Mobile App Launch Strategy: Effective Tactics in a Crowded Marketplace

It’s no small thing to put together an effective mobile app launch strategy. From early on in your app’s development through the distinct phases of launch, acquisition, and retention, marketers should be prepared to adjust to challenges. The already-crowded app marketplace becomes more competitive with each passing day.

Start before your tech team even begins to draw up plans for a new mobile app. You’ll want to be sure that it actually provides a unique benefit to a sizable or lucrative set of potential users. A strategic development process starts with research that identifies customer needs and competitive threats. After that, a well-defined marketing plan will determine the methods for reaching high-value users with a clear and compelling sales message.

Begin with Market Research

Before your plans go further than compiling a list of consumer benefits and the various app features that deliver those benefits, see what’s currently available in the market and how apps that would compete with yours are approaching their marketing strategy. Notice where and how other apps succeeded and failed. Research as much as you can about your competitors.

Studying competitors can provide insights into how you can make your app stand out among similar ones. You’ll learn which keywords to investigate, where competitors targeted their marketing funds, and which strategies or tactics are worth pursuing.

Market research will also give you a lot of data about the customers you believe will want to download your app. Knowing where they live, how much disposable income they have, what are their job titles (if you’re targeting a business audience), which problems most need solving, and what are their biggest pain points can be extremely useful for developing your app features and messaging strategy.

Our Zutobi driver’s education app is targeted at pre-teen and teen student drivers. The app provides assistance when trying to pass permit and driving exams. Accordingly, we included content about traffic signal rules and tips for how to parallel park. The better you can understand your potential users and how your competitors are targeting them, the more adept you’ll be at getting downloads and retaining users.

Establish Marketing Goals Early in Your Planning

Once you’ve completed your research, you can get down to the business of setting goals. Remember to be as specific as possible when outlining your objectives. Your goals for pre-launch are going to be vastly different than those for bringing back or retaining users. Ultimately, the goals you’ll set should match your overall business objectives.

For a pre-launch buzz campaign, your objective might be to expand awareness of both your brand and the new app that’s “coming soon.” After launch, you’ll probably want to include a goal for customer acquisition (downloads). After the app has been available in the app stores for some time, you’ll likely want to set a goal for sustained growth from new users and increased usage of current ones.

You may also want to expand your mobile app launch strategy into different geographic areas or increase revenue among a particular demographic. All relevant objectives should be stated early on. To achieve meaningful goals, they must be supported by a strategy.

App Store Optimization Places Your App with Likely Buyers

Nearly two-thirds of app store users download an app after conducting a search. It’s imperative that your app title and description include relevant keywords. You want to pull them in and persuade them to choose what you have to offer.

App store optimization (ASO) is similar to search engine optimization (SEO) in that its aim is to put your link in front of the people who are actively searching for an app like yours. Just like SEO, the exact algorithms are a mystery, but we do know that optimizing keywords will help to move your listing further up in the search.

You’ll certainly use ASO at the beginning of your marketing journey. You’ll also come back to it to see what’s working and what should change or be adjusted to increase downloads. For our Zutobi app, we optimized our app listing and description with driver’s education keywords. But you’ll find that ASO has benefits beyond moving your app to a higher position in an app store search. Those benefits include:

  • driving traffic to your website;
  • enhancing your online presence;
  • increasing brand awareness;
  • saving on acquisition costs;
  • increasing downloads for a corresponding increase in revenue.

Spending on a Smart Ad Strategy Can Save Money in the End

Of course, there are other ways to acquire users than to target them in the app stores. A good mobile app launch strategy can define your message to reach the right audiences wherever they live online. Either pre-launch or after, ads can deliver a strong sales message on social media, on Google or Bing, and in email campaigns.

Online ads are affordable and efficient when you set up a pay-per-click (PPC) campaign. PPC ads tie payment to clicks from a very specific target demographic. You pay only for clicks, and not for the display of your ad. Your marketing plan should include paid ad spending as it will work toward delivering on your particular objectives at various stages of your overall campaign.

Don’t Become Too Dependent on a Single Ad Network

You may have heard that Facebook has an excellent ad platform for delivering highly targeted PPC ads. But you’ll have to consider whether Facebook is the correct platform for your target audience, the type of business you run, and your industry type.

Perhaps your audience tends to hang out on LinkedIn. Maybe it’s easier to reach them while they’re searching on Google. Your goal may be to drive people to your website to learn about your app. If that’s the case, GoogleAds could possibly be more effective than a social media ad network for delivering on that goal. Ultimately, your choice of an ad network will depend on:

  1. The audiences you’re trying to reach. 
  2. The marketing goals you’re aiming to achieve at that time.

Use as many ad networks as you need to accomplish those two goals. You’re aiming to expand awareness or delve into new markets, right? Then it’s probably time to increase the number of platforms you’re using.

Remember to research new target customers so you can send the ad to the appropriate platform and demonstrate that you understand their needs. You’ll have greater success in achieving your acquisition goals if you’re able to personalize your message.

Integrate Frameworks to Better Target and Track Users

App marketers can discover a wealth of knowledge about how their customers are interacting with the app by using various analytic frameworks to monitor user performance. These tools can provide a better understanding of the behaviors and actions your customers use on the app. That knowledge will guide you to make necessary adjustments.

Research the tools to ensure they make sense for your industry and your specific marketing challenges. Some of these frameworks offer unique data options that may be of great use during your acquisition phase. When you’re trying to re-engage users, other frameworks might be a better fit. Market conditions are constantly changing, so you’ll need data that will identify both areas of concern and potentially new opportunities.

Re-Target Users to Bring Them Back to Your App

Sustained growth requires that many people download your app and then continue to use it regularly. For example, let’s say some of your users are not opening the app as often as they used to. Acquiring new users can be expensive. It may be easier and more cost-efficient to provide a reason to come back. Retargeting ads can be delivered to people who have downloaded the app but who haven’t been active users within the past month or whatever time frame you choose.

You won’t have to use a hard sell for this audience because they’ve already indicated their interest. But you might want to offer an incentive for them to return. Maybe it’s an offer that’s not available to new users or an opportunity to access premium content at no charge. Learn what your customers value. That information will help you build an incentive strategy.

Perhaps you feel users will be more likely to return if they’re directed to content within the app other than what’s on the home page. Deep linking is a strategy used to direct target audiences to specific pages of a website or areas of an app. Those links are a better match for specific search queries or user needs than a link that sends them to the home or title page.

Aside from retargeting ads, you can also send push notifications to lapsed users. Try promising rewards for signing into the app or for acting quickly on an offer. Push notifications are effective, but you shouldn’t overuse them. People get annoyed when they receive too many notifications and may feel anxious or guilty about not responding.

Make Sure Your Marketing Plans Include Some Flexibility

Customer needs change quickly, and industries can be impacted by events outside your control. These can be a sudden development in the news or product innovation. Marketers must continuously monitor app performance and be ready to make changes to the marketing plan when adjustments are needed. Even if it’s not a major news story that causes you to change course — perhaps you simply are not meeting your goals — you have to be comfortable with scrapping the plan or tweaking it. That’s just the nature of creating a mobile app launch strategy in a fast-paced tech marketplace.

Tim Waldenback

Tim Waldenback is the co-founder of Zutobi Drivers Ed, a gamified e-learning platform focused on online drivers education to help teens get their license. Tim founded Zutobi to make world-class driver's education fun, affordable, and easily accessible for all.