The other day, I signed up for a friend's solidcore Pilates class.
Once I'd paid for the class, I got a text asking me to download the [solidcore] app to review upcoming classes, integrate with my Google Calendar, and buy credits for future classes.
Undoubtedly, the ability to use the business's app was a major component in me becoming a more loyal member. The app was incredibly easy-to-use and sent me notifications 10 minutes before the class started.
Nowadays, it's not unheard of for businesses to have their own apps — 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.
Additionally, you'll notice simply from shifting through your app store that plenty of businesses use their own apps. I've downloaded apps from major airlines, investment banks, and even small local restaurants or yoga studios.
So it makes sense if you're considering creating a mobile app for your own company. But, while a mobile app as a revenue generator can be quite lucrative, the low barrier to entry makes a successful launch all the more challenging.
According to former CEO of AppVee and AndroidApps Alex Ahlund, the average cost to develop a mobile app is $6,453 — and the cost can skyrocket to as much as $150,000 depending on the complexity of the app.
Wherever you fall on that spectrum, the money and resources you dedicate to conceptualizing and developing a truly great mobile app can all be put to waste if you don't orchestrate a proper mobile app launch.
And then once you've launched, your work has only just begun. You then need to think about how to make your app "sticky" — to ensure people come back again and again.
For the purposes of this post, we're assuming you've already come up with a great initial mobile app idea and have a goal to get as many downloads as possible upon launch. Here, let's explore how to conduct a successful launch, and how to ensure you can retain app users for the long-haul.
How to Launch a Mobile App
1. Do Market Research
As of January 2020, it's been estimated that a total of 1,800,000 apps are available on the Apple App Store. And that number doesn't even encapsulate Android apps in Google and Windows app stores either.
So — what does this mean for you? You probably already have a ton of competition. Conducting thorough market research becomes necessary in order for you to truly differentiate your app.
It's critical you get to know the leading apps in your niche, see where they fall short, and use those insights to make your app even better than the competition's.
Depending on your budget, you may want to do primary research for prospect users. But even secondary research can give you a lot of insights. Take a look at reviews on competitor app pages on the App stores, as well as checking reviews on YouTube and blogs to see what actual users have said 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 some measurable goals around your launch. We recommend measuring success around your active install rate — this tells you retention rate, or the number of people who install your app and then don't uninstall it — the number of ratings you receive, your average rating in the app marketplace, and if you're selling your app, revenue generated from your app.
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 levels off around 30%. The average app store rating is a 3-4 (out of 5), for which you should certainly strive much higher to maintain a healthy active install rate.
Later in the post, we'll explore how to ensure you get high app store ratings post-launch.
3. Consider Cross-platform and Browser Versions of the App
It's no longer enough to stick to one platform (typically Android or iOS). Now, it's important to be available across multiple platforms to expand your reach.
As of January 2020, market share between mobile operating systems were at 74.3% for Android, 24.76% for iOS, and the remaining 2% are divided among other operating systems.
Not only is cross-platform development the way to go for more reach, but it's also more cost-effective in the long-run, especially if you use top-rated IDE software to accelerate app development. Most IDE software even lets you create web browser versions of your mobile apps, giving users more ways to use your app across any device.
Budgeting app Goodbudget, for instance, is available on iOS, Android, and is perfectly accessible on a web browser.
4. Claim Your Social Media Accounts
Pre-launch, you'll want to claim your accounts in social media, and use them actively to generate interest or even early sign-ups, as we'll discuss more in Step 7.
You can use your social media accounts to showcase the app while it's in development and solicit feedback and ideas from your future users. When your app launches, though, be sure to change the link in your social media bios to direct to the app store download. Remember, your goal isn't site traffic — you want to drive downloads.
And don't discount newer social networks like Pinterest for launching your mobile app — the highly visual social network is the ideal place to show other mobile app developers your product in its final stages who may have some great suggestions for UI/UX improvements. Unless, of course, you're trying to beat a competitor to market!
Finally, if you're a HubSpot customer, you can leverage another app — the Facebook Welcome app in HubSpot's app marketplace — to help with your mobile app launch on Facebook.
Generate some pre-release buzz by customizing a page that lets people sign up for an alert when the app launches. We'll get into some fun pre-launch deals that will generate buzz around your app that you can associate with this email alert in future steps.
5. Create Content
Spend time creating content that clearly explains how to use your mobile app. This content should include blog posts, press releases, social media content, website copy, and email marketing copy.
You can pre-schedule all of this to go live on your launch day, although you should check in periodically on social media during launch week to provide real-time updates that pertain to support issues, reviews, and respond to user recommendations.
