The mobile app industry has grown exponentially over the last few years due to an ever-growing demand for mobile apps among consumers. Did you know, for example, that smartphone users spend 88% of their mobile usage time on apps alone?
But (and as we all know, there’s always a but), almost every app category is saturated with apps with ostensibly similar offerings, meaning the competition for users’ attention is fierce. Statistics show that there are around 4.8 million iOS apps and 2.6 million Android apps available. With so many options out there, an app needs to focus on all aspects of its launch strategy to attract its target users right from the start and turn them into loyal and habitual users. But how do you do that then?
We know that a mobile application loses 95% of its DAUs (daily active users) during the first ninety days. So, to create an effective app launch strategy with high-profit potential and plenty of opportunities for further growth, you must plan carefully and focus on all steps of your app launch campaign – from development to deployment and marketing of the app. To help you with this, we have decided to give you a comprehensive overview of the app launch process. We will consider all the stages of the app launch process, explore the most important data points one must take into account before setting out on this perilous journey before finally giving you our top tips for acing your app launch. So, without further ado, let’s get started.
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Key app launch statistics
- Smartphone users spend 88% of their mobile usage time on apps alone.
- There are some 4.8 million iOS apps and 2.6 million Android apps available.
- Over 27,000 new iOS apps are released in the Apple App Store every month.
- New Android apps are being published at a rate almost 2.5 times greater than iOS apps, with more than 61,000 new apps being released each month.
- The number 1 reason people uninstall apps is because they aren’t in use. Among the other top reasons for uninstalling: not enough space on their phone, excessive advertising, and excessive notifications.
- The marketing process is proving to be the most challenging aspect of the app creation process, followed by desing and development.
Some important data points to keep in mind
Apps are definitely proving to be the destination of choice for most smartphone owners. As data from eMarketer shows, smartphone users spend 88% of their mobile usage time on apps alone.
Mobile internet: Average daily time spent in apps in the US (2018-2022)
Increased preference for phones over desktop and tablets (see graphs below) and an ever-growing split between mobile usage time spent in apps and in browsers (independent of device) means that apps are having a well-pronouced edge across all age groups and generations and on all devices. It also speaks to the importance of companies not only optimizing their websites for mobile, but creating custom, responsive apps too.
Desktop vs mobile vs tablet market share worldwide
Additionally, smartphone users between the ages of 18 and 24 are the heaviest mobile app users. Gen Z holds the crown for total number of sessions and total time spent per month and is set to soon surpass millennials as the largest generation.
Monthly digital minutes per age group
So, apps are great, but you knew that already. Simply having an app won’t really change much for you though. You also have to get users to download it and engage with it daily. However, there are some 4.8 million iOS apps and 2.6 million Android apps available, with more entering the market to compete for users’ time and attention every day. And as we have seen above, competition is fierce (to be honest, that might be an understatement). Having an app is one thing, but having an app that users actually download and use is a completely different story.
Number of available apps in the Apple App Store from 2008 to 2022
The iOS app market has been steadily growing since 2008, and though the growth rate is nowhere near what it was in the early 2010s, there is a consistent upward trend, meaning there is some stiff competition for any new app vying for users’ time to tackle.
Number of available applications in the Google Play Store from 2009 to 2022
As you can see from the graph above, there are considerably fewer apps on the Google Play Store. The growth rate is also less consistent, with significant fluctuations evident between 2017 and 2022. However, don’t assume even for a second that competition will be less fierce because of this. As we will soon see, there are more Android apps entering the market every month compared to iOS apps.
Over 27,000 new iOS apps are released in the Apple App Store every month.
Number of apps published on the Apple App Store per month (2021-22)
While there are fewer Android apps live on the market today, new Android apps are being published at a rate almost 2.5 times greater than iOS apps, with more than 61,000 new apps being released each month.
Number of apps published in the Google Play Store per month (2021-22)
Additionally, app revenue has been rising tremendously over the past decade, and this growth is forecast to continue over the coming years.
