In the first part of this “make your app shine” series, we talked about how you can transform that ‘back of the napkin’ idea into an app that delights users. You can do this via a well thought through design framework and a robust development environment. So, you’ve built your app and launched it on the Google Play Store. Your next logical step is to build traction — first to acquire new users and then ensure consistent engagement and retention via contextual touchpoints. To navigate successfully through the second stage of your app’s journey, we will offer you the ‘think principles’ once again. So here goes.

What you have to think about in the acquisition and engagement phases:

  1. Driving acquisition through smart store listing design and running experiments
  2. Visualizing your users’ journey in terms of funnels
  3. Building a sound data intelligence and analytics strategy

The good news is that Google Play provides you with a comprehensive knowledge ecosystem to manage acquisition and engagement, and hopefully, this article will help you to tap into all of that.

Acquire and engage

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When we say store listing content, it is not just about creating a nice looking entry page to attract visitors. A good store listing page is easily discoverable, well tested, and has a solid content framework behind it to nurture audience growth. This ensures targeted visits, installs, free trials, and purchases. Easy discovery and a well-tested listing indicates a page has been vetted by running variants and then arriving at a version that works to scale. At Google Play, we give you an option to run A/B experiments by testing page variants to see which pages drive more conversions from visits to installs. And a solid content framework means you have a content map with offers and programs to drive your app’s education and awareness via marketing campaigns. Let’s double click on each of these.

Easy discovery — start by thinking how would users search for your app and your app’s features and attributes. Write them down and build up your store listing page from that. Make sure you are using clear messaging and being concise. Apart from this, a frequent analysis of the acquisition report via the Google Play Console will give you the top channels your users are coming from. A drill down into the channels and behavior will give direction to your acquisition campaign.

Ensure that your store listing page has easily consumable content with a call to action and that it is in lockstep with your marketing campaigns. Easily consumable content would mean that a user can grasp what the app does and how it provides value in a quick read. You can leverage clear graphics, an explainer or demo video, compelling customer stories, or a comparative feature matrix with icons. Last but not least, you would have to familiarize yourself with the categorization of content on Google Play to slot this app on the right shelf. And of course, take advantage of localizing your app in various languages.

Store listing page experiments — once your main listing page and custom listing pages are ready to go, it’s sniff test time. That’s when a few different versions of your page are run by your target audience to see what resonates. If you’re running nurture campaigns, here’s where email analytics and A/B tests will be important. As mentioned, Google Play offers you the options to run A/B experiments for your store listing and review the clicks, heat maps, downloads of your app, cohort behavior, and other such performance metrics to evaluate success. The Google Play Console can help you to configure your analytics to understand what’s working easily. Check the article here to help you get the most out of your in-app A/B testing.

Pre-launch and other marketing campaigns — tied to the creation of your store listing page would be sowing the seeds for top-of-the-funnel momentum. Google Play offers pre-registration as pre-launch marketing to build awareness for your app or game and drive traffic before it actually launches. Most pre-launch marketing efforts usually result in higher installs as well. Here’s a free e-learning course on pre-registration and a support page to configure pre-launch efforts.

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Your APK is ready, and you’ve launched your app to the store via the Play Console. You have created an optimized store listing for your app. You’ve mapped your content strategy already, and the next challenge is to figure out how your funnel strategy should drive goals such as maximizing installs, conversion to free trials, and app purchases.

In traditional terms, the funnel would start with awareness and education for acquisition and trickle down to adoption/activation and commitment. For your app, awareness would mean landing visitors on your store listing page via campaigns and making sure they install the app as the final endpoint. Adoption would mean that these visitors who have installed the app find value and engage on a frequent basis or sign up for a free trial. Conversion or the final victory leg would be to convert the free trial install base into paid customers.

Awareness and trust — to drive top-of-the-funnel trust and brand awareness, you’d begin by ensuring a tight campaign framework. At Google Play, we offer universal app campaigns to steer your app performance with goals. With UAC, you can reach users through Google’s largest properties like Google Search, Google Play, YouTube, and Google Display Network — all from one campaign. You can also get access to ad placements specific to UAC. These placements will connect you to users in ‘discovery mode’ as they browse through to find their favorite app.

Awareness and education also mean creating a social and community distribution plan to drive engagement with thought leadership content like blogs, podcasts, product explainer or demo videos, customer stories or other visual content woven into all the viral channels of your app. The success KPIs to measure these awareness tactics are the number of visitors and app installs. The more visitors to your store listing and the more installs, the better your education/awareness campaign. The Google Play Console provides detailed acquisition reporting to help understand where your audience is coming from and measure the impact of your store listing changes.

