The end goal of mobile app development is to launch or re-launch a mobile product that not only drives downloads but also maintains high user engagement and retention rates. Unfortunately, for many businesses launching new products, attracting attention from potential users and standing out in the app market has become increasingly difficult. This is largely due to a saturated market that has become extremely competitive. For businesses looking to gain a competitive edge, leveraging a comprehensive app launch strategy is essential for paving the way to success in the app marketplace.
An app launch strategy has a significant impact on acquiring and retaining users; it is a marketing effort that requires extensive research and ongoing work to see results. To improve your chances of success, we’ve put together a list of six steps that you should follow at each stage of the launch process. Following these guidelines will help you develop a strategy to maximize user retention, drive daily usage, and reduce abandonment rates after launch. However, you should always prepare to adjust accordingly and remain flexible as your plan is likely to change along the way.
Step One: Know Your Audience
The first step in preparing your mobile app launch strategy is conducting market research. Developing a thorough understanding of your audience (demographics and pain points, for example) before moving onto the steps outlined below will save time and money down the road. Knowing exactly what your audience wants will help you to better understand how your product addresses their pain points and fits into their daily life. Furthermore, this research will give you insight into what they dislike about the apps that are currently available in the market, giving you the opportunity to ensure your product doesn’t follow suit. It’s important to uncover the underlying reasons for your user’s frustrations by examining their behaviors and attitudes.
Not only is market research necessary for developing an app that addresses a specific need, but it’s also a requisite for creating the messaging that will attract users to the product. A successful app launch strategy is firmly rooted in user research. Every aspect of the product’s branding from it’s app store listing and website messaging, to its social media presence, content marketing initiatives, press kit collateral, and visual representation must align with its target users.
There can be multiple groups of users for an app, so during the early planning and discovery stage of a project, you have to identify the product’s central demographics and create user personas. A user persona is a semi-fictional representation of the product’s ideal user. The more detailed user personas are, the better. Demographics, behavior patterns, motivations, and goals are just a few aspects to include in a user persona.
Why are User Personas Important for an App Launch Strategy?
A user persona is one of the most valuable tools in the user experience (UX) design field. A central benefit to user personas is each personal narrative keeps the team focused on a validated product outcome and specifically prioritizes how the user will perceive that outcome. User personas also combat scope creep and reduce self-referential design decisions.
Detailed user personas will supply answers to several key questions to guide your launch efforts and set the foundation for your entire app launch strategy.
- Who is this mobile product for?
- What is the problem users need a solution for?
- Why does this purpose need to be fulfilled?
- How is your app delivering value to its users?
- What types of content does this audience engage with online?
- What tone, voice, and content style resonate well with this audience?
- Are there any visual branding patterns that surface amongst this audience’s online activity?
- Do these users follow any reputable influencers in this product’s vertical on social media?
- What platforms are the best to leverage for paid advertising?
Ideally, a user persona should:
- Intelligently interpret research findings
- Be realistic rather than idealizing behavior assumptions
- Create a foundation for the product’s UX
- Provide the context(s) in which the app will be used
- Identify any objectives the user might have
- Clarify the difficulties a user wants to overcome in their current situation
Put simply, if you don’t have a solid understanding of who your audience is, you can’t target users properly with your launch strategy. Investing in market research will ensure that you have a steady foundation for the rest of your mobile app launch.
Step Two: Define Your Positioning Statement
After all of your market research is complete, you need to turn it into a deliverable by knowing your product’s strengths and weaknesses and sharing your message with your internal team and key stakeholders.
With nearly two-million apps in the App Store, you need to offer something unique and valuable that will attract potential users to download your app. After you’ve defined your target user, you need to determine what differentiates your app from competitors. This is called a Unique Value Proposition which describes why your product is valuable to your customer and why they should buy-in. With so many mobile apps on the market, you need to let your audience know why yours, in particular, is the most valuable. Your message will be drowned out if you simply describe what your app does. Instead, focus on why it’s different than any other product on the market.
Additionally, it’s imperative you ensure that your internal team is on the same page with your messaging understanding the intent behind your product. Strong internal communications is an essential part of a mobile launch because if you aren’t able to communicate effectively to your internal team, you won’t be able to properly communicate your message to your external stakeholders and in turn, won’t be able to achieve the anticipated buy-ins.
Step Three: Define Your Success Criteria
Success criteria outlines the benchmarks that your product will be compared against to judge if your app launch has been successful. To show stakeholders key information on your success or failure you need to first set some goals and define how they will be measured. Set your goals around active install rates, number of reviews, and average rating score, for example. If you want project success, you have to define what success looks like for your project.
Step Four: Prepare Launch Activities
You’ve done all of your market research and now it’s time to focus on the execution of the actual app launch. For a launch to be successful, there should be an established marketing plan in place to ensure that every step is made and executed properly and in a timely manner.
Promoting Your Content
Now is a good time to make a list of marketing campaigns which might include social media advertising, early access for bloggers, traditional advertising, and website design. Map out a timeline of events leading up to your mobile app launch, and set your launch date ahead of time.
Identify Key Influencers
It’s essential to identify industry influencers who are actively engaging in conversations related to your industry or are talking about other apps related to your industry and target users. Network and connect with these individuals, either through networking events or by connecting with them via social networks. Craft a persuasive pitch that will convince influencers to promote your app. Remember to point out how your app addresses a specific pain point and how it adds value in areas others don’t.