6. Record a Demo
You'll want to create a video that shows how to use your mobile app — you can easily do this with a user-friendly program like Camtasia that allows screen capture and voiceover recording.
In your video, clearly explain what your app does and why it's useful in real-life scenarios.
Again, there are so many mobile apps out there, so differentiating yours will come down to clear communication in all of your marketing materials. A short video demo is one of the easiest ways to display the value of your mobile app.
For an example of a fantastic mobile app demo, see CanadaQBank.com's Mobile App Demo, which shows how the app works, and who it's meant for:
7. Launch a Dedicated Site or Page
You can launch either a dedicated website for your app — more appropriate if your mobile app is a business in its own right — or simply create a page for your mobile app on your website. The latter is what most companies choose to do.
To complement your social media efforts, you should launch these pages even if your app hasn't yet hit the market, like how PandaDoc did pre-launch. Direct users to this page of your site, let them view your demo video, and encourage them to sign up for a download alert email once your mobile app goes to market.
8. Choose an App Store
Initially, you'll want to choose just one app store in which to launch your mobile app. This should help you get the highest concentration of users and ratings possible.
Additionally, you'll be making lots of changes and improvements to your app during those first few weeks after launch, and having your app in just one store will help you streamline those updates as they roll out. Once your app is more established, feel free to expand it to more app stores.
The most common app stores are the Android Market and the Apple App Store, but there are many other app stores out there (even HubSpot has its own new and improved App Marketplace!). Ultimately, if you're unsure, do some audience testing to determine which Store is used most by your target market.
9. Use App Store Optimization to Get Discovered
Don't confuse app store optimization (ASO) with SEO — while both important, you need ASO to get your mobile app discovered specifically within the app stores of your choosing.
Best practices include optimizing your app title with relevant keywords. And when you're submitting your app to these different app stores, be sure to fill out all the categories most relevant to your app, so users browsing through categories have a good chance of finding you.
Also, you'll want to include clear screenshots within your app download page that showcase the most common use cases of your app.
In the example below, Todoist uses keywords like to-do lists and project planner. Their app screenshots are also beautifully designed, telling you how you can use the app right away.
10. Network With Other App Developers
Consider reaching out to other app developers that have created an app that could be complementary to yours, and whose users might also like to use your app. You could set up a mutually beneficial co-marketing opportunity that helps you both increase your install rates.
Just be sure to select developers who have great ratings in the app store. You don't want to associate your app with a bad product.
11. Pitch Your App
Pitch your story to tech, mobile, and industry journalists and bloggers. Be armed with the video demo you recorded, and be prepared to give them a free download of your app so they can get to know the interface and your app's capabilities. Make yourself readily available to answer any of their questions, and consider them another test group who can find bugs and make UX/UI recommendations.
You should start pitching at least a few weeks in advance so they have time to experiment with your app and write a compelling story without being rushed. Plus, the more time they have, the more likely they can fit you into their editorial calendar.
12. Tap Your Network for Buzz
Reach out to your business network and ask them to share your content about the app's impending release on their social channels. Send your network a sneak preview email with a link to your demo video so they can see how your app works, and include social sharing buttons to make sharing your content easy.
This is also a great recourse for bloggers and journalists you've contacted who aren't willing to publish long-form content about your app — you can ask them if they'd be willing to tweet a blog post you've written about your app, instead.
13. Set Up Paid Advertising
Because of the Google algorithm's freshness update, you might gain some organic search tractions at your mobile app launch. Complement that search presence with some paid advertising during launch week.
You can also set up paid, targeted ads on Facebook to drive users to your Facebook fan page, where they'll be greeted with your welcome screen encouraging them to sign up for your mobile app (refer back to Step 4).
Alternatively, you can redirect people straight to your app downloads page so that they can install it on their phones right away. Which strategy you decide to go with may depend on your app.
For instance, 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, can have ads that take users straight to the app download page.
14. Tap Influencers or Industry Thought Leaders
Influencer marketing is only growing in 2020, so if you want to spread the word for your app, we can't emphasize this step enough.
Look for different social media influencers, bloggers, and content creators who can help generate buzz for your app before it launches. Choose influencers whom you think will benefit greatly by using yours, and conduct personalized email outreach marketing to effectively build relationships and win them over.
For instance, if you're launching a mobile app for weight loss, tap different fitness influencers who talk about workout regimes or macro-tracking — whichever features your app has.
