5 Crucial strategies to avoid the post-launch slump in app downloads
It happens to the best of us. You’ve finally launched your app after months or even years of hard work, and you watch as people start to download it on the app store. Filled with hope, you think, ‘Excellent! Steady growth, everything is as planned.”
And then, after a week, a month, or several months… crickets. You’re not getting any downloads anymore. What happened?
This ‘post-launch slump’ is actually a very common pattern in app development. There is some recent evidence from data collected by Sensor Tower that the app stores give new apps a short-lived boost in ranking for their keywords in the first seven days of launch. After that, they experience a steep drop. In this one example from Sensor Tower the app ranked in the top 10 for the first few days, before settling into the #40 or #50 range.
Even disregarding the 7 day boost, it’s perfectly normal to have downloads slow down after the initial hype of a launch wears off.
5 Strategies to Combat the Post Launch Slump
No one wants this to happen to his or her app, but what steps can be taken to minimize its impact? Today I’m proposing five strategies you can use to avoid the post-launch slump that occurs in app downloads.
1. Choose Keywords Strategically
Given the evidence from Sensor Tower, you should be choosing your keywords strategically. Take advantage of the 7-day promotion window by initially targeting keywords of higher difficulty (more competitive, more search traffic) because you know you’ll have the boost to help you out. You can afford to be ambitious!
After the 7-day period, have a second set of keywords ready that are more relevant to your app and less difficult to rank for. Revisit your keywords every month to ensure that you’re app is surfacing in the searches that you want to convert to downloads.
2. ‘Mobilize’ Your Existing Users
Developers are missing out on a significant revenue opportunity if they aren’t using their existing customers as an acquisition channel. Look at your app analytics to identify your most valuable, active users.
Active users will be people who:
- Open your app frequently
- Have above-average session times
- Complete the in-app actions that you want them to
Once you identify them, put them to work! After “general browsing” on the app store, recommendations from friends and family are the most common way people discover and download new apps. The only way to get people talking about your app is to do something worth talking about! You can encourage people to share your app by running incentivized marketing programs.
Incentivized sharing and referrals are becoming an increasingly popular customer acquisition strategy. This is mainly because marketers now recognize that personal endorsements are far more effective than traditional acquisition methods.
The first step to crafting your referral scheme is identifying what kind of reward would prompt a customer to refer a friend. Incentives that give equal benefit to the referrer and invitee seem to work best. Billion dollar companies including Dropbox, Uber, and Airbnb have all had enormous success with equal benefit referral programs.
This type of program ensures your existing users are engaged as well as delighting your new users—win-win! The results of Dropbox’s referral program are legendary. Their “refer-a-friend” feature offers 250mb of free space to both the referrer and the new invite. It permanently increased signups by 60%, with users sending 2.8- million direct-referral invites by April 2010. Still today, 35% of daily signups come via Dropbox’s referral program!
3. Under Promise and Over Deliver
If your app has been on the app store for a month or 2 before your downloads start dropping, maybe take a look at your app reviews. App store visitors DO read reviews, and often a negative review will be the deciding factor as to whether someone downloads or leaves your app page.
The most common cause of a negative review is simply that an expectation wasn’t met. That’s why I advocate always under promising and over delivering. Your app description can’t blow smoke. Here are some guidelines:
- Punchy – As a general rule of thumb, try not to go over 700 characters.
- Use social proof and statistics – If your app got a great blog or user review, won an award or was downloaded an insane amount of times, throw in a mention.
- Don’t keyword stuff or be too technical.
- Consider putting in a features list. Subtext: Always focus on the BENEFITS the features provide, rather than just listing the features themselves). This is a better way to communicate what the user will actually get when using your app.
- Finish with a call to action to entice readers to learn more, download now, or give feedback.
- Be honest – write naturally and don’t over-embellish, which can come back to bite you!
Along the same guidelines, make sure that you are monitoring any and all mentions of your app online. I recommend signing up to Mention, a media monitoring tool that sends you daily emails showing where other people have mentioned your product. This will mean there’s never an excuse for being unaware of someone slamming you online!
4. Revisit Your Acquisition Channels
The first year of your app’s life will be the most expensive in terms of marketing. You should have several campaigns set-up to acheive different milestones in your app’s lifecycle. Once you notice downloads slowing, revisit your acquisition channels and start pruning.
How can you redistribute your budget to bring in the lowest-hanging fruit?
Pay close attention to:
- What channels the new acquisitions are coming from. This will show you which outlets to pour more of your ad budget into.
- The percent of downloads that turned into thel app actually being opened. This will show you which ad networks are bringing in the highest value users, not necessarily the greatest number of users.
- Your cost per acquisition. This number will reveal the return on investment (or ROI) for each acquisition campaign
To reduce the cost per customer acquisition (or CPI), you need to be constantly A/B testing and monitoring the impact of your marketing efforts.
You may find in your analysis that you get more downloads from paid acquisition campaigns, but the users who found you through organic means are higher life-time value customers. This is a really important part of ensuring your app marketing is constantly improving. Test, implement, monitor and improve.
5. Ramp Up Your Outreach Efforts
PR is the quickest way to get a stale app back into the headlines. Reach out to bloggers, niche publications or even your local newspaper to get your app circling around a fresh news cycle. A lot of the time people won’t be downloading your app because they just don’t know it exists. Getting third-party credibility from influencers and awards will give you a much-needed boost and get you in front of an audience you couldn’t otherwise reach.
Of course, don’t expect everyone to reply to a cold email pitching your app. You’ll have much more luck if you use your networks. Is there anyone you know at a publication who you can name drop when pitching? Even better, can they introduce you to influencers over email first?
You can’t expect to be constantly killing it in app downloads. It’s very normal to experience spikes of activity followed by lulls. However, these strategies will help you keep growth constant. Great app marketing is all about being proactive and using the data you have to make smart decisions.
I hope this gives you some ideas on how to beat the post-launch slump!
About the Author: Logan Merrick is the Co-founder and Director of Buzinga App Development, Australian leaders in mobile product design. Download his free Startup Guide To App Development for steps on how to take your app from idea to commercial success.