App Discoverability

By Devon Burns, Senior Strategist

Smartphone and tablet ownership continues to climb. eMarketer predicts global smartphone adoption to increase to almost 50% by 2018 and tablet ownership to increase to 64% by the end of the this year. That’s more than a thirty-point increase in infiltration for each since 2012. With the proliferation of mobile devices, users are spending more and more time on these screens.

The app stores have seen explosive growth over the past few years. With 1.3 million apps in both the Apple App Store and Google Play Store, consumers have more options than ever before. The App Store and Google Play combined saw roughly 80 billion downloads last year. But with all the available content, are consumers really finding the best and the right apps for them amongst the endless digital shelves in these stores?

It’s like finding needle in a haystack.

App stores are the primary app shopping channel. These stores are overstocked, minimally organized, and generally overwhelming. It is difficult to find good apps in the store, and even harder when consumers are in hurry to find and consume that content. Especially since consumers, on average, are only spending three to ten minutes shopping for apps.

The ultimate challenge with digital products is discoverability. It is challenging to gain market share when your app is launching with thousands of others at the same time. The “build first, market later” mentality is no longer relevant. If you build it, they will not come.

The current shopping experience is cumbersome – reading reviews, comparing apps, and searching for apps. Even a specific search within a category can yield a laundry list of seemingly similar results, leaving the consumer no further along the discoverability path from where they started.

Consumers lack patience while shopping for apps.

Many consumers rely on curated lists. While these lists can help consumers satisfy their needs, the lists are not exhaustive and mainly include already popular apps. Leaving lesser know apps, once again, undiscovered.

Apps don’t always offer, “try before you buy.”

Apps are one of the few digital products that don’t offer a sample experience. With music, movies and ebooks, consumers can at least listen to a :30 sample, watch a trailer, or read a few pages of a book before they commit to purchase.

Easy on-boarding helps retain users.

A consumer’s first interaction with an app is often after purchase and is the most important. The first use experience must be mindfully crafted with easy on-boarding. This is a key retention point and any frustration with this first experience can lead to abandonment.

Promotional bursts may yield positive gain, but only in the short term.

App store charts displaying app rankings encourage developers to schedule their promotions in bursts in order to goose their app up the ranks. This can increase organic growth and gain awareness.

There are zombies everywhere!

The lack of focus on user retention after an app is downloaded contributes to “zombie apps” (apps that are downloaded once and never used again). User retention data isn’t accounted for in app store rankings.

Getting started.

When we at Smashing Ideas launch digital products for our clients, we always include the following steps in our strategic launch plan. We urge you to explore these steps when considering a launch plan for your product.

Pre-launch marketing.

Marketing doesn’t have to begin at product launch. As you develop an idea for an application, begin curating a list of influencers in the community for outreach. Begin cultivating these relationships to generate buzz early on in development.

User testing.

Select users from your target customer base to provide feedback on prototypes or early builds. Not only will it help you work out user experience issues and bugs, but also it will begin to create an invested community around your product.


Using a combination of targeted app review sites, social media, and advertising tactics will generate awareness of your new product at launch.


Choose relevant keywords and ensure the app description is structured appropriately to give consumers the most amount of information upfront, as possible. Ensure keywords are integrated into the app titles and descriptions to ensure your app displays during searches.

Meaningful updates.

Schedule out updates that include features and fixes to benefit your audience. Listen to consumer feedback and make improvements that addressed concerns or suggestions. This can greatly increase user retention.

A strategic approach.

While app discoverability is clearly a challenge today, it can be overcome by approaching the launch of an application from the mindset of a new product launch. Leave the “if we build it, they will come” mentality behind, and embrace a strategic promotion and user retention plan for your digital product.

Curious how meaningful user testing and easy on-boarding can result in a flawless first-run user experience for your product, and increase your overall user retention? Our thought leaders at SI are at the ready to assist you in creating a new digital product, with a strategic launch and maintenance plan tailored to your business objectives.

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