With over two million apps it’s a hard task to stand out and get found by prospective users. It’s brutal competition and there’s nothing more draining than working so hard on a fantastic product, only for returns – low downloads and low ROI – not to match the effort put into it. Having an app with very few downloads is the same as opening a shop with no customers coming through the door. It’s demoralizing. This article details possible ways to increase mobile app downloads and retain acquired customers by keeping them engaged.

How to increase app downloads

Whether it’s been a while since you’ve released your mobile app or you’re just starting out, getting users is an unending loop as far as your continued existence or success is concerned. Despite this obvious fact, a lot of app developers still find it difficult for many reasons, among which there are numerous assumptions and notions. That’s why this section will begin with highlighting some of these mistakes.

 1: All app discovery happens in the app stores
While a large percentage of app discoveries happen in the app stores (about 40% according to thinkwithgoogle.com) there are other channels app developers often neglect at their peril. For example, one of every four downloads, is done as a result of a web search query according to app analytics report ‘How Consumers Really Find and Use Your Apps (U.S)’ by Google/Ipsos. That’s about 25% of total downloads that are left on the table and that’s huge!

 2: Building a mobile app without a marketing plan
After having an “aha” moment to work on an idea, some developers don’t pause to ascertain if there’s a niche out there for their to-be product and more importantly how to tap into the market should the demand already exist. In short, they fail to infuse the ways to promote the app into their plans at all. Except driving downloads, application promotion can bring a lot of other benefits, like honing in on your target audience.

3: Users download the app and that’s all that matters.
According to Localytics, “80% of app users churn after 90 days.” This buttresses the earlier point of getting new users as a continuous process. It however particularly stresses the need to prioritize in-app behavior and user experience. As a matter of fact, most users download apps, try them out and settle on a choice. You’ve got to make a compelling case.

Those are the top three assumptions and mistakes that influence app developers’ behavior towards app marketing. Now, that we’ve learned about some of the stumbling blocks, the next thing is providing tips to improve and boost app downloads.

Tip 1: App Store Optimization (ASO)

As highlighted above, 40% of all app discovery happens in app stores. ASO is a way of optimizing your Google Play Store or Apple App Store presence such that you’re easy to find by users who search for specific keywords related to the features of your application. Your app title, keyword use, app icon have to be tight and on point. Other factors such as organic reviews and ratings are also important. ASO takes time and effort, yet it’s one of the most important standard ways to get traction to your app – whether new or old.

Tip 2: Search Engine Optimization

One in four apps is found via search engines, particularly Google. It’s, therefore, imperative to build a web presence that links to your application. For example, you can make a landing page for it or a microsite that has a blog (although optional). That said, building the landing page or microsite is the beginning of the work, greater effort lies in driving traffic to them. There are three core ways to achieve this:

  1. Mixing well-researched keywords with latent semantic indexing (LSI) keywords. While keywords themselves point search engines in your directions, sometimes they are not clear enough. LSI keywords are synonyms to your main keywords that provide context and more nuance for search engines. For example, let’s say a user makes a query for ‘Apple’; it takes context for the search engine to understand whether your website is about Apple the product or Apple the fruit.
  2. Get backlinks from high authority websites in your domain. It is a way of making online advertising noise that your website is relevant. You can do this by researching your competitors that rank well for the keyword(s) you want to rank for too and using tools to decipher which websites are linked to them.
  3. Produce quality content that drives engagement. Keeping users on your page shows Google that your website provides relevant information that pertains to their queries. The more relevant the content is, the lesser the bounce rate on your website.

Tip 3: Using influencers

In every industry or niche, there are people whose words carry significant weight; people who shape opinions and perception of products and companies. They are called influencers – bloggers or some popular users of social media apps like Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. Of course, you need to do a lot of research to ensure your app suites their audience. This strategy is like word of mouth, just that this has the potential to be one mouth to a thousand other ears.

Tip 4: Put your app on other app stores

The more options you have, the merrier. There are a lot of other platforms where people can discover your app, why not give them a try. There’s Amazon Appstore, AppsLib, SlideMe, GetJar, and many others. People have preferences, that can change anytime; one day they prefer searching for free app downloads on Google Play, and the next day, they’re on AppBrain.

Tip 5: Participate in app awards

If you know your onions, participating in app awards is a good way to get exposure, free press and reviews, which will ultimately lead to more downloads. The caveat, however, is that this would only work if your app meets the most stringent standards in terms of quality and user experience. Firstly, this will help the award organizers take you seriously, and secondly, reduce user churn rate once your application is downloaded. Popular app awards include Appy Awards, The Webby Awards, and Appsters Awards.

Tip 6: Get featured on mobile app review websites

Getting your app featured on a review website like The Next Web with thousands of unique visitors per month can get you tons of exposure. Your job, however, is to convince site owners that your application is useful, stable, user-friendly, sleek, glitch-free, and original. Some of the things you’ll be required to send in include a promo code to grant access to your app (if it’s a paid app), product description and what makes it unique, screenshots, promo videos, and other information on demand.

Tip 7: Take advantage of social media

Social media is a wagon for ongoing conversations and user interactions. They are pivotal to all your digital marketing efforts. When done right, social media campaigns can amplify your brand and put you in front of your target audience. That said, there has to be some tact to social media marketing. For example, you can just post a message once and hope it gets to everybody immediately. You have to learn to say the same thing in different ways, using pictures, videos, infographics, and animations. Another thing to note is that you need to find a voice that best appeals to your audience, and use it consistently. You can’t serve formal business language for an audience that is cool and edgy. There’s a disconnect already, making it hard to get people to listen to your message.

What to do to re-engage your old app users

Usually (although no empirical evidence), users abandon an app for two primary reasons; they find it useless or they discover top applications with greater incentives. To tackle the first problem, app developers have to go back to the proverbial drawing board and rejig their product to include easy-to-use features people need. This must be done from the perspective of users after proper feedback from them. However, for incentives, you need to look at your business and identify sweeteners you can offer. In a survey by Thinkwithgoogle.com, 40% of retail app users and 47% of travel app users said they would return to an application if they are offered a discount or a coupon.

Other ways to retain and engage your users include:

  • In-app advertising messages that guide your users through your app experience;
  • Rich personalized push and geopush notifications on the home screen;
  • On boarding process at the first launch of the app. This can include highlighting the best features of the application and stating clearly what makes the product stand out;
  • Simple and seamless start-up process. Make signup easy by asking for the least information possible.