How to launch an app: From market research to monetization
The best practices for launching an app in an app store are constantly changing. With 1.85 million apps available to download in the App Store and 2.56 million apps on Google Play, competition is fierce. With so many mobile apps on the market, optimizing your mobile app launch is more important than ever. This makes it more critical than ever to think about how you will launch your app in the app stores. From market research to monetization, there are many critical practices to consider before your app is ready for your target audience. Let’s walk through the process of building and launching a mobile app in an app store.
Why is an app launch strategy important?
Planning is the key to success in any endeavor. You would not open a brick-and-mortar business without doing your due diligence, nor should you launch an app without a plan. Your app launch strategy should include determining your target market and market fit, and investigating if any local restrictions could impact your app.
Even if your app is already successful domestically, launching an app internationally will require additional considerations. This is especially true for apps subject to stricter regulatory conditions. For example, suppose you’re launching a fintech or food delivery app in another country. In that case, it will be critical to examine country-specific regulations for the industry, such as “What kinds of regulations are there on banking apps?” or “Under what kind of contracts are delivery drivers employed??” These are the kinds of questions you need answers to before launching internationally. The exact questions you’ll need to ask yourself depend entirely on your vertical and the specific niche of your app, but it’s good to keep the general framework in mind.
Uber learned this the hard way in LATAM, where they faced legal issues in multiple markets. The key challenge that Uber struggled with was addressing the complexities and nuances of the bureaucratic processes in each of the countries it launched in in the region, meaning it faced legal battles in Mexico, Brazil, and Colombia. Localization is never straightforward, but it can be made easier with in-depth research and planning—even if it sometimes means delaying a launch.
Similarly, on-demand delivery service, Deliveroo tried to break into the German market several years ago and eventually pulled out of the country. Had the company performed adequate market research, it would have discovered and been better prepared for things like Germany’s strict labor laws or cultural considerations. For example, most Germans place a larger emphasis on lunch and not dinner, the latter of which is the money-making meal for Deliveroo.
Where to begin building and launching your app: Market research
Before developing a marketing strategy or implementing monetization models, market research can help app developers make critical decisions in the early stages of creating a new app.
What to know before launching your app:
- Your app’s target audience
- Your app’s unique selling point
- Why users will be interested in your product
- Your competitors’ offerings and pricing
- The most effective ways to reach your target audience
- The best time to launch your app
Personas can help you develop your marketing strategy based on the primary needs of different audience groups. These groups can, for example, be segmented by demographic and mobile preferences, enabling you to map out different user journeys. Mapping out different user journeys is a great way to ensure each group’s preferences and requirements are catered to within your marketing funnel. This practice means you can successfully guide your users through the user journey and optimize your mobile app’s monetization from day one.
Market research is a smart way to learn more about your competitors and develop your own mobile app’s unique selling points. The first step in this process is to identify your competitors and learn everything you can about their products, answering essential questions such as:
- Why is this mobile app successful/unsuccessful?
- What are the app’s shortcomings?
- How is your mobile app offering something different?
- How streamlined is the app’s user journey?
- How is the app’s UI design?
Competitor research should include the competence and reach of each competitor’s marketing channels and public reception. Consider reading a competitor’s user reviews for an honest opinion on the product from your target audience. Doing so will also help identify marketing channels your competitor has failed to target and similar opportunities from which your marketing team can benefit.
The basics of an app launch: Costs and logistics
It may seem obvious, but one of the critical steps to launching an app is submitting your app to the app stores. A common question is, “How much does it cost to launch an app?” While there isn’t an average cost to launch an app, both Apple and Google have fees for app developers, as we’ll discuss below.
To upload your app to the App Store, you need an Apple Developer Program membership — which currently costs $99 per year. After enrolling, you will gain access to App Store Connect, the portal through which you will manage your apps. Before it goes live, your app will go through an app certification process, to ensure that the app conforms to App Store guidelines.
Similarly, Google has the Google Play Console — which has a one-time cost of $25 to join. Note that once a developer is connected to both platforms, they will need to connect a wallet to collect in-app payments.
Monetization is a critical component to an app’s survival. Free apps make up nearly 94% of those available on the App Store and almost 97% of Google Play apps. When identifying the most suitable monetization model for your app, consider how each method will change the user experience. Mobile apps can benefit from several monetization methods simultaneously, but their impact on the user experience should always be considered before implementation. For monetization models for gaming apps, check out: Mobile game monetization strategies that work.
The most popular monetization models include:
Subscriptions: Many subscription apps are free to download, offering users an engaging yet limited service. If users want the full experience, they’ll need to subscribe for a monthly or annual fee. This can be an effective way to drive installs while monetizing your most valuable users.
In-app purchases: App verticals such as mobile games often include in-app purchases to enhance the user experience. For instance, a gamer may buy more coins or a new character skin with an in-app purchase. Including in-app purchases is another monetization method that enables developers to make their app free to install while offering a superior experience for paying customers.
