30 Mar

ASO Case Study: How We Grew App Installs by 200% in Two Months

Much has been written about apps’ fruit-fly lifespan in the App Store. But as far as some Android devs are concerned, there’s another story that needs telling: the life and regular life-blood injections given to personalization apps in the Play Store.

The Rise and Rise of Themes

While photo apps, productivity apps and the like get a lot of love from the press and early adopters, all that tapping peters out after a while. All the ballyhoo has been proven short-lived time and time again. Installs drop sharply after the novelty wears off and retention is abysmal for everyone, no matter the OS. But who isn’t aware by now that the app ecosystem is shrinking around the top cats like Facebook and co?

Is there still room to grow? I hear you ask. Sure there is! Find an untapped niche and pump your efforts into it, and it could well pay off. Take personalization apps, for instance – aka launcher apps, keyboard apps and so forth. It’s those apps that are peculiar to the Play Store and that make Android a much more user-friendly environment. This special genre of apps are the second most popular app category, after the all-mighty games. That’s on the back of users clamoring for exhaustive customization, down to the last widget, icon and app drawer. Here at T-Me Studios, we deal in themes for these apps, a sub-genre of apps that change how phone screens, keyboards and locker screens look, and we’re encouraging anyone to try their hand at theme-making with the innovative Redraw.io tool.

To be sure, themes for personalization apps don’t keep our fickle Joe user enthralled for too long either. A quick peek at our back-end analytics shows a 20% first-day retention rate that drops to a dismal 1% a month in. Yikes! Cold hard truth time: the user changes the look of their display far more often than they’ll change their phone case (which also gets changed pretty often, but not as often, due to the price tag). So s/he won’t settle for the same phone screen look for too long… and we wouldn’t want him/her to!

 

Theme installs matter more than retention

 

Here’s the great thing about themes, versus all other types of apps: for one thing, seeing as their functionality molds itself to the app they customize, theme-making is all about the art. So they’re easier to make and publish to Google Play (with our theme editor Redraw.io, 90% of the process is a drag-and-drop affair – the rest is, of course, about actually making the art that you drag into the editor).

Secondly, the lack of user interaction with the theme itself doesn’t mean anything. The reason these theme apps may seem to drift into oblivion is because they’re meant to work on top of a personalization app like the GO Keyboard. To do its job – change the look of your keyboard across all apps where you key in text – GO crawls your phone for the various theme packages you have installed. When it finds your newly installed theme, it applies it and presto – you’re typing on a bed or roses (or, hey, neon butterflies!) and you’ll never look back.

In other words, there’s no longer any reason for you, the user, to go back to the theme app. (That would let us track user retention, but, hey, why would you care about that?)

So if themes look perishable, it’s because they vanish into the theme collection of whatever personalization app the user has running on their phone. It’s not for nothing that themes are also known as skins…

So, we can’t measure retention rates based on how many times a user will apply our keyboard theme onto the keyboard app itself – but what we can measure are installs.

 

From 2k to 6k downloads in 2 months for the Neon Butterflies Theme!

 

While making themes is a walk in the park, monetizing them is another matter altogether. Most themes are free, so when it comes down to it, in-app ads are what lines theme-makers’ pockets. The best way to pad your bottom line is by ensuring that your app gets installed. Basic logic, right? But the hard part is figuring out the best way to drive installs, which is all about ASO. App Store Optimization (ASO) is the process of improving the visibility of the app in the app store. If you consider we’re fast becoming a mobile-only society, it stands to reason that ASO is the new SEO – as such…

We published our Neon Butterflies theme a couple of years back, and left it alone, at around 2,000 daily installs. Then, in late December of last year, we decided to give it a shot in the arm with a few optimization tricks. Meaning, we A/B-tested it to within an inch of its life. And now, just three months later, we’re reaping the rewards! Here’s an overview of how the theme app did in this short span:

neon-butterfly-tmestudios-Capture

It wasn’t one thing that helped boost our visibility and our appeal to users – it was a bunch of them! A concentrated battery of tests that we ran on the icon, the cover, the screenshots and the description of the theme. The end result was a spike we couldn’t write off as just a fluke.

Capture (2)

 

capture2descriptionchanger

The description wording started out short and sweet – only the results weren’t quite as sweet, so we experimented with bullets and bold text that jumps out at users landing on our app page. The cute, but vague, original phrasing “let the funky pink neon butterfly party take over your phone!” was dropped in favor of a more results-oriented approach. It’s no secret that the allure of prizes wins users’ hearts and their gamer mindset is tickled by the promise of unlocking rewards. So the solution we came up with, and have stuck with, was shouting this call to action at them: “Win free prizes!!! HD Wallpapers, cool sounds, awesome fonts, beautiful themes or a local offer, all are waiting to be claimed!!!” The new, gamified text was further improved with the promise of one hundred emojis, which all turned out to be a pretty reliable recipe for success.

The app icon started out as a zoomed-in detail of our black-and-pink keyboard skin, framed by a rounded square. Our marketing gurus Andrei and Flory flipped it, turned it, then enlarged it, and then finally zoomed out. When they settled on the best performing version – that you can see today – the installs had already made up for all that painstaking effort. And all the promo art that goes along with the icon on the Google Play page went through similar tweaks:

ICON-NEON-BUTTERFLIES-EXPERIMENTS

SCREENSHOTS-NEON-BUTTERFLIES-EXPERIMENTS

COVER-NEON-BUTTERFLIES-EXPERIMENTS

 

After each new variant went live, we measured the results and proceeded to guesstimate the impact of further change, based on the performance of the latest tune-up.

When all’s said and done…

A/B testing everything will only get you your desired results through constant measuring, learning from past results and applying that knowledge to further fine-tune the Google Play page of your app, as well as increase its visibility in the long catalog of apps in the store.

Digital adopter, film hobbyist and social media dweller. Millennial by DoB, Gen Z-er by PoV. Wordsmith at heart, always and forever.

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