sure shot ways of increasing mobile app downloads
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Definite Growth Hacks to Increase Mobile App Downloads

“How to increase app downloads?”

I bet every marketer and product manager have delved with this question. In this article, I will discuss practical, non-bullshit ways to increase downloads.

In my experience of working two early-stage, VC backed startups, I have come to realize that while you may call download a vanity metric, it’s still incredibly important. When a user visits play store or app store, the most important metrics for him is download and rating – the social proof.  People will not be comfortable in transacting through an app with low download numbers.

In this article, I will present 5 proven strategies that will help you increase the downloads.

To be fair, I must disclose that although mostly we will discuss organic methods, some of the mentioned methods will cost money. However, they surely will be cost effective.

  • Launch Hype
    • Build a Waiting List
    • Offer Lead Magnet – Free Course or Tool
    • Get Featured on Product Hunt
    • Get Featured on Hacker News
    • Get Featured on BetaList
    • Get Listed on Product Review Pages
    • Get into FbStart Program
  • Developer Relationship
    • How to contact App Store and Play Store team?
    • How to get featured?
  •  Referral
    • Funnel optimization
    • Venmo Story
  • App Store Optimisation
    • Elements of ASO
    • Hacks
  • Email marketing
    • Subject lines
    • Funnel approach – Build touch points

As a bonus, we will discuss a few more channels that you could try.


How to icrrease mobile app downloads - growth hacks

Launch Hype

A product launch doesn’t have to be a completely brand new product. In fact, an important part of growth marketing is to relaunch the product multiple and get more customer. For example, after launch on Google Play Store,  launch on AppStore, Amazon Play Store or in a different country.

People are driven by curiosity. It causes them to search for knowledge, it brings them joy when they find it, and it’s of the key emotions people experience. The peak of curiosity and perceived exclusivity at the time of product launch makes it one of the best time to acquire customers.

The launch campaign has to hit the sweet spot between revealing information so that people want to know more and holding information that keeps them stuck to the product.

Here are my suggestions for the launch:

Build Waiting Lists with a Landing Page

Build hype and awareness by having individuals sign up for an upcoming offer or event ahead of time with a dedicated landing page.

This helps in building a list that you can email build excitement. You can use tools such as Mailerlite to build landing pages and create email marketing funnel. Apple product pages are a great example of an awesome landing page with focussed headlines and curiosity generating images.

Sure shot ways to increase your app downloards

A few pointers for implementation:

  • A Concise Description:

One of the most crucial parts is highlighting the key value proposition with clear and concise text. Your headline should cover the following two aspects:

  • What’s the product aim to solve?
  • Why should the customer talk about the product?

Some examples of a good product description:

  • iPhone X: Say hello to the future.
  • Stripe: We’re making it easier to accept the payments online.
  • A Viral Loop: 

While designing in landing page make sure that you convey why people should ask friends and family to signup.

Even a simple a tweak in “Thanking You” page post signup could increase the number of signup by a big margin.

Best signup page to increase mobile app downloads

Offer Lead Magnet – Free Course or Tool

Lead magnets usually offer a piece of digital content such as a free PDF checklist, report, and tools that smart solves a problem of the consumer. You should invest a significant amount of effort in creating a lead magnet, as this is your sales pitch to your website visitor to provide his personal email address.

A few pointers for implementation:

  • Develop a short online, personalized course that could be delivered via email. At Sqrrl, we develop “Free 7-Day Investment Course“, which has an open rate of 40% on an average and helped us get more leads.
  • Make sure your lead magnet promises and delivers one quick win. In other words, it should be easily achievable. For example, on TradeBrains – a stock market educational website, Kritesh, the author, offers an extremely effective solution for a niche problem – How to find winning stock in Indian stock market. This lead magnet has helped him grow his subscriber base at a pretty rapid pace. Read his complete story of growing TradeBrains here.
  • You can use tools such as UnbounceMailChimp, and Mailerlite for creating a landing page and sending emails.

