How to Launch and Grow an App

launch an app

From mobile banking to restaurants to fitness centers, most businesses are including mobile apps in their marketing and communications with customers.

In fact, up to 42 percent of millennial-owned businesses have their own apps to increase sales or provide an alternative platform for customers to access tools and services.

If you’re considering a mobile app for your business, it’s never been easier. Mobile apps are massive revenue generators and the barrier to entry is low, but there’s a difference between launching an app and launching a successful app.

The average cost of app development is $6,453, but it can go as high as $150,000 with more complexity. Wherever your app falls on that spectrum, the money and resources you dedicated to developing your app are going to waste if you don’t put effort and thought into the launch.

Then, after launch, you need to put work into making your app compelling enough that people keep coming back and engaging with it. Find out how to launch and grow your app to retain users for long-term revenue.

 

Perform Market Research

Roughly 1,800,000 apps are available in the Apple App Store, and that doesn’t include the exclusive apps available on Google, Windows, or Android app stores.

So, that means you have a lot of competition. Before you launch your app, you must conduct thorough market research to ensure your app is different from your competitors. It’s crucial to know what apps are leading the market in your niche, how they can improve, and what you can do differently to stand out.

Primary research is research you conduct yourself or through someone hired to do it. Typically, primary research involves the source, such as customers in the ideal market. Here are some examples of primary research:

  • Interviews
  • Surveys
  • Focus groups
  • Questionnaires
  • Visits to competitors

Secondary research is research that’s been conducted and published by someone else, such as a government agency, other businesses, or trade associations. This research is more affordable and quicker to obtain than primary research. Here are some examples of secondary research:

  • Surveys published in trade journals and industry publications
  • Studies from government agencies
  • Large-scale market research conducted by private companies, which may be paid

Depending on your budget, you may want to conduct primary research for potential users, then work on secondary research to gain deeper insights. Look at reviews on app pages in the app stores and check reviews on blogs and articles to see what real users think.

 

Measure Your Success

You want your app to be successful, but what does success look like? You must have measurable goals around your launch to decide if your efforts are working. Consider metrics like your active install rate, your app ratings, your average rating, and the revenue generated.

To provide some benchmarks, free mobile apps tend to have a higher install rate in the first month, which is usually around 50 percent. After that, it tends to drop to around 30 percent. The average store rating is 3 to 4 out of 5 possible stars.

Apps in Google Play

For example, an app like Zutobi, with 48k ratings above 4, signals trust to potential users.

Zutobi app

 

Consider Offering Multiple Versions of the App

One platform isn’t enough. If you were planning on offering your app on iOS or Android only, you’re missing out a huge potential market.

Cross-platform development is the best option for more reach, but it’s also more cost-effective. Instead of developing one app and expanding in the future, you can include cross-platform versions in the initial development process.

By employing a cross-platform framework, you can generate an app that reaches followers across numerous end devices and app stores. You can use frameworks like React Native, NativeScript, Flutter, Codename One, Xamarin, BeeWare, and RubyMotion, depending on the programming language.

These tools allow you to create an app with a single tech stack that works seamlessly on multiple platforms and devices, such as iOS and Android. Some examples of apps created with cross-platform development include Alaska Airlines, Instagram, Pinterest, Skype, and Google, all of which offer the same experience regardless of the operating system. 

 

Leverage Social Media

Before the launch, generate excitement and interest in your app with posts and early sign-ups. You can use your social media accounts to showcase the stages of app development and discuss features with your followers, which may give you insights into what you can change or improve.

When your app launches, make sure you change the link in the social media pages to direct followers to the app store download. 

For example, when Zutobi created the driver’s ed app, it used social media to build anticipation with sneak peeks and feature highlights for the upcoming app. The posts contained a link to the landing page, then when the app launched, the link went directly to the app download page in the Google Play Store. Followers were already excited about the app, so Zutobi made it simple to find and download the app after its launch. 

 

Create Content

You should have a full content strategy around your app launch.

Create blog posts, articles, tutorials, and video how-to content to show your customers how to use the app and get the most out of its features. You can promote your content on social media, your blog, press releases, and email blasts.