Mobile apps revenue (2014-2023*)
* Predicted revenue for 2023
When it comes to discovering an app, most people turn to those they trust the most (friends and family) or app store search results, which highlights the importance of word-of-mouth, referrals, and app store optimization (ASO).
Top methods of app discovery (%)
The number 1 reason people uninstall apps is because they aren’t in use. Among the other top reasons for uninstalling: not enough space on their phone, excessive advertising, and excessive notifications. All of these responses speak to two thing: a poor user experience (UX) and a bad retention strategy. Functionality is everything, and poor UX can guarantee the failure of your app. At the same time, if you fail to wow your new users from the get-go, they will not be incentivized to keep coming to your app and will eventually just uninstall it.
Top reasons people uninstall apps (%)
Now that we know all of this, let’s quickly consider the top challenges developers face when well… developing an app.
Most challenging aspects of app creation for developers (%)
Data from InMobi suggests that the marketing process is proving to be the most challenging aspect of the app creation process, followed by design and development. However, without great marketing, even the best apps struggle when it comes to user acquisition, discovery, and retention. After all, marketing is at the core of any app launch campaign and should never be overlooked.
Armed with this knowledge and comprehensive data, we can now finally proceed to consider the key steps of the mobile app launch process.
Mobile app launch process
Unfortunately, “if you build it, they will come” does apply to the mobile app launch. Developers often focus all of their time and resources on building a great app. But when it comes time to launch it, they fall into the trap of thinking submitting an app to the app stores is the same as launching an app. But they quickly realize the fallacy of this assumption. Now buried somewhere in the midst of millions of other apps, their great app never even had a chance.
So, to help you avoid this worst-case app launch marketing scenario, let us now have a look at the app launch process step-by-step.
Everything starts with market research
Identify your target audience and define your value proposition. This is mobile app marketing at its most basic. To succeed in a saturated market like the app industry, it’s critical you get to know the leading apps in your niche, analyze where they fall short, and use those insights to make your app even better than the competition’s.
You will also need to decide who to target and why as this will determine how you will go about defining your value proposition, aka the thing or things that set you apart from the competition and the main reason(s) why users should choose you over them.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- Who is your app intended for?
- What is the benefit your target audience will derive from your app?
- Why is your app better suited than your competitors to deliver this value?
Your answers to these three questions will inform the rest of your app marketing. For a consistent brand image, all of your marketing activities should communicate and reinforce this one statement, allowing you to promote omnichannel, while also staying consistent in your visual and brand identity.
Think of your value proposition as your app’s core identity. It can and probably will change and evolve over time, but you want it to be as stable and consistent as possible to ensure users recognise your brand immediately and don’t confuse you with one of your competitors.
Once you have your target audience and value proposition, you will be ready to move on to the next step.
Create a website
Register your domain and create a landing page. It’s here that you are going to put your value proposition to the test and acquire some of your first leads.
Your app’s website should explain to visitors what your app is all about. Offer a detailed description and give visitors a preview of your app if possible (visuals are your best friend here). Include testimonials of test users/early adopters if you have any. Consider also creating a form for visitors to sign up for email alerts on your app’s progress. This is how you are going to acquire your first leads, and the email alerts could eventually be expanded into a fully-fledged newsletter to keep users engaged even when not using your app.
If you have the resources, consider creating a blog page to promote your own content as well as a press page to keep everyone updated on the most important new developments. This is how you are going to attract the Internet’s attention.
Once your website is up and running, and you have started collecting your first leads, you can integrate an analytics or A/B testing tool to test variations of your messaging strategy.
Claim your social media accounts
It’s now time to go viral… almost.
Pre-launch, you’ll want to claim your accounts on social media and use them actively to generate interest and early sign-ups.
Identify the social networks most popular with your target audience. If you are targeting a specific age group, for example, market on those networks most popular with your ideal age bracket. Once you know where your market is, register your accounts and start posting and/or sharing content related to your soon-to-be-launched app to build a following.
You can also use your social media accounts to showcase the app while it’s in development and solicit feedback and ideas from your future users.
