Five Things Developers Always Overlook At Launch

You’ve no doubt read about all the things that you should be doing to prepare your app or game for launch, but sometimes in all the clamour, it's easy to overlook the tasks that are really important for a successful launch.

As Pollen VC’s User Acquisition and marketing optimisation expert, I work with app developers when they are either preparing to launch or have just published a new app or game. This is a particularly crucial time when being prepared and making the right decisions can have a huge impact, but it is still quite common for the companies to focus on the design and tech side, and only realise when it is too late that they haven’t paid attention to the marketing basics. So here are the top 5 areas you really can’t afford to overlook if you really want your app to fly.

1. A/B-testing the app store page

Ahead of your full app launch, you need to make sure that your sales and marketing funnel is working as efficiently as possible. This means testing how well your key marketing ‘touch points’ -  such as your app store page - are performing to convert visitors to install the app, and ensuring that you are acquiring these users at the lowest Cost Per Install (CPI). It is vital to base your analysis of this performance on thorough A/B testing, which should measure how many visitors to your app store page will eventually install your app. An A/B Test of your app store page should initially investigate different styles of artwork for your app icon and screenshots, and then compare different versions of the best performing style, so you can refine down to the most effective images. Other elements you should test are title and description copy, but test the artwork first as this will be the most recognisable element of your brand from launch. There are some very good tools available for A/B-testing. If you have an Android app/game then I recommend using the tool provided by Google developer dashboard called Experiments. If you’re only launching on iOS then you have some good third party services available to execute similar tests - Splitmetrics, Test Nest and Store Maven to mention a few. If you don’t A/B test your app store page and associated artwork, you can waste a lot of time and money pointing people to a page which doesn’t close the deal in getting them to install the app.

2. Localisation in key countries

Many sources may tell you that localisation is a low priority since most countries will tolerate English. However, similar to A/B Testing, not doing this prior to launch for key territories could hold you back from gaining traction fast enough. Localisation works on at least 3 fronts: 1. It gives you a greater chance of being featured by platforms. Both Apple and Google have over 150 countries and 40+ languages supported in their platforms, so to get your app/game noticed and improve the chances of getting a global feature for your app/game, it’s highly recommended that you localise your game in as many languages possible. 2. When you are running performance marketing campaigns (e.g paid user acquisition) for your app/game, one of the key metrics to track will be UAC (user acquisition cost). If your app/game store page is not localised, your UAC/CPI will most likely be a lot higher than for a game whose store page is in the native language of the visitor. 3. Retention improvement: experience has taught me that if your users are able to use your app/game in their native language they are likely to engage with it to a greater level, and will keep using it for longer. Services like Applingua specialise in translating copy for apps and games - using a specialist will help you get a true translation. Don’t be tempted to use Google Translate - great as it is, it’s not always going to give you the most suitable translation!

3. Making the effort to get Press Coverage

Press Coverage is hard to get, period! However, if you are able to get some of the top app/game/tech journalists write about your game, it can produce a huge number of downloads that you would otherwise need a rather big budget to gain through paid acquisition. The first difficulty is getting the journalists to notice your app/game, since there are hundreds of developers contacting them every day. So how do you get them to notice you? One thing to think about and describe clearly is the story behind the game: for journalists a new game is like ‘snacks’, and everyone is launching a new one all the time, so who would be interested in hearing about more ‘snacks’? With this in mind, often the best way maximise your story’s impact is to talk to someone who can dig out that bigger story from you via an interview. If you want to get press coverage around your launch then it can be very worthwhile hiring a press agency as they will also have all the relevant contacts and can guide you through the ‘story building’ process - and it won’t cost you as much as you’d think. Some specialised agencies for games and apps are Press Space, Big Ideas machine. You can also use Vlambeer’s free press kit to help you lay out the information on your website that journalists will be looking for. Press coverage and positive reviews are your ticket to credibility - a lot of users base their decision to install on word of mouth / third party recommendations, so without any coverage your app may be ignored. App Store reviews also influence users decision to install, but of course the only way to get good reviews is to make a great game and give good customer service.

