App Marketing

The App Store is dead. Here's what's next

Simon Kendall
Head of Communications

Not long after the dust had settled after New Years’, gears started turning at Adjust HQ in Berlin. It was time to revisit our long-running bets on the future of the app store and see where the developments in the App Store through 2014 fit in with this. Cue our 2014 App Store retrospective.

The core health metric that we capture for the App Store is the Zombie Rate - the number of apps that rarely make it into the category top lists of the iOS App Store. The top lists are an indicator for how well an app is performing in the store as well as a steadfast source of organic downloads. If you’re not in the top lists, you’re not getting installs. And if you only reach occasional top list placements, odds are your spots are far below the fold.

With a finite number of placements in the top lists, the Zombie Rate naturally increases as the Store grows and more apps are published. At the same time, there are multiple opportunities for a single app to appear in top lists - across several categories, or in several countries. The Zombie Rate thus has two key determinants: the size of the Store, and the homogeneity of lists worldwide.

The high Zombie Rate is an indication that more apps and better apps are competing worldwide for the few spots on the lists. Higher Zombie Rates mean that developers will find it more difficult to get attention for their products.

So how did the Zombie Rate develop through 2014?

Our brazen statement in the previous clause has a caveat: different lists are distinctly different in terms of competition. We’ve taken a particular look at the division by genre and subgenre, looking at the apps that are listed in certain categories and their likelihoods of achieving a rank.

As we see in the graph below, the smaller categories with very few apps tend to have dramatically lower Zombie Rates. Above around 25,000 apps, the tendency flattens out and the individual categories are distributed around a slowly increasing mean.

We’ll be back with another post soon to discuss more extensively the individual genres and how this data may affect the choice of listings as an app developer.

Top lists aren’t all that make up the Store, however - and Apple is taking some serious strides to improve on the discovery in the App Store. With heavier curation and better algorithmic discovery features in iOS8, it’s likely that we’ll see experimentation with a multitude of formats and options in the stores to come besides simple top lists.

While mobile is not web, we can see some clear parallels. The initial solution to discovery on the web, if anyone recalls, included web portals and things like Google Categories. At some point, the sheer size of the Web outgrew this option. Search served us for a while, but in 2015, content, products and websites are shared over a multitude of formats, social networks, news aggregators and what have you.

Mobile discovery is different, but the movement will be similar. We have the tech to promote content and make deep cross-product integrations possible. In advertising, we’ve been moving away from simple click-bait install campaigns, towards - and well into - smart placement formats, tailoring advertising not just to user behaviour, but to the context in which the ad is being placed.

The App Store is dead. Long live discovery.