Get Featured on Product Hunt

Product Hunt is an awesome website for the product launch. At Fitso, when we featured on Product Hunt (and trending for an hour), we received around 2000 downloads. In addition, this helped us garner PR, as short Android Authority reviewed our app, giving us 1000+ downloads more.

On an average, getting featured on the front page will fetch you 10K+ visitors. With some exclusive giveaway for product hunt visitors, you can even 10% conversion. Check out the experience of Startup Stash, which garnered 35,000 unique visitors from Product Hunt.

The Product Hunt homepage is organized into two different lists of hunted products: “Popular” and “Newest.” Every product that is hunted appears in the Newest tab, but only the most popular products appear in the Popular section (hence the name 😉). It’s everybody’s goal to get featured.
Product Hunt Team

Here is a step-by-step pointer to help you:

  • While you can submit from your personal profile, it will be tough for you to build credibility and traction at Product Hunt. It’s better to engage with Product Hunt influencers, but please note that this isn’t critical (check out comments from Product Hunt Team below). You can post something new here. If you don’t have access, signup and follow these steps to get contributor access or ask a friend for an invite.

On a related note, it makes little difference who hunts the product. It used to matter, back in the day when we sent email notification to the hunter’s followers, but we stopped doing that a long time ago. Your time is better spent gathering a small group of people months in advance that are excited about what you are building, rather than an “influencer” who may have little context.
Product Hunt Team

  • Product Hunt has internal curators who keep looking for amazing products.  These ‘Hunters’ have a reputation and following that can help your product get on to the front page.
  • Find influencers: Identify someone who would be interested in your startup and also have influence within the PH community. You can figure this from PH product handle (@ProductHunt). Search for a similar product to yours and then find the person who submitted it. This person will be perfect to submit yours.
  • How to interact with Product Hunt influencers – You can reach out via Twitter. Drop an email explaining your product through pitch deck or demo video. Don’t directly ask to submit. Instead, it’s a good idea to ask for the feedback first. Get people invested in your success 🙂
  • Once you are ready to launch, build your landing page ahead. Messaging on the page should get visitors excited about the product.
  • You should also carefully consider the timing carefully. In general, the site gets more traffic on weekdays. In addition, avoid classes with a big launch.
  • Ask the PH community to give you honest feedback on your product and make sure you answer any question or comment. Product Hunt folks love honesty and promptness.  Be short, informative, and humble.
  • Finally, don’t try to hack – making every company employees upvote from multiple profiles. Instead, play by the rules of Product Hunt community. Upvotes that are considered by the system as spammy can end up damaging to the overall ranking.
  • However, you could share the news with social media followers and email subscriber. Ask them to engagement – share feedback in comment and upvote. Try getting around 100+ upvotes from friends, family, and followers. You could curate Slack teams or Facebook groups with future customers or beta-testers, whom you can reach out to engage on Product Hunt. This is one of the most crucial steps for a successful launch. Check out this awesome pre-launch tool by Product Hunt.
  • #ProTip: Twitter is one of the most important channels to get spread word about Product Hunt launch of your product. When promoting on Twitter use GIFs.

“GIFs work best for finding the right balance between grabbing people’s attention, communicating info about the product, but not giving away too much upfront in a way that limits clicks back to your product.”
Product Hunt Team 

  • You can link your listing page to your website and social media. Please note that there isn’t any penalty for doing so.

Link directly to your product page. Linking to “producthunt.com” only makes it harder for people to find you and doesn’t have any effect on the algorithm at all. It seems to be “common knowledge” that you’re punished for linking directly to your product page — it’s simply not true. Focus on communicating what your product does. P.S. Linking to producthunt.com is one of the clearest indications you may be “over-optimizing” your launch (gaming the system).
Product Hunt Blog

Get Featured on Hacker News

Hacker News, a simple link aggregator owned and operated by Silicon Valley startup incubator Y Combinator but loved across the world.