Spend time creating content that explains how to use your mobile app or creates hype around topics related to your app and your value proposition. For example, if you are working on a well-being app, you can create content on nutrition, exercising, mental health, etc. This will help you generate early interest in both your app and related topics, which will, in turn, increase your app’s discoverability.
This content could include blog posts, press releases, website copy, email marketing copy, etc. Combine this with well-coordinated social media activity, and you have just guaranteed yourself even more early leads.
Create a demo/promo video
Once you have consistent messaging across your website, content, and social media platforms, it’s time to record a demo or app promo video. Such a video should capture the essence of your app, what it is about, what its value proposition is, and how to use it. It will also help take your marketing to the next level by bringing your messaging to life.
Your video can then be embedded into your social posts, landing page, and even your app store product page to boost conversion by up to 80%.
Pro tip: Make sure you stand out. There’s a lot of noise in the app industry, so breaking through all that noise is vital. Think of any of the big brands out there, you can almost instantly recognise them by their logo, colour, brand audio cues, messaging, etc. You basically want the same consistency and recognition for your app and your video (and everything else you create) should reflect your overall brand image and identity.
Identify influencers and reporters
Now it’s time for more research. Identify influencers popular with your target audience and journalists that regularly write on topics related to apps or cover stories related to your app’s offering. For example, a health and fitness journalist should definitely be on your radar if you are launching a well-being app.
Create a list of all the influencers and journalists in your space who might be interested in writing or talking about your app. Connect with them on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, via email, or wherever else you can find them and start a conversation about some of their recent activity (a video they’ve recently posted or an article they’ve just published) to nurture a relationship before sending them a pitch.
Pro tip: If possible, add at least one person from the App Store and Google Play editorial teams to your influencer list. These are the people that can feature your app on the front page of their respective app stores in lists like “Staff Picks” or “Editor’s Choice”. If you can build rapport with anyone behind these recommendations, you’re much more likely to get featured when the time comes.
Create a press kit and make your pitch
To maximize your odds of getting coverage, make it as easy as possible for bloggers, journalists, and influencers to cover your app. Ensure that all the relevant information regarding your app is easy to find by compiling all of your assets into a press kit, which should contain all or some of the following:
- Your app’s logo, icon, screenshots, and demo/promo video
- Your boilerplate and/or app store product page description
- Links to website and social media accounts
- Links to recent press releases or coverage
- Press contact information
Journalists can now quickly scan over your assets and make a decision about whether or not it’s something they want to cover. And if they do want to write about it, everything is right there in one place to make their job easier.
And once your press kit is ready and you have identified the journalists and influencers you want to get covered by, it’s time to start reaching out to them to pitch your story. Send them a personalized email to tell them about your app, why they should be excited about it, and why they should write/talk about it.
Set up paid advertising
If you’ve done all of the above, you are likely to gain some healthy organic search tractions at your mobile app launch. Complement that search presence with some paid advertising before and during launch week to guarantee your app’s success.
And as with everything else we’ve talked about, choose the platforms and types of ads that will resonate the most with your target audience.
Use App Store Optimization (ASO) to get discovered
To get your mobile app discovered once released specifically within the app stores of your choosing, you will need great ASO.
Best practices include optimizing your app title with relevant keywords. And when you’re submitting your app to the different app stores, be sure to fill out all the categories most relevant to your app, so users browsing through categories have a good chance of finding you.
Also, you’ll want to include clear screenshots within your app download page that showcase the most common use cases of your app.
Once your app is approved and in the app stores, it’s time to spread the word loud and proud. Notify everyone of your app’s availability – from your email list to journalists and influencers. Everyone should know.
Implement app analytics. Monitor feedback
Your app might be live now, but the app launch campaign isn’t over just yet.
Setting up a robust app analytics framework is key to guaranteeing the long-term success of your app. An app isn’t just launched and left in the open with the hopes it will keep growing. You need to constantly update and improve it, and having the tools to identify shortcomings and underperforming areas of your app is as important as developing the app in the first place.
