Stand out in the App Store, boost user acquisition

So you’ve got an idea for the next big app.

You’re brainstorming, you’re chatting with friends, you’re dreaming… You can already imagine the conversations: “there’s an app for that. Check out <insert your App’s name here>.”

There are several reasons why some apps fail and some succeed. Having the right team in place is usually the biggest differentiating factor between the two. Standing out in the App Store is another. In order to make your dream a reality, there is something you should keep in mind. And it is all the buzz in tech right now: user acquisition.

Acquiring users is the single hardest part of successfully launching an app, and it is also mission critical if you don’t want to sink tens of thousands of dollars into an otherwise fruitless venture. After all, what good is your app if you don’t have any users?

Many app startups choose to launch their app first on the Apple platform - feel free to shoot me an email to ask me why. Here are 9 things to consider from a user acquisition/App Store perspective when launching your app:

  1. Do your due diligence
    • Take time to understand Apple’s latest features and the way the App Store works. Apple adds new features to their core operating system on the reg. They tend to rank apps higher when they are leveraging these new features, and even higher if app pages effectively call them out. The App Store should not be viewed as just a form you fill out after you’ve done all the hard work of design and development — you should have a researched strategy for optimizing your app page within the App Store and it should be incorporated into your plan from the get-go.
  2. Killer UI design is a must
    • The interface design of your app is a fundamental component of user acquisition. A user is more likely to download an intuitive, nicely designed app over an outdated, cumbersome app that is difficult to use, right? Duh! We’ve all done it… downloaded an app, just to open it up, close it, and immediately hit delete. Don’t underestimate the value of user experience/user interface design. It is worth investing in a skilled UI/UX designer if you indeed want your app to be successful.
  3. Strong icon design is also a must
    • Your app icon is the first thing your user sees in the App Store — make sure it grabs their attention. App icons are small. Leave words/phrases out of the app icon design, as the name of your app will display in text below it and you don’t want to waste valuable design real estate on unnecessary text. A strong app icon will also encourage users to continue opening your app, as it is the sole representation of your app on their phone screen.
  4. Custom screenshots/screencasts are becoming standard best practice
    • Hire a pro to design custom App Store screenshots/screencasts, which sell your app to potential users. Include iPhone mockups (and iPad mockups if you'll support that) in the screenshots, as Apple appreciates any ode to their devices. Describe the benefits of your app briefly on each slide (“Get paid on time” or “Stay close to your friends”). Users in the App Store often scroll through the screenshots before deciding to download your app. Make an impression and tell them how your app is going to change their life for the better.
    • Bonus, add a screencast or video! Apps that have screencasts are also more likely to see higher download rates, as users are afforded the opportunity to experience your app without having to take that extra download step immediately.
  5. Be strategic about metadata
    • Metadata is the information you report to Apple and that is displayed on your app page in the App Store. Treat that page like you would a landing page on a website. Take time to research keywords that are being searched for and include those when describing your app. The title of your app should include a couple keywords and your app name, while also being short and catchy: “OWLe - Operations Efficiency for Airports”. Apple has also reported that users tend to appreciate and download apps that are built on-shore (in the USA). If you didn’t leverage overseas developers and contributed directly to your own local economy, feature that in your metadata!
  6. Niche wayyyyyyyyy down for the initial launch
    • Most marketing professionals understand the importance of defining your niche. Don't waste money on broadly marketing your app to "everyone". Instead, start with a distilled down target market.
  7. Release on a Tuesday
    • Apple releases new curated lists for Featured Apps on Thursdays — it is believed that launching on a Tuesday gives them enough time to notice your app, while also realizing that is fresh, new, and hot.
  8. Don’t write off traditional PR and advertising
    • Start out by pitching your app to Apple — straight up ask them to feature it! Send an email to or and share with them why your app deserves to be featured. It’s worth consulting a PR pro to help you draft this email. You should also have an integrated marketing plan that leverages outlets outside of the App Store to drive downloads and acquire loyal users. Build a promotional website, advertise on Facebook, reach out to media outlets outside of Apple, and build the hype around your app in other targeted markets.
  9. Keep a close eye on ratings and reviews
    • Ever wonder why so many apps ask you to rate your experience? It’s because they want to acquire other users from your positive review! According to Business Insider, “Apple looks at reviews, engagement, star rankings, downloads, revenue and sales...” Stay in touch with the people who are reviewing your app, pivot and add new features when your users ask you to, and encourage users to leave positive reviews as often as possible (without being annoying). If you give your users what they want, they are more likely to give you a five star rating, leave you a positive review, and help boost your app in the App Store.
Global app stores are expected to exceed $139 billion [in revenue] by 2021.
— App Annie

User acquisition is only one component of app success. There are several other things to consider when scoping out and planning your app (the MVP model, for example) and having a great team in place can help. Launching an app is just like starting any other business — there are risks that need to be measured, investments that need to be made, market research that needs to be performed, and a willingness to pivot if/when your users give you feedback that they want a new or different feature.

Unsure if the app market is worth investing in?

According to App Annie's report from the end of 2016, “2016 is shaping up to be a phenomenal year for the app economy. By the end of December, we expect $52 billion in gross consumer spend on mobile app stores and a staggering $77 billion in gross spend on mobile in-app advertising. Mobile is more mainstream than ever, and businesses from all industries are relying on this channel to bolster existing revenue streams and unlock new ones.”

Yeah, I think your app idea is worth a shot.