It’s not uncommon for businesses to have their own apps nowadays – in fact, 42% of millennial-owned businesses use their own apps to increase sales or provide an alternative platform for their customers to use their tools or services.
Also, by simply navigating through the app store, you will notice that many companies are using their own apps. Here at Ideamotive, we’ve already seen apps from major airlines, investment banks, and even small local restaurants or yoga studios.
So it makes sense if you are planning to create a mobile app for your own company. But while a mobile app can be quite lucrative as a source of income, the low barriers to entry make a successful launch even more challenging.
According to Alex Ahlund, former CEO of AppVee and AndroidApps, the average cost of developing a mobile app is $6,453, and the cost could skyrocket to $150,000 depending on the complexity of the app.
Wherever you fall on that spectrum, the money and resources you invest in conceptualizing and developing a truly great mobile app can be wasted if you don’t organize the mobile app launch properly.
And when you start, your work is just beginning. Then you need to think about how to make your application “sticky” so people will come back to it over and over again.
For the purposes of this post, we’ll assume you’ve already come up with a great initial idea for a mobile app and set yourself the goal of getting as many downloads as possible at launch. Here, let’s take a look at how to have a successful launch and how to ensure long-term user retention.
How to launch a mobile application
1. Do market research
An estimated 1,900,000 apps are available in the Apple App Store as of December 2021. And that number doesn’t even encapsulate Android apps in the Google and Windows app stores.
So – what does this mean to you? You probably already have a lot of competitors. In order for your application to truly differentiate itself, you need to do thorough market research.
It’s imperative that you know the top apps in your niche, see what they’re failing at, and use those insights to make your app even better than the competition.
Depending on your budget, you can do some initial research for potential users. But even secondary research can give you a lot of interesting things. Take a look at reviews on competitors’ app pages in app stores, as well as reviews on YouTube and blogs to see what real users have to say about the competition.
2. Define success
If you’re aiming for a successful mobile app launch, you need to define what success looks like.
Set several measurable goals before launching. We recommend measuring success based on your:
- active install rate – this shows you the retention rate or the number of people who installed your app and then didn’t uninstall it;
- the number of ratings you received;
- your average rating in the app market;
- and if you sell your app, revenue received from it.
To help you set some benchmarks, most free mobile apps have a higher active install rate during the first month, usually around 50%, after which it stabilizes at around 30%. The average app store rating is 3-4 (out of 5), and you should definitely aim for a higher level in order to maintain a stable active install rate.
3. Consider cross-platform and browser versions of the application
It is no longer enough to stick to one platform (usually Android or iOS). It is now important to be available on multiple platforms in order to expand your reach.
As of December 2021, the market share of mobile operating systems was 71% for Android, 28% for iOS, and the remaining 1% was split between other operating systems.
Cross-platform development is not only a way to expand your reach, but it is also more cost-effective in the long run, especially if you are using top-notch IDE software to accelerate application development. Most of the IDE software even lets you create web browser versions of mobile apps, giving users more options to use your app on any device.
So it’s up to you what developers to hire:
4. Optimize your mobile app for app store search
When it comes to ranking in the iOS App Store or Google Play Store, both have the same variables.
Industry experts suggest that the four most important elements to ranking well for both iOS and Android apps include:
- Use of a keyword in a name and/or description
- Visuals and branding used for the app
- The number of downloads created by the application.
- The number of positive reviews the app generates.
5. Pitch your application
Share your story with tech, mobile, and industry journalists and bloggers. Arm yourself with a recorded video demo and be prepared to provide them with a free download of your application so they can familiarize themselves with the interface and capabilities of your application. Be prepared to answer any of their questions and consider them another test group that can find bugs and make UX/UI recommendations.
You should start your mailing list at least a few weeks in advance so that they have time to experiment with your application and write a compelling story without rushing. Plus, the more time they have, the more likely they will be able to fit you into their editorial calendar.
6. Set up paid ads
Thanks to Google’s algorithm update, you can get some SERP popularity when you launch a mobile app. Complement this search presence with paid ads during launch week.
You can also set up paid targeted Facebook ads to direct users to your Facebook fan page, where they are greeted by a welcome screen encouraging them to subscribe to your mobile app.
Alternatively, you can redirect people directly to your app’s download page so that they can install it on their phones right away. The choice of strategy may depend on your application.
For example, if your app requires some explanation or is fairly innovative in its approach, you can direct users to a dedicated landing page. Meanwhile, apps that users are already familiar with, such as gaming apps, may have ads that direct users directly to the app’s download page.
7. Tap influencers or thought leaders in the industry
Influencer marketing will only grow, so if you want to talk about your app, we can’t highlight this step enough.
Look for a variety of social media influencers, bloggers, and content creators who can help bring attention to your app before it launches. Select influencers who you think will benefit the most from yours and do personalized email marketing to effectively build and win relationships.
For example, if you’re launching a weight-loss mobile app, reach out to various fitness influencers who talk about workout regimes or macro tracking – depending on what features your app has.
8. Submit an application to the application stores of your choice
The bell has finally rung! It’s time to put your app in the app stores. At this point, you are familiar with the submission rules and you should have no problem approving your application.
However, just in case, please submit your app a week before your target launch date so you have time to make any last-minute changes as requested by Apple or Google.
9. Notice in email list about availability of your application
Once your app is approved and appears in app stores, it’s time to make a big and proud statement.
By this point, you should have a healthy list of potential customers who have signed up to receive email notifications on your landing page. Send an email to everyone on this list to notify them of the release of your app, invite them to try it, and thank them for their continued loyalty.
10. Press list and influence notice
After alerting your general mailing list, send more personalized notes to those on your press list.
Notify them of the release of your app and include all relevant links to app store product pages and press material. Again, convince them to download your app and remind them that a little light is very important.
11. Create a panel for recording and analysis of your indicators and KPIs
With everything going on around the launch, it’s easy to lose the big picture. Justify yourself and your application by implementing a system to regularly record previously identified KPIs. This performance dashboard brings all of your metrics together in one place to keep you goal-oriented and accountable to your metrics for success.
12. Track reviews and encourage feedback
Finally, you’ll want to track people’s reviews of your app and strongly encourage users to post comments.
Not only is it that apps with the best reviews get the most exposure and download – but this process also helps you spot bugs that you wouldn’t otherwise know about and make quick changes to improve the user experience and make your app stickier.
Keep users informed of your progress as you do so so they know you are listening to and responding to their feedback.
13. Publish application update log
Transparency is becoming a very important thing for consumers, and one of the ways to make your mobile app more transparent to users is to keep them informed about any changes and features.
The update log is the easiest way to do this. Submit these logs to your app store pages and even create a dedicated update log page on your website so users can easily see the changes you’ve made in the past few weeks.
By keeping users informed about your app changes, you can also increase retention rates as users see various updates that they may have been waiting for, or may receive additional information. If the update is particularly large – like a significant interface change or even an exciting new feature – you can send push notifications and in-app pop-ups so that users can see a breakdown of these new features on a dedicated page on your website.
Sometimes the brand even brings its own personality to these app updates. Take a look at one of the 2016 updates to the Medium app:
When we think about launching a mobile application, we think about one moment in time. The “big deal” of your application appears in the app stores. However, the reality is that mobile app marketing is one long series of these critical points. Launching is not so much a fixed point as a continuous process of iterating your application to better meet the needs of all stakeholders.
After completing these 13 steps, you will have a good head start. You have done the hard work over the next six months, but your work is far from complete. Continue to attract customers, collect data, test, and innovate, and you can not only maintain but build on the momentum you have created so far.