In previous lessons we have looked at breathing life into your app idea from planning to development to promotion. Once the app is out there, the next step is to make it a success and keep it successful.
Hopefully, you will have enjoyed a killer launch with plenty of buzz around the app. In the previous lesson we looked at various ways to tempt Apple into making your app an App Store Featured App and this is a sure-fire way to pick up a bit of momentum. A fine example of this is an app called ‘Hard Lines’ which is a game from Split Milk Studios. In their first eight days on the App Store, the game was downloaded 452 times grossing a total of $292. This was a moderately successful launch and user feedback was good with 14 user reviews (all positive) and 22 user ratings (all five stars). Apple then latched on the app and featured it in the ‘New & Noteworthy’ section.
Following its promotion to New & Noteworthy, Hard Lines was downloaded 6,500 times in the following 10 days, an increase of nearly 1200%. Following this boom, the app was then included in the ‘Free App a Day’ promotion which led to a further 82,000 (free) downloads and by the end of the first quarter of 2012, it had been downloaded more than 300,000 times.
The App Store is full of success stories that mirror this such as Wooords (for iPad), Big Mountain Snowboading and QuizQuizQuiz which all garnered a sales boost after being featured by Apple.
Of course, not everybody can be featured by Apple so what are the other secrets to success?
Placing the app in the correct category is of the utmost importance if you want a successful app. Is your pie flinging app in the Business section? Is your movies app in the Lifestyle section? Wouldn’t the pie flinging app be better off in Games? Wouldn’t the movies app be best placed in Entertainment? The answer is an obvious ‘Yes’ but you would be surprised how often apps get placed in the wrong category. This has a huge effect on your apps performance because people who search categories are obviously looking for a certain type of application. Don’t make the mistake of other ‘savvy’ developers who pick a category because the competition is lower and their app is more likely to rank. This simply is not true.
I can speak from experience, I believe the main reason this happens is because the user sees the app in a different way to the developer. I launched an app called Rack Stare which I thought would fit best in the Lifestyle category. The app did not perform well. I had thought that users browsing the Lifestyle category would see the app and download it out of curiosity – it did not work out like that. Obviously the app was not in the right category.
Upon deliberation I decided to move the app to the Entertainment section. Suddenly the users were all over it and Rack Stare quickly achieved over a million downloads.
Staying at the Top
Achieving a top 25 rating in the app store should ensure success over a long period. Users will browse the chart and download the apps that have rated well and achieved a lot of downloads. Hopefully your app will achieve a top 10 status which will boost your downloads further. However, if you allow your app to stagnate and never provide your users with updates and fresh reasons to use the app, they will become bored and either delete the app or demote it to page eight or nine of their iPhone or even worse, group it into a folder of other apps which they occasionally dip in and out of.
We mentioned in the planning lesson that you should start to think about possible upgrades from an early point. Adding cool new content gives existing users a reason to continue using the app which is more likely to lead to high ratings and glowing reviews. If your app is a game, add more levels or more characters and challenges for the users. If your app is a lifestyle app, add more sections and refresh your content as often as you can.
Each time you push an update through the App Store, users who own the app will get a notification. This is a smart way of reminding them that your app exists. Of course, if your updates are mostly bug fixes you will quickly get a reputation for unreliability so try and bundle them together. Whenever there is an iOS update, look at how your app will integrate with new and improved features and push these to users. This will make your app look fresh compared to others that rest on their laurels.
You should always look at ways to integrate your app with social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and Google+. Even it is just a simple Tweet or Facebook wall post, each user can announce your app to potentially hundreds of friends who could soon become valuable customers.
Although it is unlikely that you will hit gold with your very first app, you can give yourself the best chance by following the guidelines laid out in our lessons. From planning, to promotion; from promotion to development; and from development to marketing, you will face hundreds of decisions at each turn, with every decision having an impact on the overall success of your app.
Even if your app isn’t as successful as you envisaged, keep working at it. Studies have shown that the more apps you make, the more likely you are to make money from any single app (developers with 10 or more apps are most likely to be successful). About one in every five developers make enough money from the App Store to earn a living, the other 80% earn just 3% of overall app revenue but by following our lessons and learning from your mistakes, you can give yourself a great chance of breaking into that 20%.
Never forget about an app. Old, unloved apps can still be successful with a bit of a make-over. Perhaps your idea was sound but the execution was failing; go back and have a look at an under-performing apps and see what you can do.
As I learn more about the mobile space and applications I will be updating these posts so they continue to be of use and up to date so do continue to check my posts, and my site.
Finally, it is the dream of many to see their idea for an iPhone app become a reality and a hit on the App Store – keep working at it and your dream will come true.