Create a Press Kit
To maximize your odds of getting press coverage, make it as easy as possible for bloggers and influencers to feature your app. Compile all of your assets in an online directory so they have easy access to the information needed to promote your app. Here are a few examples of what you can include in your press kit:
- Graphics & Creatives (Your app’s logo, icon, screenshots, and promo video)
- A description of your app
- Links to your website, social media accounts, etc.
- Contact information
Product Curation Sites
There are a number of sites that curate new products and startups that can help you create some hype. Many, such as Product Hunt, have an upvote/downvote or review section, so you want to be sure that you are ready with at least an MVP when this kind of rating system is in place. Be sure to choose a product curation site that properly fits your target market and mobile app.
Here is a list of similar sites worth exploring:
Put careful consideration into how you’ll craft your product description to convince potential users to download your app. In the App Store, for example, users only see the first five lines of your description at first glance, unless they click through to read more. This means you want to pique interest in the first few lines of the description.
Treat your app store description like advertising copy. Get your users excited about downloading and using the app. Always follow ASO best practices to help your app rank higher in the app store. The higher your app ranks, the more visible it is to potential users. This also increases the chances of app store editors noticing your app, boosting the likelihood of your app getting featured in whichever store you submit too. This in itself is a great way to organically boost your app marketing and promotion efforts.
Strategically place keywords (words that are frequently used by your target audience when searching) throughout your listing and description so you show up when users search for those words.
Remember, every successful app has one thing in common: they solve a problem for users. Make sure this is clear in the description of your product. Mention a few key features in the description as well, and let users discover the rest of the app after they’ve downloaded it.
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After you’ve planned all of your launch campaigns, assess what resources you’ll need such as demo decks, product screenshots, design materials, and other design resources. Your audience will gather information from different sources, which means that you need to tailor your messaging to optimize the efficiency of each outlet. Planning your marketing strategy ahead of time and being proactive is just as important as getting the product ready.
Step Five: Launch Your Mobile App!
Now it’s time to finally submit your app to the app store(s). At this stage, you should be aware of the submission guidelines your app needs to meet before submitting to either app store. Apple’s guidelines can be found here and Android’s guidelines can be found here.
Alert Your Email List of Your App’s Launch
Once you’ve submitted your app, you should be spreading the word to a press list, influencers, and communities to let them know about your app’s release, encouraging them to test it out.
Spread the Word
Promote your app on social platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and so on.
Step Six: Post Launch Follow-Up
According to a report from Localytics, 21% of users now abandon an app after one use. While driving downloads and acquiring users is important, retaining those users is even more critical if you want long term success. Therefore, it’s imperative your app makes a good first impression within the first few days, showing immediate value and providing good user experience. This is a critical time to focus on highlighting the value of the app in order to optimize the onboarding process. If you don’t impress your new users quickly, you’ll likely lose their interest altogether.
After your mobile app launch, you need to consider how you’ll measure the success of the launch by assessing what went well and what needs to be improved. Your follow-up should include customer satisfaction, engagement, and retention rates. Customer reviews and feedback will help you gauge whether or not you met your previously defined success criteria. Some reasons why users abandon an app are the lack of interest, change in user needs, and poor user experience. You need to be aware of the change in market demands and adapt to the shifts in user expectations.
Listen to Your Users
Apps are iterative, whether they are MVPs or mature, polished, and fully functional. Ensuring that you update the app experience and add new features and personalized content regularly will help keep users interested and engaged. By using analytics, tracking user behavior, and listening to user feedback, you can determine what your users want and what features of the app are driving usage, which can be used to inform product road mapping and ensure the updates you make are compelling and valuable to your users. When updating your app based on user feedback you need to consider if this feature meets your business objectives while adding value for your users.
Incentivize Continued Usage
There are multiple methods you can use to boost user engagement and retention. One of those methods is to give users an incentive to use your app. Incentives can be anything from mobile-specific rewards, specialized content access, coupons, special promotions, and other offers. All of these will give users a reason to choose your app over another and will help drive conversions and encourage engagement.
Of course, the ways you can incentivize users will depend on the nature of the app. For example, apps that use in-app purchasing as a monetization model will benefit from time-sensitive discounts, whereas freemium apps can incentivize users by providing usage-based rewards.
Re-engage Your Users
Push notifications are an effective way to encourage re-engagement for users who have dropped out of the conversion funnel. However, users don’t want to be bothered with irrelevant messaging so be thoughtful and strategic in how you reach out to users. Make sure the messaging is valuable to the user. According to a report from Apptentive, users who experience some degree of brand interaction are four times as likely to continue using an app after three months.
Keep Ratings High
The rationale behind using ratings and reviews as a ranking factor is that they are reflective of user experience. When people are deciding to download an app or not, one of the first things they look at is the app’s ratings. A safe spot is to maintain a 4.5 rating or higher. A good user experience and a useful app will often amount to high ratings and positive reviews. Developers should encourage their users to submit reviews, be diligent in managing and seeking to resolve negative reviews, and should keep communication channels open to field user feedback.
A mobile app launch isn’t a one-time event. There will always be room for improvement which makes launching an app a cyclical process that requires reassessment as market demands change. Recently launched mobile apps should be updated and relaunched regularly to keep users engaged through new updates and features. In fact, app launch activities should run long before the product’s release date. For the best results, an app launch strategy should create multiple touchpoints for potential users to explore before the product is available for download. Building awareness prior to launch gives users an idea about the purpose and benefits of the app, so when they arrive at the app store listing, your product makes a compelling first impression.