Category Archives: online marketing

Marketing on the App Store

Marketing on the App Store is a bit of a black art at present with Apple playing their cards very close to their chest. In this blog post I’m going to share some tips and tricks that have been successful for me when launching and marketing iPhone apps. Please leave a comment if you have other tips you’d like to share which have worked for you in the past.

Build a great app

Before you can start marketing anything you need to build a compelling product. This is no difference on the App Store, in fact with almost 100,000 applications all vying for attention it becomes even more important to think about what differentiates your product and why people should choose yours over your competitors.

Get the message

Simple, compelling messaging is always important but on the App Store it becomes even more so as your app store listing also drives search results. Unfortunately as you’re not dealing with Google PageRank there aren’t any easy to use tools to show you how to improve your App Store SEO, so you’ll have to rely on intuition and a lot of trial and error.

Put yourself in the shoes of your users and think of all the terms they could be searching on to find an app like yours. Also use the standard Google SEO tools to find popular keywords online as these will likely be just as prevalent in the App Store too. Once you have all of these keywords and search terms write your App Store listing to include these terms.

Thankfully you can change your listing regularly, so keep an eye on your search results and your competitors search results for key terms and update your listing text as needed.

Reviews and key press coverage can also be incorporated into your listing to boost your rankings. Some Apps have also taken to including their competitors names in their listing text, for example ‘Similar to’ or ‘Better than’ which may also help to boost rating. Apple have yet to create any guidelines on usage of brand terms so at present only your sense of wrong and right will limit your usage of other’s brands in your listing. It’s unclear if Apple will allow this to continue going forward.

Build the buzz on YouTube

Planning your iPhone app launch with any level of confidence is difficult as you can’t completely control the time or the day your application goes live. The best you can do is have everything ready to go and once you receive an email from Apple stating that your iPhone App will be available for download in the next 24 hours put your marketing and PR efforts live. The best case scenario from submission to launch is a week but I’ve seen lags of over a month so be prepared.

While you’re waiting for your application to launch you can build buzz for your app by creating a demo video showing your iPhone application on YouTube and promoting it as ‘Coming Soon’ on your website. Your video should give people an idea of what your application does, how it works and showcase any fancy features to get Apple fans’ hearts racing. You can use the video to involve key influencers, including bloggers, journalists and app review sites, before the application goes live and help to build a buzz for your app. Let others help to spread the word for you too by making your video available for blogs, review and news sites to embed.

Another idea is to begin collecting email addresses for people who want to know immediately once your iPhone app is available. You’ll then be able to email them when the application is available for download, giving an important boost to your initial download numbers.

Make every download count

When launching your application you’ll be given 50 free download codes to use to promote the application. Use these carefully as they’re very valuable, you need to make each and every one count. Make sure the people you give the codes to will actually use them as this will help to drive your initial download numbers and encourage as many of them as possible to write a review of your application.

Your download numbers in the first few days will influence your position in the top 100 listings for your particular category and the more downloads you can drive the higher you’ll go in the list and the more downloads you’ll get. So make each and every of your fifty count and ask everyone to…

…Write A Review

Once you’ve published your iPhone App to the iTunes App Store one of the most valuable tools you have available to you are the user reviews.

Only people who have purchased your app can write a review. Reviews drive your application’s rating, applications with a better rating have a better search ranking in App Store results. However the number of reviews left in a day also influences the ranking in search results, therefore it’s best to get a big spike of reviews in one 24-hour period rather than a steady stream of reviews in a week.

Once your app is live, encourage all your friends, staff members and friendly press to download the application and write a review in a specific 24-hour period to give yourself an initial boost. Of course you can’t encourage them to write a glowing review, just an honest one, but hopefully they’ll love the app and tell the world about it.

When you do get critical reviews these should be viewed as valuable market research and the feedback provided should be collected and acted upon. Use this information to prioritize your development activities for future updates. When releasing new versions that improve or fix elements that reviewers have complained about, be sure to draw attention to the fix and ask reviewers to try your application again and update their previous review.

Reaching out

A tight community of bloggers, app review sites and news sites now cover iPhone applications. Reviews or articles on these blogs and review site can provide huge amount of attention for your application. Be sure to reach out to the key contacts, introduce yourself and tell them about your application. You should view this as an ongoing relationship and concentrate on developing good relations with these writers. Be sure to read their latest articles before you pick up the phone or pen that email. As with any media it’s key to be relevant to them and not waste their time. If the site only covers iPhone games pitching your business application is unlikely to result in coverage – be targeted and relevant.