App analytics isn’t the only way to gather insights into the performance of your app though. User feedback can be just as useful. Ensure that you have a great feedback loop (preferably one built into the app itself, e.g. in-app messaging). Open channels of communication with your users provide them with a platform to raise suggestions for your app, report bugs or crashes, seek customer support, or otherwise engage with your team. Whatever form they might take, these channels are crucial pre-launch, post-launch, and during the entire lifetime of your app.
Encourage ratings and reviews
When a potential user evaluates your app, one of the first things they consider are your ratings and reviews. Positive reviews and a high average rating are a signal that your app is trustworthy and of good quality. So, let your current users do your marketing. Be proactive about asking your most loyal users to review and rate your app. By asking only your loyal users, you can stack the cards in your favor and ensure both a higher rating volume and a stronger average rating.
Engage your users. Communicate value
The weeks after your app launch are a golden time for user acquisition. Between your early fans who have been patiently waiting for your launch and all of those hearing about your app for the first time, the downloads are bound to be plentiful… if you have done your launch marketing job right that is.
However, it’s even more important to recognize that acquisition is just one side of the coin. Even this early on, retention matters. To prevent users from quickly churning after failing to see your app’s value, ensure that they have a positive experience with your app from the moment they’ve installed it.
Once the initial hype is over, user acquisition will become harder. And with that, every user becomes even more valuable to prevent churn. Great communication is really important here. Reach out, engage them, win their loyalty, and make your users feel valued.
Win your users’ love and loyalty by giving them a reason to re-launch your app day after day. For this, you need an app that continues to engage them. Fresh content, consistent but non-intrusive messaging (e.g. push notifications, email campaigns, in-app messages, etc.), a loyalty system where they can win (virtual or physical) prizes for in-app achievements or usage, a personalized experience catered to their shopping habits, and whatever else that keeps them hooked.
And don’t forget that you should be communicating your app’s value at every stage. Every move you take, every content release, every update, every message even should reflect your app’s overall value for users and your brand’s identity. Loyalty is not just about rewards, it’s about your brand too, your name if you will – make sure users recognise yours and have positive associations with it.
To learn more about user retention, check out our guide on mobile app retention to learn everything you need to know to ace user retention.
Top tips to ace your app launch
Build an audience and know it
If you don’t have a sizable and/or dedicated audience before your launch, you will lack the support and hype needed to get your app off the ground. As such, audience building should be your first order of business. Social media accounts, mailing lists, word-of-mouth, and a great website can all help with this.
However, having an audience isn’t everything. You should also know your target audience. This means knowing their interests and purchase intent as well as your competitors and their offerings. Knowing your audience is incredible market research that can ensure that before you’ve even launched your app you are filling it with the best features and getting feedback on how to alter your app launch strategy around your audience in an effective way.
Prep your marketing materials in advance
Create everything you need in advance. From articles, blog posts, social media copy to graphs and other visuals, videos, and your press kit, everything should be ready before the start of your app launch campaign. This will make your life easier and allow you to focus on the multitude of other problems you will have to deal with upon launch. (There will be plenty of bugs you will have to take care of to even have time to worry about your press kit or promo video.)
This is ultimately the end goal of your app launch campaign – creating as much hype as possible to ensure a rush of downloads to get the app going.
Regular content and social media posts as well as getting others to talk/write about your app (e.g. influencers, journalists) is a great way to build some hype. However, this isn’t always enough. So, here are four top suggestions to help you create as much hype as possible around your app.
- Why not make a waiting list for your app from your top fans, highest-paying supporters, or influencers in your network to build the excitement around it?
- You can also do a beta release to an exclusive portion of your community to gather feedback, get testimonials, and see how your users respond to the app.
- Counting down the days before your launch is also a great way to hype products and has been used before by big and small brands alike.
- Consider also utilizing early-bird discounts to help boost your early sales and downloads for your app.
Put download links everywhere
This is a simple but important one – link to your app everywhere. From your blog, website, and press kit to your marketing emails, promo video, and social media accounts, never forget to include a link to your app’s download pages on the relevant app stores.