7 Habits of Highly Successful Mobile App Launches
In today’s age of instant gratification and short attention spans, the average mobile user is more likely to abandon an app than retain it. Thus, brands face an uphill battle to connect with the largest possible segment of their global digital audience.
The average American has 80 apps downloaded on their phone, according to research conducted by Zippia. That user interacts with 9-10 apps per day, and 30 per month. The mobile apps that succeed can become part of a user’s everyday routine, indeed helping a brand integrate with their lives in a meaningful — and profitable — way. But there are just as many opportunities to fail.
What does success look like in a new app store launch? Borrowing from Stephen Covey’s iconic book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, we look at the seven habits of highly successful mobile app launches. These criteria make the difference between succeeding or failing with your mobile app:
marketing strategy and insights
app store approvals
strategic launch plan
Marketing strategy and Insights
It’s not enough to just build a great digital product. If nobody can find it — or, worse, nobody wants to use it — the release will fail to deliver any useful business outcomes.
Understanding the existing market and the competition can help you implement features that your potential customers enjoy in other digital products in the app store. Having a clear picture of the target audience and their expectations can help with promoting an app to the right consumers.
Launch promotions might also be a strategic undertaking for the app launch. Traditional and social media campaigns can help make users aware of the new product and its features. Effective marketing can also pitch the product to different identified user personas, with a unique message crafted specifically for each.
Creative visuals in line with expectations for your mobile app segment will also help establish a positive buzz for the app. Sleek visuals and perhaps a demo can help go a long way toward a download. A study by Storemaven shows that Google Play users are twice as likely to interact with a video than in the Apple App Store. However, because of the layout of app presentation in Google Play, users are 45% less likely to scroll through images. Thus, the details matter, even if they vary between app stores.
In short, marketing helps tell the story of a brand and its product. Cut corners in this area, and the user will certainly notice — or simply notice the competition instead.
App store approvals
The Apple App Store and Google Play Store have unique requirements and standards for app acceptance. What works for one platform might not necessarily yield an approval from the other.
Both app stores require some common details about the application:
unique app name
description (length varies)
app content rating
screenshots of functionality
From there, some differences emerge. The Apple App Store requires the following criteria:
unique app name
iOS SDK features
iPhone X Super Retina display support
screenshots for iPhone and iPad
owner’s name and contact information
test account details
TestFlight beta testing
The Google Play Store requires these details:
unique app name
screenshots of functionality
price and payment details
The app approval process also differs on each platform. The Google Play Store typically approves apps much more quickly than Apple. Both app stores have automated scans that process several million new app submissions every year. These processes check that the required submission elements as well as basic content and security standards are in place. However, the Apple App Store is more selective, rejecting as many as 36% of apps every year. While the rejection rate tends to be higher than the Google Play Store, Google also closely inspects app submissions, and has increased its rejection rate over the years.
Ensure that you take into account the app store processes when you plan these details for your launch. The approval process might take several days, and a delay can occur if the app is not accepted on the first attempt.
Attention to detail is also important in defining and reaching your audience once you’ve been approved. With tens of millions of apps available for download, it’s critical that you have a proven go-to-market strategy that resonates with users. Monitor app store trends to identify ways of reaching new customers, and keep up with the always-evolving app store landscape.
Strategic launch plan
Someone will find defects in your app. Will it be your internal testing team, a controlled subset of beta users, or all customers? Organizations can feel pressured to release a fully featured app at the start. However, it is often more efficient to release a minimum viable product (MVP) to get a working — albeit limited — version of the app into users’ hands. And while a MVP can generate buzz for the product and help establish position in the marketplace, it can’t come at the expense of quality, lest the brand risk its entire reputation on a rushed product.
Phased launches of various features can reduce the impact of undiscovered defects or unpopular features. However, finding those defects before pushing to the app stores is critical to overall product success. Beta launches can reduce the footprint of a poorly received app or feature. Apple’s TestFlight app and the Google Play services beta program both enable native beta testing for their respective platforms prior to release on the respective app stores. Both of these options allow for easy approval and revocation of access as needed. Soft launches or shadow launches, in which the beta app might launch under a different name, can also solicit early feedback from a subset of users.
Many organizations also elect to independently launch beta testing or crowdtesting efforts. The more real user feedback you can gather pre-launch, the more you can tailor products to the personas that matter and eliminate troublesome issues. Crowdtesting, in particular, can prove instrumental in understanding how real in-market users progress through the product, and where they experience difficulty or defects. Additionally, by testing an app in various real-world locations, outside of in-house labs using Wi-Fi, and with different devices and OS combinations, many issues that actual end users encounter can be discovered and remediated preemptively.
A strategic app launch plan can help to reveal a lot about a product — not all bad things. For example, customers might flock to one aspect of app functionality that the product team did not anticipate, or beta testers might find show-stopping defects prior to release to the app store. Receiving ongoing incremental feedback may lead to a shift in strategy and boost a feature beyond its initial scope.
App store standards intend to ensure some semblance of functionality for all users. All apps that adhere to app store standards should enjoy some degree of backwards compatibility with older devices, but don’t expect app store scans to ensure high-quality experiences for all users.
