SketchAR's Experience: How to Promote an App by Getting Featured
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It's a developer's dream to make an app that both users and app store editors like. No matter how difficult this may seem, you can definitely create this kind of app. SketchAR, an AI-based mobile app for teaching drawing using augmented reality, is a perfect example. The app's unique product in its category and its continuous development have gotten its team noticed and allowed it to grow with minimal advertising expenses.
"In the three years we've been around, we've spent zero on marketing. We get 50,000 downloads a month from organic traffic, and this number increases by another 50,000 per day with an App of the Day card," says SketchAR's founder and CEO, Andrey Drobitko.
Today, Andrey will discuss the pros and cons of getting featured, being friends with app stores, and the potential for growth from organic traffic.
How knowing the editors affects getting featured
For a newcomer, getting featured is a big deal, especially if you can find out about it ahead of time and prep for it. But when you start speaking directly with App Store editors, becoming the App of the Day is no longer just a happy occurrence. SketchAR is regularly featured in collections because its team got to know the editors well before the app was released.
"Our previous app, BigMag, was App of the Year in 2015. That's when we got to know the editors. Establishing that contact really helped us out when we released SketchAR. Now we write to them directly when we release a new feature. Apple works on its own to identify developers who support the company's innovations. For example, we stayed in the Dark Mode collection for over a month just because we were quick to include the feature," Andrey adds.
Andrey says SketchAR was able to establish a line with the editors because "App stores are interested in showing off their phones' capabilities and value for users. We don't just offer a product that's entertaining. We give users the ability to constantly grow and use the newest technologies on today's latest devices while doing it."
The company is currently partnering with Huawei and Samsung, but is not seeing growth in Google Play. Despite the fact that developers can apply to be featured in the Play Store, there's no way to contact the app store. While other stores have publicly available ways to contact them, Google doesn't even offer the ability to find out the reason for being rejected.
The impact of getting featured
Not all aspects of being featured have the impact that people like to think it does. Any Today card leads to an instant increase in downloads and boosts the app in its category. But users that are directed to the app through the featured page don't keep up with the product for long and are rarely inclined to purchase a subscription. The team has observed that an app's impressions go up while the download conversion rate goes down after the app is named App of the Day. You see a spike for a week. Downloads increase by 50,000 a day, then revert back to their usual levels.
We asked the CEO to remember the best time the app got featured. “Last year, we were named the App of the Day in the US a day before WWDC (Apple's Worldwide Developer's Conference). It seemed like a dream come true. But getting featured in China on a regular day dwarfs the number of downloads we got from the US featuring."
In terms of LTV, getting featured in a category has a much stronger impact. Users make a more deliberate decision to go there and select the solution to their needs. For SketchAR, that's learning how to draw.
But not all categories are created equal. In the abstract Tools category, for example, a creative app just gets lost. Users visit this category with different kinds of needs, like finding a calendar, an alarm clock, or a document scanner. Getting featured in Education and AR works better for SketchAR. These users' needs align more closely with what the app does. Andrey points out that SketchAR has been featured in some countries' AR category for a year and a half now.
"The AR category doesn't have many apps that get used regularly. Drawing requires the artist to constantly develop, and our app helps perfect that skill with AR. It's not so hard to stay noticeable given the current level of competition in this category."
The app is constantly featured in different countries. These cards' impact depends on what users in the region are interested in and how much money they can spend. The app's current target countries are China, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States. China has even surpassed the US in terms of downloads and revenue. Countries like Belgium, Chile, Italy, and even the United Arab Emirates don't drive a lot of downloads or money. That's why, when the team gets a notification in Slack that the app is featured, they first look at which country it's in.
You can calculate which region would be better suited to your app based on experience. The Aword app made a concerted launch in the UAE because users there really want to learn English.
Growing overall organic traffic
Users directed to your app from being featured aren't the most loyal audience. For service apps like SketchAR, turning Browse into their primary traffic channel isn't a long-term solution. App Store Optimization helps more relevant users find your app through search. These users remain active in the app longer and bring more revenue.
SketchAR's target search queries are tied to learning how to draw: 'how to draw', 'learn to draw', and so on. Andrey makes sure his app stays at the top of search results for these search requests by using AppFollow's Competitors Overview tool. It does a great job of showing how close the app is to the desired search results position and which competitor apps pass it up.
We got some insight into SketchAR's plans for working with organic traffic. "We intentionally avoid focusing on user acquisition until we're sure that we can convert the biggest number of visitors into paying users. Long-term ASO-driven traffic channels are much more important than getting featured. We're also planning to reach a creative audience through partnerships with relevant websites."
Working with users and communities
User opinions determine an app's average rating, downloads, and revenue. Because SketchAR has a technologically complex product and a subscription-based monetization model, the app needs to work with user feedback.
"Initially, we had a chat feature that any user could write in. This was because of the complexity of computer vision technology and detecting flat surfaces that we project drawings on. We just created markerless tracking technology so users can draw even on walls, and we updated the onboarding process. So, we took away the chat feature to push users toward emailing and writing us in the App Store," SketchAR's CEO says.
Most users offer ideas or help their favorite app develop through App Store reviews. The team responds to them through Freshdesk and AppFollow.
Just like any app with a subscription, some of the negative comments include complaints about the price. Andrey recommends reporting these reviews.
"According to Apple's guidelines, reviews should be about the app itself. Reviews about a high price have nothing to do with the product. Once a week, we report these kinds of reviews, and the App Store deletes them within a week."
The company is planning to develop its communities in 2020. Although communities are predominantly found among gaming companies, Andrey is confident that SketchAR will help young artists gain recognition in the art world. A new system of competitions will help them make themselves known regardless of how famous they are or how many followers they have. It's another way to acquire relevant and loyal users.
So how do you achieve the same success? It might sound cliché, but just make a product that users need every day, and that shows off the best aspects of devices' new features. Things like smartwatches, a cool new camera, AR, VR, and more. Of course, the main thing is measuring the results of your actions accurately and in a timely manner with AppFollow, for example.
Start growing your app with AppFollow.