pre-Order is for them. Those that choose to opt for it, will need to start targeting users sooner rather than later so their app starts gaining a loyal following. If developers aren’t tracking user trends and behavior, they’re not utilizing ASO best practices to its full capabilities.

If developers want to give Pre-Order a shot, they’ll need to market their new app and get users excited before its actual release. Developers will have to weigh the pros and cons of Apple Pre-Order to establish if it’s a worthwhile venture. While it may not be for everyone, it’s definitely worth looking into.

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White Hat vs Black Hat ASO: The Do’s & Don’ts

The mobile industry is booming. Everyone has a smartphone and they’re all searching for apps that fit their needs.

App Developers and companies try to meet this ever-growing demand by producing millions of apps, flooding both the Apple App Store and Google Play Store. With millions of apps to compete with, how can any one company, developer or game try and rank higher than everyone else to get the downloads they want?

App Store Optimization is always there to lend a hand in helping apps rank for relevant keywords and within the charts. But how does a developer exactly go about ASO?

There are two main tactics to consider: White Hat versus Black Hat ASO.

What is White Hat ASO?

White Hat ASO is the Gummicube-recommended approach to marketing your app. If you want the highest quality users to convert over time, it’s best to understand the basics.

Understand Your Audience

Who is your app for? What is your target demographic looking for or looking to do? Understand your immediate market’s wants and needs to help position your app’s messaging in the title, subtitle, description and creative.

Get the Right Data

Still using keyword tools based off of Google’s Keyword Planner? You could be missing out on thousands of users. Using real mobile data helps you understand user search behavior on mobile devices, helping to give you the right information for structuring your metadata. Use the keywords and insight you glean from real mobile data and your audience. Adjust metadata accordingly, reassess and iterate often with the most current data.

Be Patient

Success seldom happens overnight. Let your metadata index in the App Stores for at least two weeks. Measure against your own KPIs to see what’s working and what isn’t. Getting a lot of impressions but no conversions? Consider revisiting the customer-facing parts of the listing and revise for conversion. Not getting any downloads whatsoever? Pair ASO with another marketing strategy like Influencer Marketing Campaigns, Search Ads or Facebook Ads to get extra exposure from a highly relevant audience.

What is Black Hat ASO?

Black Hat ASO follows similar goals to ASO in that it helps you gain more exposure. However, Black Hat ASO isn’t necessarily the safest way to help your app get the users you want. Following some of these tactics could result in rejection, or even getting your app removed entirely. Some Black Hat tactics include:

Chart Boosting

Chart boosting is artificially inflating your app’s install rate to climb the top charts, whether it’s for a category or the “top apps” overall. These chart rankings are usually dictated by the velocity and volume of your installs.

With this strategy, installs are usually “bought”, whether it’s a group of users downloading the app or any of the bot-farms that exist within the industry.

Keyword Boosting

Keyword boosting is similar in theory to Chart Boosting, only keyword boosting relies on a group of users searching and downloading an app for a specific keyword.

Take for example, ranking #1 for “casino”. The top ranked apps have been in the app store long enough, using typical white hat tactics to maintain their rankings in the app stores.

Any developer who wants to rank #1 for that keyword can begin to artificially direct users to download their app for a certain keyword, artificially increasing CTR and ranking.

The downside? This is typically very expensive and hard to maintain.

Buying Reviews

Another black hat tactic is incentivizing users to download an app and leave artificial feedback, inflating the app’s average ranking and positive reviews. These reviews, by and large, typically flag to Apple that suspicious activity is happening, forcing an investigation and possibly an app removal.

Risks

If you get away with black-hat marketing, you can see some gains. If your app is truly relevant, you could possibly maintain your new ranking. Usually, Black Hat tactics only work as long as you continue to fuel them with money. Real organic growth and retention is difficult to achieve when your installs come from users who only want in-game currency for another app, immediately uninstalling your app once they’ve completed their black-hat objective; you’ll likely drop right back down to where you were before you started.

One thing many developers fail to realize is how dire the consequences are for black-hat marketing.

If Apple and Google Play starts to see suspicious behavior, they will issue warnings and app rejections for the next update.

Alternatively, either app store can just remove your app indefinitely. Developers can appeal this decision but any other indications of black-hat marketing will lead to the app staying removed.