Adoption and activation — this is the process where your users have installed the app but are still not very clear on the exact value the app gives to them. This is your opportunity to provide that insight to them via middle funnel content.

This means segmenting your install base to understand their psychographic and demographic characteristics and serving relevant, custom content depending on the type of user. For example, based on the information provided by a user at sign up, a health app could display goal related information to that user. For example weight loss tactics for one person, or strength building for another. Once a user engages with your app, you’ve got a qualified lead. And you can start to measure their stickiness via metrics like time spent on the app etc.

At this stage, user reviews and ratings become very important to make continuous improvements to the app and to connect with your users. It is also essential to understand the ratings across actionable categories like usability, stability, speed, design, etc. Google Play also offers peer benchmarking to see how your rating compares to other apps in the same category. User ratings and reviews are also important throughout the app’s lifecycle, and we offer you various tips to manage them. Make sure to also learn about driving seamless in-app experiences via features like in-app review API.

Conversion/purchase and/or long-term engagement — a key milestone is to convert a user into a paid customer or ensure long term engagement in case of some apps. This is the point where your app ‘moves the needle’ for that user enough to swipe their card or spend a lot more time on the app as a result of deriving value. This committed paying user base will be a significantly smaller proportion of the overall user base, but will be of highest value to your business.

These paying or fully engaged customers don’t need to be served basic value proposition specific content, but they need bottom-of-the-funnel content and nurturing to ensure they don’t churn. So in your content plan, you’d need to provide a clear conversion and a deeper engagement path via things like premium or customized content features like LiveOps (more applicable for games) or community engagement (think leaderboard type features).

This is also an opportunity to introduce discounts and price matches on subscriptions based on competitive benchmarking. An essential piece of the conversion cycle is to manage the churn. How would you re-engage the customers who did install or went through a free trial but were not compelled to hit the purchase button? Here’s where personalized push notifications and offers would make a difference. There is an informative post on optimizing engagement via ten tips. Make sure to read through it.

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Once your app is in the store and is being installed/downloaded, it means that it is resonating with your target audience. And at this time, understanding the data becomes important. The acquisition report in Play Console will help you to decode this data and plan the right type of campaigns for your audience by looking at the most popular acquisition traffic sources, conversion rates, and cohort metrics. High-level analytics metrics that you should focus on for acquisition and ongoing engagement:

Sources for acquisition — the acquisition report will help you to evaluate the performance of your store listing page by providing overall acquisition trends, the impact of your store listing changes, and sources. Are people finding your listing organically, or are they coming via paid search or some referral channel? Why is this important — because based on the most lucrative source, you might want to maximize value by redirecting your effort and budget. The store analysis page provides a high-level overview of your acquisition performance and identifies problem areas that might need further exploration.

Understanding conversions — store listing conversion means visitors to the listing page that installed/acquired the app. Our new acquisition report will also provide acquisition data from users who had previously had the app installed, as well as those who never tried it. The report filters out data on current installations, giving a chance to focus on potential conversions. It also counts the acquisition that happened only after the store listing visits to determine conversions. Please note that the new acquisition report does not provide cohort conversion metrics of retained installers and buyers. Understanding these conversion numbers and patterns and fine-tuning the journey from a visit to acquisitions is critical for app success.

Stickiness — this can be figured using metrics like time spent on apps by measuring the duration of time on the app daily, weekly, or monthly. Of course, a large user base installing the app is a good indicator of acquisition, but are they going to stick? It can also be measured by seeing how they’re performing some critical activities you’ve marked as your goals. Churn metrics are essential to decode, as those will be used to determine if the users will return or abandon the app permanently.

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In our next blog, which will be about monetization strategy, we will talk about how you can grow your revenue from your committed user base, understand how to work with first-time buyers vs. returning users, how you can localize your pricing to gain a larger share of the market internationally, and improve your monetization metrics to reach more paying customers. Stay tuned!

What do you think?

Do you have thoughts on how to get from ideation to design and build? Let us know in the comments below or tweet using #AskPlayDev and we’ll reply from @GooglePlayDev, where we regularly share news and tips on how to be successful on Google Play.

By Padminimurthy This post was co-authored by Padmini Murthy and Carol Soler.


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