Three million options: To build a highly competitive news app you need to reach out for the stars

You can bet on the strength of your publishing brand, but it won’t be sufficient if you want to reach out to new audiences. To get found is key to win in a sea of opportunities. It’s make-or-break for your app. Get to know the factors which contribute to higher ranking and which help you to turn your mobile strategy into a success story.

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Above: Number of available apps in the top app stores, Mai 2015. Data sources: Apple, Microsoft, Google, BlackBerry, amazon

Companies spend between $20,000 to $150,000 for the development on average. Real costs can be even higher depending on how many devices and platforms you want to target. The most successful apps in Apple’s App Store do not run on iOS alone. They usually follow at least a two-platform strategy and make their solutions available for iOS and Android devices often right from the start.

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Above: Availability of the 100 most popular iOS apps on Android, Windows Phone and Windows 8, August 2013. Data source: Infragistics (ActiveNick’ Big Bad Blog), August 2013

Mobile sites can help to reduce the costs but can’t deliver the same level of user experience as native apps. Natives are the only way to gain full control over the behavior of an application on the operating system they support. Controlling the application means, that you’re able to control the user experience, how people finally consume news, which is in return the main trigger for positive reviews.

As always, first impression counts. Your brand’s name might drive interest and downloads as well, but to reach out for new audiences you have to compete against more than 3m other options in the app stores of Apple, Google, Microsoft & Co. You have to stand out and you need to find ways to get the message across in a noisy environment.

Search ranking optimisation should become your focus and to get on the first result page. If you’re app won’t show up among the first results, it will be hard to make it on user’s Homescreen. It is even harder to motivate users to downloaded your app at all. Once downloaded you have to deliver compelling reasons to stay relevant for your users and to strive against being deleted after only a short period of time. 

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App retention rate is a valid measure for such user loyality. In 2014, 20 per cent of the apps were used one time only according to data from Localytics. A figure which has slightly improved since 2011. Good news? In parts, yes. 39 per cent of the apps succeed to retain users and build loyalty as measured by higher frequency. This figure is up 13 per cent from 2011. Looks like app publishers have learned their lessons and done a better job in keeping users. 

But now the question is how to become part of the relevant set? 

Those apps, which can’t build on brand awareness alone will be forced to develop their own growth strategies as well. The most important tactic is to focus on increasing the rank in search results in the app stores. The higher the better as this increases the likelihood of being dowloaded. Contributing factors are customer satisfaction, increased engagement, high retention rate or finding appropriate keywords and also about how to encourage your users to send in their app reviews. The chart below shows how many review stars apps have earned which were among the top 5, the top 10, etc. It’s obvious, that the more positive reviews or stars your app receives the higher it ranks in the search results as all of these stores reward higher customer satisfaction by increasing the rank of the apps. In the mentioned study Top 5 apps were rated with 3.7 stars on average. The benchmark you have to beat, if you want to be successful.

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Chart, data: MobileDevHQ 

A second study by Fiksu reached the same conclusion. Bad ratings influence search results negatively. Reviews help to separate the wheat from the chaff and to get rid of the noise in an already overcrowded environment.

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Source: Fiksu 

Learnings. If you want your app to get recognised you have to deliver an outstanding user experience. If you meet the needs of your target audience, you will get love in return and hopefully a lot more stars in the review section in the app stores. To have a rating greater than 3.7 alone wouldn’t result in a top 5 position without any of the other measures, e.g. keyword optimisation, total downloads, but it is a preliminary factor. Reviews are not only a great instrument which will help you focus your product development initiatives on the right things to do, but also a way to boost your ranking in search results. And search is the only way to get found, when apps are abundant. Although some app publishers seem to have found ways to manipulate reviews lately, lies don’t travel far.

How some selected German newspaper brands are performing:

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