Besides brand awareness, getting featured on Hacker News can get you even 16,000+ visitors. Again Hacker News is a tech-focused group, you conversion percentage will be higher here – 5-10%.

However, Hacker News is more difficult to track. In fact, we could crack it at Fitso, but even then we managed to get decent download and website visitors from the website. Check out this interesting case study of TablePlus getting featured on HN.

Hacker News currently has two full-time moderators: Dan Gackle (dang) and Scott Bell (sctb). In order to resolve any queries, you can reach out to HN at  hn@ycombinator.com.

As per Alex Taub, an excellent blogger and founder of SocialRank, there are a few unsaid rules of HN:

  • There is only one upvote allowed per IP address. So even if everyone in your office votes, you will just get one upvote
  • Sending someone a direct link to your post results in an invalid upvote

Here are a few pointed to help you get featured on HN:

  • Follow the HN community rules: Play by the rules or don’t expect to get on the top, and even if you get to the top, you will be hammered.
    • Put the name and the direct URL, when submitting. Don’t use Bit.ly or any URL shortener.
    • If you submit a link to a video or pdf, please warn by appending or [pdf] to the title.
    • If the original title includes the name of the site, please take it out, because the site name will be displayed after the link.
    • If the original title begins with a number or number + gratuitous adjective, we’d appreciate it if you’d crop it. E.g. translate “10 Ways To Do X” to “How To Do X,” and “14 Amazing Ys” to “Ys.” Read the interesting case study where this rule was the reason for not getting featured.
    • Please don’t use uppercase for emphasis. If you want to emphasize a word or phrase, put *asterisks* around it and it will get italicized.
  • Engage with influencers: Within Hacker News, it’s important to have influential members upvoting your content. Identify around 20-30 influencers, probably the guys who are tweeting the @NewsYCombinator. In addition, you find people who have submitted similar product on Hacker News and start interacting.
  • How to interact: Again it’s better to ask for email and send a product demo. Instead of directly asking to submit to HN or upvote, ask for feedback.
  • While I haven’t come across any study on this, it’s better to post on a weekday. When submitting put the name and the direct URL with link-shortener. It’s important that you write something interesting targeted to a developer community while submitting.
  • As soon as you post you will be in http://news.ycombinator.com/newest. Send this link to at least 20 influencers from different locations, whom you have already interacted, for upvotes. Sending to people with solid karma will be more effective.
  • If you hit 5 or 6 upvotes, within the first five to ten minutes, you should get to the first or second page.
  • Once you get here, send the front page link change the link to people for upvotes. Again, send to different locations only.

Please note that what I have mentioned here are just best practices shared by people who have got to the top page. However, even after doing everything I have mentioned above, if you don’t get traction in 20-30 minutes, it’s almost over for you. There is nothing more you can do.

Get Featured on BetaList

BetaList is the place for early adopters to discover upcoming and recently launched internet startups, and for startup founders to share their startup with the world and get early user feedback. Like PH, BetaList can also give you decent signups.

The website gets 70,000+ page views per week. The newsletter has 10,000+ subscribers and is sent out daily. We have30,000+ followers on Twitter. The number of click-throughs this will generate for you heavily depends on your product and messaging, but on average we see about 300 clicks per week.
BetaList 

In many cases (including ours), BetaList guys reach out to you to get listed. They have paid listing feature, but the non-paid is also good.

BetaList paid plan – USD 899:

  • Site Advertisement: 1 week
  • Newsletter: 1 week
  • Tweet: 1

Here are a few pointers for posting at BetaList:

  • The product should be only recently launched or still be unreleased, and the product shouldn’t have received significant press coverage.
  • BetaList uses ‘one-sentence pitch’ for sharing on Twitter and throughout the site. It’s important to get it right for optimal exposure.
  • You can submit here on BetaList. Just follow the guidelines. Make sure you have a decent landing page and provide good-looking screenshots.