4. Not having enough LTV, UAC and Virality data after soft launch

Collecting enough soft launch data is crucial when you launch globally. You’re only ready to fully launch when your app or game is as near-perfect as possible. If you don’t have sufficient data, it’s very hard to understand what is working and what needs improvement, at what stage your users are going to start spending money, when and why they drop out. The key metrics that you should be tracking are LTV (Customer Life Time Value), UAC (user acquisition cost) and organic growth, but these 3 data points are still often overlooked and not fully understood.

  • We had an excellent guest blog from Oliver Kern which explains how you calculate your LTV and how you use it in your app business modelling, so I will not repeat that in detail here. At Pollen VC are also working on a set of LTV modelling tools, which will combine our revenue recycling system with LTV modelling and will show you how you can make your app business grow at a much faster rate. Stay tuned for this!
  • User acquisition cost or Cost Per Install (CPI) is the metric coming directly from your ad tool, given that you have their SDK integrated to your app/game. If you advertise your app through any of the usual suspects (Facebook, Adwords, Chartboost, etc..) they will be able to track your funnel from impressions to clicks to installs and tell you how much you are paying for each user.  Remember, optimizing your marketing campaigns as well as your store page can decrease the amount that you end up paying per user, so optimize!
  • Organic growth, as in how many users find your app through word of mouth, social media, press, email, ASO (see also ASO) etc. versus seeing an ad through paid acquisition. If, for every new user that you acquire you also get 2 new users organically, then your organic growth rate is 67%, which will result directly into cheaper user acquisition cost. Bearing in mind that paid acquisition is only getting more expensive, it is crucial for an app’s success that it can effectively gain new users from organic channels. It’s also important to track where all of your organic traffic is coming from so you can optimise that source.  

5. Not having enough marketing budget set aside for either soft or global launch

This is still one of the biggest stumbling blocks for a large proportion of developers. The majority have not set aside more than $5000 for their whole marketing budget - and will quickly discover that this doesn’t go very far. I would advise that serious developers set aside $20,000 - 30,000 for their soft launch alone if they really want to compete. Based on Fiksu’s cost per loyal user (CPLU) index from April 2016 was $2,51. This is what it would cost you to acquire a user who would open your app 3 times or more, and hopefully due to this, might eventually bring you some revenue. Using the CPLU Index and our recommendation for marketing budget, it would mean that you would (in theory) be able to acquire between 8000 and 12,000 users in total. Based on your user ‘loyalty’ - aka the retention - you will be able to keep some, but you will also lose some. Our recommendation is to try to keep around 1000-2000 active users in your app long enough (1-2 months) to get the most reliable data on user behaviour and monetization.    Of course paid user acquisition is not the only factor in building app store success, which is why it’s important to not overlook the other elements I’ve outlined. You may not be an expert in all of these fields, but don’t forget that you can always ask for help from your peers, they service providers (Such as those I’ve recommended above) and the experts via forums such as Gaming Insiders. I’ve created a long “App Launch Checklist” which you can download the bottom of this page to help you organise and prepare for your next successful launch!

Bonus point: Not building a relationship with the app store platforms (Apple & Google) early enough

If you want to get a good ‘kickstart’ for your app when you launch it globally it should be featured by Apple or Google in their ‘featured’ page on the store. This is the thing that each and every app developer hopes when their launch. Unfortunately, in many cases we see, there won’t have been any communication between the developer and the platform editorial teams until the game is almost ready to be launched. Our advice would be to start these discussions early enough in the development phase, say 6 months before the planned global launch, by going to gaming events and trying to get a meeting with the editorial teams or if some of your fellow developer knows someone from the platforms try to get them to do an introduction to main people in the featuring team.

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