Tried & Tested

If you have a web presence for your iPhone application you can also use some of the tried and tested online marketing techniques to boost your iPhone App online:

  • Build a page for your iPhone app and explain why its great.
  • Include a prominent download link for your application from your website. Apple have created an image to be used on your website and you can find the url for your application in iTunes by right clicking on your application and using the ‘Copy URL’ command.
  • If you created a video then let users view this directly from the webpage.
  • Find forums, community sites and blog posts that are relevant to your iPhone application and post to these to increase awareness and help to improve your SEO listing.
  • Include a download link in your email signature and in the signatures you use in forums and while commenting on blogs.
  • Use Facebook, Twitter and other social marketing tools to share your app with your community and encourage them to do the same.
  • Consider where viral hooks could be best used in your app to make sharing a part of the experience.
  • Encourage your friends, family and acquaintances to download your application and help you to spread the word.
  • Build a deeper relationship with your users by collecting their details and communicating with them through email, Twitter, your blog and other channels. Create compelling content such as tips and tricks, additional screenshots and news to communicate with them and drive them back to the application on a regular basis.

Metrics & Tracking

For those of us more accustomed to working in the online world, marketing on the app store can seem like a black hole with no tracking. Although the lack of data can be frustrating all is not lost. Applications like AppViz can help you to get a daily view on your download numbers (and revenues for paid applications) and Pinch Media provide a tracking product which can be integrated into your application to provide more visibility over user activities in the application. In addition you can think about tracking certain ratios manually, for example downloads to rank or releases or reviews. It’s time consuming and manual but it may lead to marketing breakthroughs.


Pricing has been written about more than any other aspect of App Store Marketing and a steady downward spiral towards free has taken hold.

Before you decide on pricing for your app you should consider your objectives and also review the competition to get a feel for their price range. If your objective is to acquire users and build a strong userbase then free will be the preferred option, with the ability to monetise this userbase in future through premium features, a paid application or advertising. Consumers are risk averse and even a 99p download can seem expensive. A free or lite version can encourage people to trial your application and you’ll then be able to upgrade people to purchase the full version with in-app banners and upsells to premium functionality.

Few if any app developers have succeeded in building significant revenue streams with a monetization strategy built purely on advertising and other models should be given serious consideration.

Pricing games are the rule of play in the App Store. Having a special sale price for a certain period or making your app free for a limited period can help you to rise up the App Store list into the charts. Placement in the top 100 list will boost your downloads and once there if you reduce your price further you could even reach the top 25 or top 10. Experiment with your price, see what works for your application, but don’t lose sight of your objective and don’t become a victim of the spiral towards zero.

Enjoy the journey

Remember is to create a great user journey for your users. Churn in iPhone apps is notoriously high and to ensure that your users continue to use and enjoy your application you must focus on providing them with the best possible experience. Continuously innovative and improve your application to make it compelling. Use alerts and emails to drive users back into your application and engage them in a deeper relationship.

Finally as with all online marketing channels, experiment, learn and iterate. The App Store is in its infancy and there’s a lot more we can learn about best practise on this new channel. Don’t be afraid to test, learn from your mistakes and improve.

Building Viral into Product DNA

Viral or social marketing are the hot topics of the moment. The attraction is obvious, you can spread the word about your product or service to people at a low cost, through trusted channels, namely their friends and family, and get them to pay attention and act upon the referral more easily.

However viral marketing isn’t as easy as it looks. If you truly want to base your marketing on social, viral or word of ‘mouse’ you need your customers to be really engaged with your product, to truly love it and feel the need to tell people about it.

Skype is a great example of a truly viral product. Skype let ‘the whole world talk for free’ but in order for users to call their friends for free they had to tell them about Skype and convince them to visit the website and download it for themselves. That way the user won, their friend won and in the end of the day Skype also won with huge growth and tiny acquisition costs.

Also your user experience should be filled with viral hooks within the customer journey, points in the interaction with the product when it makes sense for the user to share the product with their friends and family.

Hotmail is one of the earliest examples of viral marketing, which in the 1990s allowed Hotmail to grow from nothing to 12 million users in 18 months. This was achieved by a clever combination of offering free email addresses, and a powerful viral hook included in each and every email sent from a hotmail address ‘Get your private, free email at’. In this way Hotmail ensured that users shared the product with everyone they communicated with using their Hotmail account.