In-app ads: Placing ads throughout the user journey is a popular way to monetize free mobile apps. Types of ad revenue include Cost per thousand impressions (CPM), Cost per click (CPC), and Cost per action (CPA). Learn more about 2022’s hottest app monetization trends here.
Sponsorships: Sponsorships and influencer marketing are other ways to help monetize your app. And vice versa, once you have an active audience, you can work with brands that want to use your mobile app to connect with relevant audiences for themselves.
Next steps: How to market your app
- Set up your mobile app’s landing page
Creating a website for your app gives you a cost-effective marketing channel that can be used before and after launch to advertise your app. We recommend including an about page, screenshots, and a video showcasing the best of your user experience. The success of your landing page or website can also indicate the potential of your app idea based on site traffic and the number of sign-ups for your mailing list.
In addition to a description and images that convey your app’s potential, your website should also include a mailing list sign-up
and a blog to promote your app launch. The mailing list can be utilized to build a list of users interested in beta testing your app or even to target engaged, valuable audiences further down the line. Featuring a blog on your website is a great way to drive organic traffic to your page, build a community, and establish authority on subjects related to your app.
In the long term, your landing page and official blog can be useful and cost-effective marketing channels thanks to effective Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and organic traffic. You should also include links to your app’s App Store and Google Play pages immediately after launch.
- Build your social media presence
Social media marketing presents unmissable opportunities for mobile apps of all verticals, and app developers can use social media's high usage to their advantage even before launch. Having a social presence is another cost-effective way to build your audience, generate interest, and keep potential customers updated on when your product will be available. You can also employ social media to promote and build your mailing list.
When strategizing your social media presence, it’s vital to claim social media handles early. And even while your app is in development, you can still use social media to showcase what your app offers and gain valuable feedback based on your posts’ engagement. This data can then be leveraged to understand your target audience better and refine your app’s functionality. Note that before launch, your social media channels’ bios can direct your audience to your landing page, and then post-launch, you can link your bios to your app store listing page.
- App Store Optimization (ASO)
App Store Optimization (ASO) is a marketing method aimed at improving the visibility and appeal of your app in the App Store and Google Play Store. Like SEO, ASO uses keywords and quality images to rank higher in the app store. All users must visit a store to install your app, so ensuring that your listing page is fully optimized is a cost-effective way to increase your conversion rates and is extremely important within the user journey.
- Develop your paid user acquisition strategy
It’s essential marketers establish their paid acquisition strategy pre-launch. Your market research will give you a clear view of who your target audience is and how they can be exposed to paid ads. You will also need to determine the in-app actions you’ll need a user to complete for them to become a valuable user.
- Choose a mobile measurement partner
App developers can work with a mobile measurement partner (MMP) like Adjust to measure and attribute impressions, installs, and post-install events from paid, earned, owned, and organic channels. By receiving reports from your MMP, you can spot behavioral trends and uncover the best-performing channels. With this information, you can optimize your user acquisition strategy and deliver better results for future campaigns.
- A/B testing
A/B testing is an important part of any paid user acquisition campaign. By exposing user groups to different creatives, you can learn the most effective ways to market your app. In addition, when soft-launching a new app, A/B testing works as an invaluable way to make data-driven decisions that will impact the success of your release in regions with a larger audience.
How to launch an app: Testing before a wide-scale release
Now that you’ve built your app and launch is approaching, it’s time to think about testing. In addition to your development team’s internal testing practices, there are several ways you can test your app’s performance. The following can help you identify issues with your app’s UX, UI, and functionality.
Develop an exclusive beta launch
App developers can offer an invite-only beta version of their app to a select group of users who can give valuable feedback. This is an excellent way to ensure you are fully prepared for launch day and decreases the probability of significant issues affecting your app's performance (and consequently, your app’s reviews) once it becomes available to a wider audience.
Soft launch your app
Even after beta-testing your app, a soft launch ensures your app’s performance is fully optimized before a wide-scale release. A soft launch is the release of a mobile app in, for example, a specific region that will reveal how it will likely perform in similar regions with a larger or more active mobile audience. This enables you to test the functionality of your app and measure the success of your monetization models and user acquisition campaigns. For example, an app developer may soft launch their app in New Zealand to project the performance of that app in Australia, the United States, and the United Kingdom.
In addition to app functionality, you can use a soft launch to test your App Store Optimization (ASO) and the creative elements of your paid user acquisition campaigns. It’s better, in the long run, to weed out any issues during a soft launch, as you’ll be saving yourself time, resources, and potentially your brand’s reputation. It’s rare to have a perfect launch and testing the waters a little bit first is definitely the smart way to go.
Once you’ve officially launched your app, the next step is to grow, grow, grow! We’ve created a guide for this stage called Scaling your app to 1 million users: The ultimate guide, Part 1, where we dive into ASO and user acquisition strategies to help you scale your app.