15. Launch an Invite-only Beta
Before you take your mobile app live to the public, consider an invite-only beta launch. Websites Spotify, Google+, and Pinterest have used this tactic with great success. It not only creates an air of exclusivity that generates buzz around your product, but it also lets you get feedback from a trusted network so you can fix bugs and UX/UI problems before rolling your app out full scale.
You can use the email list referenced in Step 4 as your pre-launch beta test group, and supplement it with an email marketing send to a segment of your current customer list that would benefit from using your mobile app. You can position the launch as the opportunity for free, exclusive access to your mobile app before it launches, and even ask them to write a review of your app in exchange for that free, exclusive access.
Alternatively, you can use TestFlight to launch a beta version of your app and invite users to give it a test run until your official launch.
16. Partner With Affiliates to Promote Your App
We've mentioned influencers and industry thought leaders in Step 14, but you can take your partnership the extra mile by creating an affiliate program to encourage downloads or purchases.
Identify key influencers — these can be media contacts or social media influencers with bigger followings — whom you can incentivize for pushing your app. Give them a special link that tracks purchases or downloads, so they automatically get instant rewards when their audience does a desired action.
17. Put Download Links Everywhere
Congrats — you're officially ready to go live to the public!
You'll want to put links to download your mobile app on your blog, your website's home page, in your marketing emails, and on your social media accounts — you can even add a mobile tab to your Facebook page.
For instance, take a look at Waze app page below, which includes three calls-to-action above the fold, all of which are to download the app:
18. Have a Launch Party
A launch party doesn't have to be anything big. In fact, you can have a small intimate digital launch party through a webinar. Invite early adopters, influencers, tech journalists, and others to take part in a short launch.
You can announce special live discounts or perks while giving attendees all the details they need to download your app or spread the word.
Below, developers of Summerian announced a launch party happening on Product Hunt, while giving interested users a peek of what to expect during the launch:
19. Monitor Feedback and Encourage Reviews
Finally, you'll want to monitor peoples' feedback about your app, and strongly encourage users to post reviews.
It's not just that the apps with the best reviews get the most visibility and downloads — this process also helps you identify bugs you wouldn't otherwise know about and make quick changes to improve the user experience and make your app stickier.
Keep users updated on your progress as you make it so they know you're listening and responding to their feedback, and take a look at Steps 21 and 22 if you want to take this even further while involving and updating users on new features and updates.
20. Identify Potential Integrations
The average smartphone user has between 60 to 90 apps on their phones, and you might have noticed some apps integrate with one another — for instance, you can log into your account on Pinterest using Facebook, or integrate your native Health app with your calorie counting app or fitness tracker.
This is more convenient for users, and best of all, you can increase retention when you integrate seamlessly with apps your users already have.
In HubSpot App Marketplace, for example, you can find all the apps that integrate with HubSpot seamlessly. Get to know who the developers for these apps are and strike up a partnership. You'll never know how many doors these app integrations can open for you.
21. Publish an App Update Log
Transparency is becoming a very important thing for consumers, and one way to be more transparent with users about your mobile app is to keep them up-to-date with any changes and features over time.
An update log is the easiest way to do this. Send these logs to your app store pages, and even have a dedicated update log page on your website for users to easily see changes you've implemented the past several weeks.
By keeping users updated with your app changes, you can also increase retention rates as users see different updates they might have been waiting for or may benefit to learn more about. If an update is particularly big — such as a big interface change or even an exciting new feature — you can send push notifications and in-app pop-ups for users to see a breakdown of these new features on a dedicated page on your website.
Sometimes a brand will even inject their personality into these app updates. Just take a look at one of Medium's app updates from 2016:
22. Keep a Hub of 'Coming Soon' and 'Wishlist' Features
If you want to let users know you're listening to their suggestions and feedback like we mention in Step 19, then you can create a hub of your Coming Soon or wishlisted features.
Loom is a great example of a software app that does this. While they're not a mobile app, the way they keep users updated with features that are coming soon or may be considered for development is a great way to keep your current customers on your app.
Create a button or page on your mobile app that lets people submit feedback or requests for new features. Once they've submitted their thoughts, you can send them to this Coming Soon hub so they see all the exciting things you have in the works. They'll be much more likely to stay on board to see these features come to life, and you'll be increasing your retention rates and customer loyalty in the long run.
To help you manage your updates and still keep your app running for users, it's best to use a NoSQL database, considering its popularity for helping mobile app developers worldwide manage their apps in a more streamlined way while lessening downtime for users.
Launch Your Mobile App the Right Way
Are you ready to launch your mobile app this year? Simply follow the steps above to make sure you've got everything covered for your launch, while making sure you can keep users around for the long haul. I'm excited to see your app come to life.