Global smartphone subscriptions reached 7.6 billion in 2022, according to Statista, nearly double the figure from 2016 — and still with room to grow. Samsung and Apple account for just north of 50% of the global smartphone market share, according to StatCounter, but six other vendors figure prominently in that outlook — all of whom release multiple products in many markets each year. Smartphone market segmentation is an undeniable and unending challenge for software developers.
The reality is that no two digital experiences are alike. The mobile devices prominent in one market might be totally absent in another. Some countries have their own network carriers, and others might not have reliable internet access. Even two phones with the same OS version will deliver content differently. For example, they might vary in how they consume and release memory while an app is in use.
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There’s no way to test every device and OS permutation, but a successful launch means the app works for most of its users. Conduct the necessary research to understand the target audience, the markets they live in, and the devices they carry. Focused testing efforts on these primary devices can ensure a working app for customers. If the target audience resides outside the local environment, it might also be useful to leverage a crowdtesting company who can provide feedback from users in the geographies, devices and networks you cannot cover.
Keep in mind extensibility as well. Mobile users expect apps to integrate with other digital products, such as payment services, social media and even smart devices. API testing can help ensure these connections work as intended. Apps that are flexible and open to customization will generally mature more smoothly as user pathways evolve.
Mobile app retention is difficult enough when everything works properly, let alone when it doesn’t. According to Adjust, the average retention rate is 28% for iOS apps and 25% for Android apps — after one day. Retention rates continue to fall to 7% for iOS apps and 6% for Android apps through Day 30 of usage. In other words, brands get a very short amount of time to prove their worth to mobile app users.
The non-functional aspects of a mobile app can delight or frustrate users. Consider the environments in which users will engage an app and the speeds (4G, 5G, Wi-Fi) they will expect from it. Performance analytics and user tracking can go a long way toward understanding user behavior and perception of an app in production. When in doubt, prioritize the performance and functionality of the features the customer is most likely to use.
Consider what resources (memory, battery, network) the devices will consume and the effect that has on performance over time. For example, a streaming media app likely transmits large amounts of data via data packets rather than consuming memory locally on a device. The user’s experience here must be seamless as they stream content — buffering is the enemy. In the past, mobile apps did a terrible job of managing device memory, consuming too much RAM and then not clearing that memory, leading to a poor experience on all apps in use. Mobile app developers must strike a balance between smooth performance and not needlessly consuming device storage.
Different types of non-functional testing can help you assess mobile app performance, including stress testing, performance testing, load testing and volume testing. A variety of tools and platforms, both open source and third-party, can also help with this task.
Whether it is a mobile game of birds fluttering around a screen or a machine that scans vital signs for emergency room patients, every digital product simply must work. Stability and reliability are of the utmost importance.
While app store scans have improved over the years in detecting basic defects in an app, the impetus is on the organization or the developer to release a high-quality product. App stores will occasionally catch some defects that don’t meet the minimum requirements and reject those apps, but these specifications are generally in place to catch significant security issues or other concerns that might threaten the app store itself.
Utilize automated and manual functional testing to catch as many defects as possible prior to release. The more time and device coverage allotted for testing, the better the results will be on launch day and beyond. Customers are unlikely to return to an app if it crashes the first time they try to launch it.
From a reliability and functional testing perspective, there are many aspects to mobile app testing. The hardware and software are different on mobile apps, and users have different expectations for how these apps should work. Mobile users interact with apps in various places, with different network conditions and variable environmental factors. Test apps should test for compatibility with device mobile sensors, ensure users can perform common mobile operations like pinch and swipe, validate portrait and landscape mode, and assess the functionality of the user interface — just to name a few. These apps can be native mobile apps, mobile web apps or hybrid apps, all of which include their own nuances for dev and test.
Yet none of that matters to the end user. What the end user cares about is that the app works as expected, when and where they want to use it. Thus, reliability on the first use and every subsequent use should be top priority.
Who can use your app? How easily can they use it? How does it make them feel, and why? These are just a few of the questions that usability studies and research can answer. As apps continue to proliferate, users will flock to the ones that they trust and feel comfortable with, not necessarily big, full-featured, brand-endorsed apps.
Tap into the value of user insights. In this guide to usability testing, we discuss types, strategies and examples to help you get the most value from the approach.
More than ever, mobile app users expect some level of personalization and customization. Begin by understanding the customer journey and how users interact with the application. Collecting feedback from users can help to drive features and reveal where users expect personalized customizations that can help tailor the experience to their preferences, such as the ability to use dark mode or enhance the font size on a screen with lots of text. Many of these customizations are of critical importance to users with various disabilities (low vision, blindness, neural diversity, etc.). Developers can also take advantage of the device’s other capabilities to personalize the user experience, such as a bank showing the closest brick-and-mortar location that is open at that time of day. This functionality can drive user interactions and app awareness due to increased value.
Finally, as more interactions become part of everyday omnichannel experiences, in-app payments can further complicate the task of an integrated user experience. Brands who fail to do it well can fall behind and suffer reputation damage. The ability to easily pay for purchases from a mobile phone, or blend a digital journey with a physical one is fast becoming the expectation in our mobile-first world.
If you’re looking for a digital quality partner to help deliver exceptional apps and digital experiences — the first time and every time — talk with Applause today. We help some of the world’s largest brands across many industries launch successful mobile and web apps. Let’s have a discussion about how Applause can help you achieve your digital quality goals.
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