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What App Store Changes Mean for App Marketers

After weeks of breathless conjecture — will they introduce a new iPhone? (no!) or home automation? (yes!) — Apple used yesterday’s WWDC keynote to unveil a slew of changes and updates to OS X, iOS, and the App Store, but no new hardware. Instead, the focus of the event was squarely on developers. Yes, new features like improvements to iMessage, family sharing, and OS X to iOS AirDrop are nice updates for consumers. But in a nod to how important the developer ecosystem is to maintaining their position, Apple hammered home the message that this year’s updates are focused on developers, for both the mobile and desktop platforms.

With those updates, though, come some changes for app marketers, too. While we’ll have to wait til the release in the fall to really start testing the impact these changes will have, here are some initial thoughts.

  • Bundling: The iOS 8 App Store will offer developers the ability to bundle multiple apps together and sell them for a reduced price. Sounds good – but over 90% of apps being downloaded today are free, which limits the impact this feature will have. Our question is if bundling will work for free apps, too. Consider a developer with multiple apps, or multiple developers teaming up to create bundles of apps targeted at specific interests, behaviors, or topics. A free baseball bundle could include a scoreboard app, a game, and a fantasy management app, for example. Or a car company could bundle an auto club app and a gas savings app. The companies would potentially be able to market these packages together to increase downloads for all of the apps.
  • Search changes: Apple’s dedication to helping solve the app discoverability challenge was on display in the several changes made to the way App Store search works: new scrolling result lists, suggested searches, and trending searches all help users find exactly what they want. However, if search results continue to be sorted as they are today, rising to top of the results will still require significant download volume. If search usage increases, getting enough rank to improve search results will become even more important for app marketers.
  • Video trailers: Adding videos to the screenshot and text in App Store descriptions is a nice boost for developers with high-quality apps: while screenshots can be deceptive, actual gameplay or usage examples can go a long way towards convincing users to download. It also dovetails nicely with the rise of video ad networks for app marketing: marketers will be able to repurpose video created for the app store in their paid media efforts, too.
  • Editor’s choice logo: While additional recognition like this is nice, we don’t expect it to have much impact on download volumes. The current “Featured Apps” get only short-term burst of downloads that quickly dries up, and getting featured in this way is rare and impossible to predict. Editor’s choice recognition will likely be similar: a nice boost, but not something you can build a strategy on.
  • Explore tab: We’re less clear about the impact this will have, as exactly how it will work wasn’t totally explained. While giving users a new way to find the apps they want sounds great, there will still need to be a ranking algorithm that decides which apps appear at the top of the lists — and if it works the same as the current top charts, it will simply reward apps that are getting the most downloads already. If it provides a more granular breakdown of apps than the current set of categories, it will help more apps get visibility, but again, the exact impact won’t be known until iOS 8 is broadly released.
  • Testflight: This beta testing service is very promising for app developers looking to QA their apps. It’s important to distinguish, though, between a beta test, which is focused on finding technical problems and evaluating the app itself, and a soft launch, which is more focused on understanding how users interact with your app. Putting this beta testing stage in place is indicative of the ongoing maturation of the mobile marketplace, too: instead of just throwing up an app and seeing what happens, developers can implement a multi-stage app testing and launching process to make sure they make the biggest splash possible.

One other change that may have a significant impact on app marketers is the increased capabilities offered in notifications. By giving users the ability to interact with an app directly in their notifications, instead of making them stop what they’re doing to open the app, developers have a powerful new tool for increasing engagement. If used right, push notifications that provide value and let the user take an action may seem less intrusive than today’s messaging-only notifications. On the other hand, allowing users to take actions without opening an app may actually decreasethe time they spend in your app. This may pose a measurement and reporting challenge as usage patterns shift over time.

We’re looking forward to getting more details on iOS 8 and the App Store, and we’ll start testing some of the new features as soon as they’re released to the general public. In the meantime, if there are any other changes announced at WWDC that you think are going to have a big impact on app marketers, let us know in the comments below. If you’re worried about how these changes may affect your app marketing results, fear not, we can help. Learn more about how Fiksu can help you solve the most common app marketing challenges, be it on iOS 7, iOS 8, or beyond

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