You can also create inspirational content, with the purpose of creating awareness around an issue. This is how the folks at Strava approach content marketing. Strava is a popular mobile app for tracking activity from workouts. They talk about uncovering your inner athlete, on how to go beyond boundaries, across their blog and Youtube, where they have 50k+ subscribers. They empower the app users to do more for their health.Strava Youtube

Strava blog

 

Provide a Demo

What’s better than content that discusses how to use your app? A demo that shows it off. Many programs are available to help beginners create a demo video and screen captures. In the video, explain what the app does and how it can be beneficial in the real world.

Think of your short demo video as a way to tell everyone how you’re different than your competitors. Slack has an excellent app demo video that runs through all its features and highlights the real-world benefits of the communication platform. The look, tone, and style of the video align with the brand and provide tons of value to users.

The folks at RunKeeper kept it simple. You do not need lots of resources to create something similar.

 

Create a Dedicated Page

Create a page on your website that has information, demos, feature lists, and other content about your upcoming mobile app. This page is valuable before the launch since it gives customers an idea of what they can expect from the app and gets them excited. some businesses choose to skip this part, and focus solely only on their Google Play presence. I would advise against this.

Some apps require a little explanation. If you think this is necessary for yours, direct users to a dedicated landing page with information about the app. For example, if you offer drivers practice tests for different states, you could explain the options and advantages on the landing page.

Include a sign-up page that allows customers to subscribe to a download alert email when your app goes to market.

Forest has a well-designed dedicated app page with links to the app in both the Apple App Store and Google Play, key features, reviews, and a pop-up for the company’s other product app, SleepTown. 

Forest app dedicated landing page

PandaDoc is a good example of a launch signup page. It includes all the information the user needs, as well as buttons for early invitation, signup, and to share to social media. 

PandaDoc landing page

 

Choose the Best App Store

Though you’re creating cross-platform apps in the development process, for the initial launch, you want to focus on one app store. By narrowing the focus at the start, you can attract the highest concentration of users and ratings.

When you first launch, you’ll be making a lot of improvements, changes, and upgrades to your app. If you only have it in one store, you can streamline those updates as they roll out. When you’ve ironed out all the kinks, you can open the app to other platforms and stores.

If you’re not sure which app store is the best option, do some audience testing to see which one has most of your audience. The most common stores are the Apple App Store and the Android Market.

 

Use App Store Optimization

App store optimization (ASO) is similar to search engine optimization (SEO). ASO helps you achieve a high ranking for your app in the store search results, so you can get more downloads and users.

The principal idea is the same as SEO, but you must employ different strategies to achieve it. The best practices for ASO include optimizing your app with relevant keywords, which may be different for app stores. For example, Google uses keywords from the description, while Apple has fields for keywords.

Another excellent strategy is to include screenshots that show how your users can make the most of your app. Do this both on your app store page and early on in the user journey. For example, we include screenshots of the course material in our practice exams to show student drivers how our drivers’ app can help them learn, which in turn leads to better engagement.

 

Pitch Your App

One of the best ways to get the word out about your app is by sharing your pitch with tech, mobile, and industry bloggers and publications. You can use a lot of the content you already have, such as your video demo, written tutorials, and features lists to get them interested. Also, be prepared to offer a free download for the journalists, so they can learn the interface and experience the benefits. In addition to exposure, having journalists use your app gives you more insights into bugs, lags, and other UX problems.

Remember to pitch early and often. Don’t wait until right before the launch – start pitching weeks in advance to give them time to experiment with the app and craft an engaging store. Publications also plan content well in advance, so you’re giving them time to fit you into the schedule.

 

Use Paid Advertising

If you have content, SEO, and exposure through digital PR, you can complement these efforts with paid advertising leading up to the launch. Consider posting app ads on Google, Facebook, and other social media to generate buzz and interest. You can use paid, targeted ads to drive users to the app page, which has a download alert signup.

For example, here you have some Google search ads from sports apps. This means that they have set up for these ads to appear for certain searches in the Google search engine. These ads showed up for the query: “Running app download”.