For viral to work best marketing and product need to work together and encapsulate sharing in all aspects of the product from the very beginning. A great real world example of building viral into the product from the beginning is Graze. Graze is naturally viral and everything from the snacks themselves through to the packaging they arrive in is designed to have a Wow factor. People are naturally inclined to chat about Graze with their friends, show off the Graze box at the office and hand out trial coupons to others, spreading the word about Graze to their friends and family because they love the product.

Yes you can think about how you can help your customers to tell each other about the product and you can even reward your customers for spreading the word. However to truly harness the power of viral then you should be thinking about how to build a product that users will want to tell each other about or one that is different enough that people will naturally ask about it. Moo did a great job of designing a really different product that customers would naturally comment on when they launched their minicards. Mini cards were half the size of regular business cards making them a real talking point, helping minicard owners to stand out and ensuring that the word about Moo spread virally.

Viral isn’t something you can easily add retroactively, so to take best advantage of this powerful marketing channel think about it early and often and make it a part of your product’s DNA.

A B Testing: Marketing as Science

Recently I’ve been asked about A/B testing for online marketing and it occurs to me that many marketers spend a vast majority of their time working on new campaigns to drive conversion, acquisition, retention or monetisation and not nearly enough time perfecting existing channels and communications with the more scientific approach of AB testing.

What is AB testing and why is it important?
AB testing, also known as split testing, brings some science to the practice of marketing. Essentially AB testing involves making small incremental changes, one at a time, so that you can see what impact these changes will have on conversion, click through rates, sales or other targets. In this way marketers can scientifically prove the impact of specific changes rather than making recommendations based on gut instinct.

Before you start with AB testing you need to consider a number of questions:

  • What do you want to test and in which medium or channel?
  • How will you track metrics and measure improvements?
  • What is your goal or objective?

What do you want to test and in which medium or channel?

AB testing can be used across almost any online marketing medium including emails, triggered messages, online advertising and web pages such as purchase flows or landing pages. In deciding where to start with AB testing you should consider what has the greatest impact on your business objective. If you can achieve a 1% improvement in people completing transactions when shopping with you, this is likely to have a greater and more immediate impact on the bottom line than a similar improvement to a landing page shown to new visitors.

How will you track metrics and measure improvements?
Tracking is essential for AB testing. What you’ll need to track will depend on the campaign, channel and objectives however you should think about tracking some of the following:

  • No. of emails sent / page views
  • Clicks
  • Click through rate
  • Sales
  • Conversion

A baseline also needs to be established by measuring the performance of the current version of the communication. The current version will act as a control and will be run against a number of test versions, and therefore the baseline will provide a marker against which to measure improvements.

What is your goal or objective?
Before beginning tests you should decide on the key performance indicators for the test. By being clear about the objective of a particular communication in advance of the test you’ll be able to choose a winner from your results easily and without bias.

Running your AB Test

The golden rule with AB testing is to make one change at a time so you can see the incremental improvements achieved by each individual change. This allows you to isolate the revenue, conversion or CTR impact of each change. Therefore the next thing to do is to create your test versions. In creating the tests you should look at changes to the following areas:

  • Headline
  • Call to action
  • Copy
  • Graphics
  • Colour
  • Configuration / Layout of elements
  • Headings

The temptation to make numerous changes is very hard to resist but remember in order to truly know which element has caused an improvement it’s very important to be patient and only make one change at a time.

Next you’ll need to decide on the proportional split for your traffic, e.g. 80/20, 50/50. Certain business issues may come into consideration, for example when testing on a page which drives the majority of your sales you’ll want to test among a small percentage of your audience to avoid negatively impacting conversion rates and therefore revenues. However in order to give you confidence in making decisions based on the AB test you’ll need to test with an adequate sample size. If your sample is small you have two options available: to test a smaller number of variants or run the test for a longer period.

Now you’re ready to start and a number of treatments (including your control) should be run concurrently. Essentially this means that you randomise which treatment is shown to each user and run them in parallel randomly splitting traffic between each treatment. If this isn’t possible you can split sequentially, by showing one version for a set amount of time followed by another version for the same amount of time, results will be less reliable but still useful.

The actual implementation of the AB tests can be done in a number of ways ranging from simple and cheap scripts to using sophisticated applications such as Offermatica, Inceptor, Optimost, Visual Sciences.

When the tests are complete you’ll need to look at the metrics for each. The winning test based on your established key performance indicators then becomes the hero. The hero should then become live and be shown to your main audience in place of your previous control.

But that’s not the end, now you should start again by making individual improvements to the hero. And so the cycle of AB testing continues.

And what if you don’t have the patience?

