How Marketers Must Harness Alternative App Stores To Reach Greater Audiences

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Peggy Anne Salz, Lead Analyst & Founder at MobileGroove

The mobile app market is a monstrous place for marketers and brands. We are witnessing an avalanche in the number of mobile apps, triggered by unprecedented growth in smartphone adoption and usage globally. The good news: the global App Economy is firing on all cylinders. The not-so-good news: this rapid expansion is stretching the search, marketing and brand protection models that have allowed this new economy, and the global business ecosystem it supports, to flourish.

In short, massive growth confronts marketers with massive challenges.

Discovery Dilemma

See the digital App Economy through the lens of physical store retail, and you can see the virtual shelves of the app stores are overflowing with apps. Pocketgamer, which tracks the number of apps submitted to the Apple App Store since 2008, reports that the month of January alone saw 800+ submissions daily. That’s over 25,000 new apps! The abundance of apps is bad news for app companies and marketers vying for consumer attention, which, unlike apps, is in frighteningly short supply.

Little wonder that discoverability tops the list of challenges, according to State Of Mobile App Developers, a global survey of 1,000+ developers conducted by global mobile advertising and discovery platform InMobi. “Getting apps discovered is the fundamental challenge that every app marketer faces,” the report states. “With millions of apps across iOS, Android, Windows Phone and other platforms, standing out in the boundless sea of available apps is becoming increasingly difficult.” To make matters worse, search rules as the de facto interface to navigate the app stores. Attribution and analytics company Tune, which surveyed 2,100 mobile users, found that a whopping 67% of mobile app installs happened after an app store search ­­ and not via a direct link.

Brand integrity

It’s great to achieve massive numbers of app downloads, but it is also critical to ensure your apps – everywhere – are aligned with your brand guidelines. Brand trust is under attack from a flood of “fake apps,” turning up the pressure on marketers to maintain brand integrity and boost consumer trust – or risk losing both to rogue apps.

Case in point: The explosion of counterfeit commerce apps (reported in the NYT) that managed to slip through app store review processes during the last holiday season, deceiving shoppers and harming brand reputation. As many of these fake apps are also employing paid search to propel them to the top of the results screen, there is a critical requirement for marketers to manage their brand – before and after the download.

Distribution bottlenecks

The goal of every brand is to attract as many users as possible to their app. Mobile analytics, monetization, and advertising company Flurry reminds us that the App Economy, which just celebrated its 10th anniversary, has “grown into a dog-eat-dog world.”

Smart companies are looking beyond the iTunes App Store and Google Play, mapping out a multiple app store strategy to reach a larger market with their app. These alternative app store environments offer a variety of benefits, allowing app developers to boost brand profile, reach new audiences and expand to new geographies. From Amazon Appstore (one of the biggest Android app stores in both reach and rate of growth) to The Opera Mobile Store (the app store owned and operated by Opera Software ASA that reports a user base of more than 100 million monthly users across 230 countries) opportunity is calling.

Beyond the app store duopoly

Connect the dots, and the App Economy is evolving, flourishing, and outgrowing the duopoly that controlled how apps are marketed and monetized. To borrow from a detailed post over at Gamasutra, there is “Life beyond Google.”

Fortunately, U.K. startup appScatter is focused on helping brands and enterprises understand and grasp this massive opportunity. “There are huge benefits to featuring your app on a global scale. It can mean significant gains for your app or brand – but it can also be hard work,” appScatter founder Philip Marcella tells me.

At one level, it’s just too much red tape. Each store has slightly different requirements ranging from dozens of different screen shots and marketing descriptions in different languages to age ratings, categories, pricing and submissions methods. Moreover, navigating the local tax codes and deciphering withholding tax waivers can be a nightmare. At the other end of the spectrum, it’s tough to track the competition. You need reams of app store data and research to determine where your competition is and where you can distribute your app to build your competitive advantage, not drain it.

It’s why appScatter – which monitors 300+ app stores worldwide, and counting – has chosen to architect what Marcella calls a “mobile strategy platform.” The offer is gaining traction as the only service that addresses the complete range of distribution, tracking, performance and business intelligence needs and issues companies and brands have as they bring their apps to a wider audience. It also highlights the three key components of an effective strategy brands can follow to tap the vast distribution opportunities offered by alternative app stores.

#1 Know where you want to be. Once you know where you want to be, your journey is just beginning. Imagine your app is available in 75 additional app stores and your engagement metrics are off the charts. You still need access to data and analytics to validate KPIs and drive user acquisition campaigns. Make sure you do your homework to know the app stores that are the best fit with your target audience – and objectives – and ensure you monitor how each app is performing (downloads, sales and ranking etc.) in a way that conserves your resources, not squanders them.

#2 Watch your back – and brand. Distributing, managing and tracking your apps across multiple alternative app stores comes with its share of challenges. Ideally, you want an approach that automates and streamlines the process. But the need for speed isn’t your only concern. In a world where rogue apps and app piracy are on the rise, you need visibility that will allow you to protect your IP (Intellectual Property) and preserve your brand.

#3 Make data your daily routine. If it’s mobile marketing in 2017, then it is data-driven. What you don’t know can hurt you. Business intelligence about the app store landscape covers only one side of the equation. You also need competitive intelligence about your app rivals to keep tabs on and – ultimately – stay ahead of the pack.

The takeaway:

There is a wealth of opportunity for marketers who tap the vast distribution opportunities offered by alternative app stores. It starts with a clear understanding of the unique characteristics of each app store and their business practices, and it extends to approaches that monitor app performance, track app interactions and – ultimately – ensure brand integrity.

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