Our startup Casual got published on Sunday, April 7th. During the next  couple of days, we received about 500 emails and then 300 registrations.  Also, this rendered a few blog posts about us which drove even more users into a system. Our overall effect from Beta List and a small splash around it was more than 700 registered users in two weeks.
Nikolay, Founder Casual.pm

Get Listed on App Review Websites

While I am not certain, many top ASO companies including App Annie and App Tweak suggest that backlinks play a big role in app store optimization. That’s why app review websites are a good source for high-quality backlinks.

When approaching these sites make sure you have provided pitch and provide details, screenshots, and demo videos. It’s also a good idea to promise giveaways in your pitch for review website visitors.

Websites OS
http://appadvice.com/ ios + android
http://appscout.pcmag.com/ ios + android
http://www.pcmag.com/ ios + android
http://www.phonedog.com/ ios + android
http://download.cnet.com/ ios + android
http://mashable.com/apps-software/ ios + android
http://www.businessinsider.com/ ios + android
http://techcrunch.com/ ios + android
http://gizmodo.com/ ios + android
http://www.makeuseof.com/ ios + android
http://www.techradar.com/ ios + android
http://www.zdnet.com/ ios + android
http://arstechnica.com/ ios + android

The complete list of over 200+ mobile app review websites can also be downloaded here in spreadsheet format.

Here is a List of Websites for Review, which provides a list of Youtube Channels, Websites and Review Websites for a tech product launch and publicity.

Get into FbStart Program

FbStart provides year-round technical support from Facebook, an exclusive community of global startups, free credits to tools and services from dozens of premier partners of Facebook. Most importantly, this program is extremely easy to get in.

You can use the free credits (USD 500 in Bootstrap category) to venture into paid campaigns on Facebook. I also found the AWS offering immensely useful.

FbStart has two tracks. Choose the one that suits you:

  • Bootstrap: For an early stage, just-launched app. 
  • Accelerate: For mid-stage app looking to scale. 

You could apply here.

It’s a good idea to apply to the accelerator’s program, as they provide a good early boost. Check out the list of some famous accelerators program, first published in Forbes, below:

  • Platinum Plus tier: AngelPad, Y Combinator
  • Platinum tier: Alchemist, Amplify LA, MuckerLab, StartX, TechStars, U. Chicago New Venture Challenge
  • Gold tier: 500 Startups, gener8tor, HAX, Healthbox, IndieBio, Mass Challenge, R/GA, Skydeck
  • Silver tier: Brandery, Capital Innovators, Dreamit, Plug and Play, REach, Yield Lab, Zero to 510
  • Bronze tier: Accelerprise, AlphaLab, FoodX, Health Wildcatters, Lighthouse Labs, UpTech, XLR8UH

How to icrrease mobile app downloads - growth hacks

Developer Relationship

If you have an awesome product, building developer relationship is one of the easiest-to-crack and useful channel for growth. In both early-stage startups that I worked for, I was fortunate to reap a huge benefit from this channel.

Growth Hacks - Fitso Featured on PlayStore
Fitso has received Google Editor’s Choice Award
Growth hacks - Sqrrl was featured on Playstore
Sqrrl was featured on AppStore

Particularly for iOS downloads, which is extremely costly, feating on AppStore has huge benefits. Most of our downloads for iOS came from featuring multiple time on the Home Page of App Store and awards such as ‘Most Innovative App of India‘ and ‘Best App of the AppStore 2016‘.

Growth hacks - Fitso best app of the appstore
Fitso was awarded Best App of AppStore 2016

However, I have seen startup generally neglect the value of relationships with the Play Store and AppStore team. It’s extremely important that you invest in the relationship and remain in the good books.

A homepage feature on the Google Play store can bring 5K to 10K downloads. Similarly, a feature in App of the Day section on App Store can get 1000+ downloads.

How to contact App Store and Play Store team?

