The Growing Challenge of App Discovery

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Over at TechCrunch, there’s an interesting piece by Branch.io founder Alex Austin about the Apple App Store, which he describes as a “graveyard” of app discoverability.

So far in 2016, more than 50,000 apps have been released to the App Store every month—an exponential increase over the past few years. Despite that accelerating rate of app releases, two key metrics—average number of ratings per app, and time invested in app before abandonment—have dipped precipitously since 2009.

Crunching this data, Austin comes to the conclusion that “the App Store has accumulated more than 1.5 million abandoned apps at the end of 2015.” That sort of turnover “has made the App Store a graveyard of hopes and dreams.”

App developers already know it’s hard to make their product truly stand out on the App Store. This summer, Apple has responded to those concerns by rolling out a new advertising platform that will allow independent developers and software companies alike to buy ads on app search-result pages.

Those search ads will come with no user tracking and no data sharing; they’ll also be clearly marked. The full version of the advertising platform will roll out this fall, although the beta is already online for anyone who wants to try it out.

But an app won’t succeed or fail based on buying ads for it. Putting an aggressive marketing plan in place before launch is nearly as essential as creating a polished product. Websites and bloggers who review apps remain a good way for a developer to achieve visibility; in order to land a review, an app must offer something truly unique, rather than cloning the features of competitors.

In a similar vein, many developers have targeted their app-development efforts at building software that interoperates with larger platforms. If your app is part of a bigger social-networking or messaging ecosystem, such as Facebook or Slack, it can target a massive built-in audience.

In a bid for broader adoption, many developers are also making their apps free, hoping that users will shell out a little cash for upgrades or additional features. Apple’s new app-subscription model facilitates this approach, yet visibility is still an issue.

Whatever their choice of marketing tactics, developers know they face a significant challenge when it comes to app visibility—one that’s only getting harder as time goes by.

Image Credit: Bloomua/Shutterstock.com

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