Yes, Virginia, the holiday season is almost upon us. And that means both new opportunities and old headaches for app product, ASO, and submission managers.
Encompassing the major cultural holidays and shopping days of Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday (Nov. 23, 24, and 26, 2018), Hanukkah (the evening of Dec. 2 through the evening of Dec. 10), and Christmas Eve, Christmas, New Year’s Eve, and New Year’s Day (Dec. 24, 25, and 31, 2018, and Jan. 1, 2019, respectively), the six-week holiday season accounts for significant revenue for many businesses.
In 2017, a blockbuster Q4 contributed to the strongest year-over-year growth for U.S. e-commerce in six years, according to a Commerce Department report. Sales of electronic devices, too, continue to climb to over $2.0B, with about 50% of the devices shipped during the fourth quarter. Think about it: who do you know (yourself included) who’s getting a phone or a tablet on Black Friday or for Christmas?
And with the increase in devices comes a proliferation of apps—all of which are vying for App Store visibility—and activity. Since the holiday season can be a pivotal time for apps, you need to plan ahead to make the most of your ever-more-costly marketing spend.
So what should you do to take full advantage of this holiday season? Here are some suggestions:
- Set your goals first
- Decide on volume, value, or both
- Come up with creative holiday themes
- Retarget as users switch up their devices
OK, let’s go into more detail. First things first: set your goals. What matters the most to you? Is it:
- Downloads—raw volume or those at a specific CPI?
- Users who purchase?
- Social shares?
- Or is it something outside of your app?
Once you have your goals straight, you should identify audiences. Although creating buyer personas can be fraught with pitfalls, they’re a useful place to start. Utilizing provider data, you can create personas for the following types of shoppers:
- Mobile shoppers – Users who have installed multiple shopping or coupon apps
- Historical Purchasers – Those who’ve bought from you in previous holiday seasons
- New device owners – Recognized through their device ID
Third on the list is deciding on volume vs. value. If you’re going after volume, you should do what it takes to get the most downloads possible, targeting however many million users you want. Network effects and visibility are also important here.
On the other hand, the value approach focuses on maximizing ROI. Small and medium-sized companies, which need every user to be profitable, favor this approach. However, a blend of both volume and value is probably the best strategy. You want rank, but it’s not the be-all-and-end-all. Set aside specific times for rank pushes within a longer-term value approach.
Of course, the holidays are also a time for fun. Use holiday-themed creative and content. Update your app icon, created holiday-themed screenshots and app previews (trailers) and sprinkle some holiday-theming into your app description. Besides being fun, these moves are good for business—App stores tend to feature holiday-themed apps.
Finally, you’ll want to retarget as users change devices. Try to re-engage before the upgrade. That way you’ll be top-of-mind come upgrade time, which can be either a time of housecleaning or re-discovery. Retarget lapsed users on their new devices, when everything old becomes new again. It’s also a great time to reactivate no longer active users and showcase new features and functionality or new levels and challenges.
As you approach the holiday season, something else you’ll want to keep in mind is the annual App Store Connect (formerly iTunes Connect) holiday schedule. In 2017, Apple’s manual submission reviewers took a week off from Dec. 23th through Dec. 27th. Although the 2018 schedule isn’t available yet, plan for a holiday shutdown that encompasses Christmas.
During the holiday freeze, no new or updated app submissions will be processed. Not much else happens, either: no bug fixes, price changes, or significant app store landing page tweaks are allowed while the submission team enjoys its well-deserved time off. Don’t forget Apple’s recent changes to when and which data you can change on the store, while your app is live: Only the promotional text can now get changed without a new version or build. Changing the description or even the marketing URL now always requires a new version. Same as new screenshots, app previews and name changing previously.
Navigating the anticipated App Store Connect holiday shutdown is much like embarking on a holiday campaign. Specifically, you should crunch the numbers on your customers. Revisit your acquisition costs and scrutinize figures on how much revenue you generate from each engaged user. When you’ve nailed down these metrics, you can create a holiday strategy that targets either new user volume or increased ROI per user, depending on your goals. You may want to consider holiday promotions, but don’t sacrifice value for rank.
In summary, although holidays can be a mixed blessing, the opportunities outweigh the annoyances. Don’t be a Scrooge, and enjoy your holiday season!
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