Google Ads for apps

The next ad is showing up inside actual apps. You could run such campaigns as well while targeting the audience you need. eToro is a mobile app that gives its users access to the cryptocurrency market, community, stats, and updates 24/7.

eToro in-app promotions

 

Leverage Influencers

Influencer marketing is hot right now, and will likely grow as consumers embrace more raw and honest forms of advertising. Social media influencers, bloggers, and content creators can generate buzz for your app early in the launch process, ensuring that you have as much exposure as possible in the weeks leading up to it.

Choose influencers that work best for your audience or ones who will personally benefit from what you have to offer. Consider sending personalized email outreach campaigns to build relationships and get them invested in your app.

Here’s an example template:

Subject: What do you think?

Hi [first name],

My name is [name] from [company] and I’m a huge fan of your work in [industry] and how passionate you are about [relevant content].

I’m reaching out to let you know about an app I think your audience may like. We’re about X months/weeks from launch and I’d be curious to see what you think. I can provide early access for you to review the app, plus a few special invites to give to your audience.

Let’s set up time to chat!

[name]

With this approach, you’ve offered an incentive for the influencer to try out your app, plus a giveaway for their audience to drum up more anticipation.

 

Consider an Invite-Only Beta Mode

Before your app goes live, offer a beta version that can alert you to bugs and problems. If you made this invite-only, you can create an impression of exclusivity to generate interest and get feedback from a small group of people. You can fix small issues with UX before rolling out your app to the whole audience, which should help your reviews and first impression.

If you offer an invite-only, exclusive beta version, feel free to ask for an honest review of your app in exchange. Most people are happy to leave reviews and share their experiences with others.

 

Put Download Links All Over

Getting ready to launch? Great! Make sure you put download links all over the place, including your website’s homepage, blog, marketing email, and social media accounts. You can also add a mobile tab to your Facebook page to make it easy for your followers.

 

Plan a Launch Party

Launch parties don’t have to be lavish affairs – you can have an intimate digital launch party through a Zoom meeting or webinar that includes only tech journalists, early adopters, influencers, and the like.

Along with the invite, offer special discounts or incentives to your audience and give them details to download the app. You can also ask for reviews in exchange.

 

Monitor Feedback

Your work isn’t close to over after the launch. App success is about more than just downloads – you must have engagement from your customers to improve your rankings and get more future downloads.

Encourage customers to post reviews on the store and share their experiences. Apps with great reviews, and reviews in general, get higher rankings. In addition, reviews tell you where you can improve for future updates and give you a chance to improve the user experience.

If you come across negative reviews, be sure to connect with the customer and tell them how you’re working to fix the problems. Don’t get too hung up on negative reviews, however. Focus on the problems that many people seem to have and things you can change.

 

Publish an Update Log

Transparency matters to consumers, and one of the best ways to approach transparency with your mobile app is to showcase updates and changes to features that occurred over time. An update log will attach to your app store pages, so customers can see how you’ve improved the app based on feedback. You should also include an update log on your website.

 

Consider Integrations

Many smartphone users have dozens of apps on their phones, ranging from the practical, like mobile banking and credit apps, to lifestyle apps like social media and gaming. Some of these apps integrate with each other, such as Pinterest and Facebook.

App integration makes the experience more convenient for users, which increases retention. Integrations aren’t appropriate for all apps, but see if you have opportunities to integrate to provide a better experience for your customers.

 

Keep a Log of Wishlist Features

If you know you have future plans for the app, but you won’t get to them immediately, keep a log of wishlist features. You can also publish this on the app store page and ensure customers can see it, so they know you’re listening.

Be sure to include wishlist features and features that are coming soon, which should be focused on new features that will be implemented in upcoming updates. You can include a field that allows people to submit feedback and requests for new features.

Customers will be excited to see what features are coming and will continue to monitor the log, so you’ve increased your retention rates and customer loyalty with one small effort.

 

These tips should help you launch your app quickly and painlessly. You have the initial development process, content and marketing strategy, and app updates and progress covered, so you can keep customers coming back for more. Are you ready to create your own app this year? 

 

Tim Waldenback
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Tim Waldenback is the co-founder of Zutobi, a gamified e-learning platform focused on online drivers education to help teens get their license. Tim founded Zutobi to make world-class driver's education fun, affordable, and easily accessible for all.

 

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