Conclusion

If you’re looking for long-lasting marketing that will help you gain high quality users and maintain your rankings in the app stores, steer clear of black hat marketing tactics. ASO and other clean methods and channels will help sustain your app and help your app thrive in the competitive app store environment in the long term.

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5 reasons why Your UAC Strategy is Failing

On September 15th, 2017, Google shook up the mobile marketing world and announced that AdWords will be moving all app install campaigns to a new Universal App Campaigns (UAC) format.  This means that Google will no longer support standard mobile app install campaigns across their search and display networks.  If marketers want to drive mobile traffic via AdWords, they will only be able to run UAC.

With Universal App Campaigns (UAC), marketers can promote their mobile app across multiple AdWords channels like Google Search, Google Display Network (GDN), YouTube, and the Google Play Store. The push to move to a UAC only platform was meant to simplify ad creation and optimize the user acquisition process for marketers through automation and machine learning.  In theory, all marketers must do when setting up AdWords UAC is to upload creatives (images and videos) and add different text based advertisements to a campaign.  It is recommended to add in as many creative variables as possible in order for Google to create a relevant ad for every possible combination.

However, the move towards automation and simplification has created a huge black hole in the world of AdWords mobile installs.  Most marketers were utilizing mobile app installs campaign to target specific keywords to understand the value of each term and the impact it has on their app.  The removal of exact match keywords campaign removed any insights developers had in navigating Play Store AdWords campaigns, leaving them to navigate in the dark.

On top of that ground-breaking change, marketers have to also be aware of several additional factors to ensure that they can have a successful UAC campaign.  For example, to fully capitalize on AdWords UAC, marketers must ensure that they have the content for all the requested fields to display and convert effectively on all the channels that UAC targets.  If marketers don’t have video assets to promote their app, then they won’t be able to advertise on YouTube. Unfortunately, the same thing goes for GDN – images are mandatory to run Display Ads. The ability to simply create one campaign and optimize it across various channels is gone – Universal App Campaigns (UAC) a total game changer.

Even though Google has already taken steps to simplify the ad creation process, starting a UAC campaign can be daunting. When it comes to setting up a successful UAC campaign, consider these factors before diving in head first:

1. Choosing the Wrong Type of UAC to Run

Choosing the wrong type of UAC can make or break a campaign. It is undeniably just as important as understanding which key metrics to use to track the success of the campaign. The two options are, UAC Installs and UAC Actions.

UAC Installs: The goal of this option is solely to drive in as many users as possible, regardless of the quality of the user. This subsequently means that the cost is based on per install (CPI), and users are not measured on their ability to complete an action such as registration or leveling up. UAC Install is the most ideal campaign to use if the objective of the campaign is to maximize app installs and the quality of the user is not of high importance.

UAC Actions: On the other hand, the algorithms of UAC Actions do depend on the quality of the users and whether they have the tendency to complete a targeted action. In short, this option focuses on in-app events, or what users do once they have downloaded an app. This means that the fees are cost per action (CPA) based and are reliant on how each action is valued for the advertisers.

2. Not Setting Up Conversion Tracking

This cannot be said enough: NEVER set up this type of campaign without using conversion tracking. Google uses targeted CPIs/CPAs for bidding. Hence if the conversion tracking breaks, the algorithm can’t work properly. If this happens, the campaign must be restarted and learning must take place all over again – costing time and money.

Without conversion tracking app developers are wasting their time and money anyway. Tracking provides insights on the actual campaign cost, ROI, retention rate, and much more based on the attribution tool that is being used. Nobody ever wants to see a resource wasted, so make sure to set up attribution tracking sooner rather than later.

3. Making Too Many Changes to Budget & CPA

There are a couple of factors to consider when setting a budget and a targeted CPA for UAC. Although the daily budget may be set to a certain amount, the algorithm will take that daily budget and calculate the spending totals across one month. Don’t panic if there is a single day with high or low spending. Google will readjust the budget over the course of the month to ensure you do not exceed your max spend.

Another tip for budgeting with UAC is to not be reactive and change the budget and CPA too frequently. Frequent changes impact the algorithm and cause traffic to stop flowing into the campaign, meaning the app loses visibility. The best-case scenario is that it would take longer for the algorithm to adjust to changes in the campaign. The worst-case scenario would be that the campaign needs to be paused and then re-launched from scratch.