AB testing requires a great deal of patience, however there is an alternative approach for those of us with a little less than the required measure of patience. At the beginning of your testing you can instead create and test a number of radical re-designs against your current version or control. The design which gets the best results becomes the hero and control going forward and then you make incremental and individual changes to that in the normal way allowing for potentially faster improvements but in a less controlled and scientific manner to begin with. Although less scientific in nature this may allow for greater improvements in a shorter timeframe.

Social Media Marketing’s growing importance

Recently there’s been a lot of talk about the roles new online channels will play, and indeed much derision from some as to the impact Twitter can have as a marketing channel. The release of a number of reports and survey results help to show the growing importance of these social media channels for marketers going forward.

A survey of 18,000 marketers at Online Marketing Blog found that the top ten digital marketing tactics which marketers are planning to use in 2009 are:

  • Blogging (34%)
  • Twitter (29%)
  • Search engine optimization (28%)
  • Social network participation (Facebook, LinkedIn) (26%)
  • Email marketing (17%)
  • Social media monitoring & outreach (17%)
  • Pay per click (14%)
  • Blogger relations (12%)
  • Video marketing (10%)
  • Social media advertising (7%)

Out of the top ten, six of these can be considered to be social marketing.

At present the top sectors currently engaging in social media include: retail, consumer goods & services, high tech, media & entertainment, automotive, financial services, Government and Travel. This list closely mirrors the top spenders on online advertising at present and it’s no wonder as Hitwise numbers show that social media is now driving 7.1% of traffic to e-tailers up from 5.2% in 2008. Hitwise figures also show that the importance of paid search, though still vital for online retailers has fallen from 27.8% in 2008 to 22.5% in March 2009.

Therefore it comes as no surprise to see that of the Top 500 e-tailers 56.8% have a presence on the social networking site, 41.4% or are on, 28.6%, are on and 20.4% are using, according to Internet Retailer.

These reports help to substantiate the importance of social media marketing and demonstrate that we’re likely to see advertising budgets moving away from traditional online channels in 2009 and towards social media marketing.

The growth of social media marketing is an opportunity for many but for those companies who are not ready for social media marketing and those who aren’t currently planning for it this should serve as a timely wake-up call. Brands need to begin testing to see how they can best use social media to develop ongoing communications with customers and find ways to integrate social media into their current marketing mix.

Companies who aren’t planning to use social media as part of their marketing could find themselves playing an expensive game of catch-up.

Skittles becomes social

Skittles have launched a new website, well in fact they’ve launched a lot of links to various web 2.0 and social media sites where their customers are talking about them. The homepage shows various chatter about Skittles on Twitter Search and other navigation links point to their Facebook page, YouTube for Video and Wikipedia for product information.

Skittles parent company, Mars, have essentially handed over control of their homepage to Twitter users, and with updates in real time you can see both positive and negative comments posted. It’s a big step away from the traditional use of websites in FMCG for delivering controlled messages to consumers but a very interesting experiment in social media. The novelty of this move will no doubt generate a lot of press coverage and exposure in blogs and social media for Skittles.

The website launch has certainly got people talking, the Twittersphere is abuzz today with mentions of Skittles (and indeed some nostalgic purchasing of Skittles it would seem). However as the buzz around this launch settles I wonder if people will still be talking about Skittles on Twitter. In fact the design of the website seems to suggest that a more traditional homepage may be waiting in the wings, with separate links for Home and Chatter both pointing to Twitter Search at the moment.

Skittles have taken a brave step into this new world and I’m sure we’ll see many companies follow with a more gentle integration of social media into their online presence in the coming months.

Facebook for the old and the young

There’s been lots of discussion about the aging of Facebook recently. This doesn’t feel like a new phenomenon to me as quite a few of my own Facebook friends are in fact my aunts and uncles having mastered email and even Skype and now joining Facebook to see what it’s all about, and maybe even see what their kids are up to!

What has struck me recently is that the younger generation have stopped using what we’d see as traditional online communications channels like email. By looking at traffic to Facebook versus email sites we can see the impact already. Younger users don’t have the same need for email now that they have Bebo, Facebook and the likes. My 18 year old cousin has been a big user of social networking for many years, spending an unnatural amount of time glued to Bebo. And her first foray into email just happened recently, out of necessity, as she started college and was given a student email account.

How she and the rest of her generation will use online channels for communications in future remains to be seen. However what we can be sure of is that marketeers will need to continue to adapt and allow customers to choose how and where they want to communicated with, be that on Facebook, Bebo, Twitter or on email.