4. Not Using Creative Assets Report

The most anticipated, and possibly one of the best features of UAC, is the Creative Assets Report. This report provides insights into how the ad texts, images, and videos are performing. Google rates each asset as “Low,” “Good,” “Best,” or “Learning.” If an image or a video is rated as “Low,” it is worthwhile to test the other assets to see if they can improve the conversion rate.

Be sure to incorporate combinations of video or image sizes, as each one impacts performance. Sometimes landscape images and videos will perform better than portrait ones. Performance depends on what engages best with the targeted audience. Take advantage of these reports and monitor performance to get insights on how often UAC picks one asset over another when displaying ads.

5. Be Patient!

UAC is constantly learning by way of trial and error and it optimizes user acquisition through automation and machine learning. Once a campaign launches, it takes anywhere from 7-10 days to complete the learning process. It is best to wait for the algorithm to finish learning prior to making any changes. Be sure to take it slow and not apply too many changes in a short period as this can have massive negative repercussions on the campaign.

Avoiding these common mistakes can save a UAC campaign from failing and increase conversion and app installs.

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Portrait v Landscape: ASO Best Practices to Make or Break Your Creatives

App developers couldn’t ask for a better window of opportunity this holiday season to address their app’s core features and encourage users to tap “Get.” With new updates in the app stores and the release of long-awaited phones like the iPhone X, Google Pixel 2, and Samsung Galaxy Note 8, comes the perfect intersection for success. It’s more than likely that a good number of lucky recipients will be gifted a new phone before the year draws to an end – a phone that will be waiting to be filled with new apps.

If you’re an app developer, you may be asking yourself, “How can I take advantage of this situation?” Regardless of whether your app is deployed on the App Store or Google Play Store, you have the option to choose the orientation (portrait or landscape) of your preview video and screenshots.

A major question to consider is which option is right for your app? In this case, ASO doesn’t have a “one size fits all” solution. It is all dependent on what type of app you have. Luckily, there are pros and cons for each screenshot orientation:

Portrait Pros:

  • In iOS App Store search results, the first three portrait screenshots display. If a portrait preview video is included, then the first portrait preview video is displayed, followed by the first and second portrait screenshots .When using portrait screenshots for both iOS and GP, there are more opportunities to promote your app and show off its various features. Seeing more screenshots tends to increase the probable amount of time a user is likely to spend looking at your app.

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  • In the Google Play Store, screenshots display in the app page but not in search results. However, it displays similarly as iOS search results: three portrait screenshots display versus one landscape screenshot. With three screenshots, there is opportunity to showcase three features without having to scroll further in comparison to one landscape screenshot.

Portrait Cons:

  • In the App Store, since all three portrait screenshots will be crammed into a confined area on the screen, the content will be smaller and harder to see. At the same time, if the user is overwhelmed by the three options, they might skip over it if it looks too busy. If they cannot quickly and immediately digest what feature the image is trying to convey, they are less likely to convert.
  • In the Google Play Store, it is all too tempting to utilize the amount of media that is permitted. While Google Play allows for more screenshots (maximum of eight per device) than the iOS standard of five, it’s easy to include images that look similar or to call out redundant features. If all the screenshots look the same, developers lose the opportunity to explain their app in more depth.

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Landscape Pros:

  • In iOS App Store search, only one landscape screenshot or preview video will appear at a time. Landscape screenshots allow for larger screen real estate for in-app images and content versus portrait. They are especially useful for mobile games, since many RPGs, multiplayer games and more are played horizontally.

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  • In the Google Play Store, a landscape screenshot will also be larger and easier to see. Users aren’t distracted with multiple images at once and can take their time examining the one landscape screenshot before moving on to another.

Landscape Cons:

  • On the search results for the App Store, users can only see the first landscape screenshot. If a competitor has portrait screenshots and is able to address their app’s core features more effectively than you, then your app might not stand out against your competitors.
  • In the Google Play Store, one of the major drawbacks to using a landscape screenshot is the awkward layout. Users don’t just see the one landscape screenshot but also see a small portion of the following screenshot:

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Key Takeaways:

Depending on what type of app you have, it will benefit more from having a different screenshot orientation. If you have a mobile game that displays in landscape, you can opt for landscape screenshots since it will represent realistic gameplay.

If you’re ever unsure of what screenshot orientation fits your app best, you can always look at what your competition is doing or even utilize A/B testing. By weighing these pros and cons, you are sure to improve your chances of conversion.