Sometimes App Store and Play Store teams directly reach out to for specific submission. For example, Google PlayStore asked developer in India to submit their apps for getting in “Build for the Next Billion” campaign.

However, in most cases, you have to reach out. You could directly reach out to developer relationship manager in your country from Apple and Google through Linkedin. Once you get the email ID, real work starts. In case you didn’t get any leader, try reaching our to Apple Editorial team directly here.

PR is often a great route to get in the radar of App store and Play Store teams. Getting featured on websites and news portal such as Product Hunt, Hacker News, Tech Crunch, Android Authority and Android Central will help you win the attention of the editorial team.

Further, you can participate in conferences and webinars organized by the App Store and Play Store team. Attending these events will help you build a network and stay updated with new developments.

How to get featured on App Store and Play Store?

Getting app featured on App Store and Play Store

Getting featured on App Store and Play Store isn’t simple and depends on a lot of factors. While there isn’t a sure shot way, here are a few pointers to get your app featured:

  • Don’t compromise on the quality, and approach the Google Play Store and Apple AppStore team only when you’re getting high ratings consistently and close to 99% crash-free session. This is not only important for your app to get featured but also for the app to not get hammered with bad reviews when it does.
  • Maintain a top-notch product page: That’s because maintaining a solid product page will be the first impression of your app for both the Editorial team and users who will visit your product page once you get featured. Use high-quality screenshots highlight key featured and write concise, structured app description.
  • Do your homework: It’s extremely important that you don’t send half-baked email to these guys. Write a concise email explaining key aspects of your and attaching product deck, demo video. Make sure you keep the following points in mind:
    • Highlight how you are taking advantages of new technologies introduced by Apple and Google. As these Play Store and App Store team have to increase the usage of developer tools, they love to hear how to you are making the best use of Google Material Design, Battery Optimisation Framework or Siri Shortcut. Google and Apple tend to feature apps using their new technologies in order to validate their own innovations.
    • Sometimes, App Store and Play Store even directly ask you to build apps for tabs, wearables or TV to get featured (yeah this has really happened 😊). If you have developer bandwidth, it’s a good way to start your relationship.
    • Don’t directly ask for a feature. Instead, ask for feedback. In general, after the start of the dialogue, you will get feedback from the Editorial Team. Quickly incorporate the feedback or in some cases explain why it doesn’t make sense for you.
    • Make sure your app is in line with Google and Apple guidelines respectively for Android and iOS app.
    • Integrating Apple and Google pay for subscription will also boost your chances to get featured. At the end of the day, while the Play Store and App Store team have to ensure transparency and best consumer experience,  they have to even drive revenue. By integrating Apple and Google Pay you are making their job easy. In addition, you also get a chance to rank is the “Top Grossing” category.
    • However, there is no walking away from building a high-quality app. Your rating, reviews, and retention are the key parameters of evaluation for the editorial team.

Google currently is focusing on “Building for Billion”. It has some amazing framework for dealing with low connectivity, batter optimization, and low storage. For example, Google provides APIs (ActivityManager.isLowRamDevice and ActivityManager.isgetMemoryClass) for checking the RAM of the device so that you can adjust your content.  Similarly, I really liked the idea of building cache data and story locally, which is common and queuing the outbound request for the time when the network becomes available. Working on these ideas will certainly help you build rapport with the Google team. Check out this video for more ideas.


How to icrrease mobile app downloads - growth hacks

Referral Channel

Referral is one of the crucial channels for startups. The fact that your users can bring more users builds the platform for viral growth. Referral channel has been a crucial channel of growth for many successful startups including Paypal, Slack, Facebook, and Whatsapp.

While this channel is extremely powerful and always sounds easy to implement first, it’s extremely hard to crack. The success of the channel depends on how scientific you are in making changes in your product after product-market fit to pursue growth.

This traction channel is becoming increasingly important as Facebook, email, and App Stores have emerged as “super-platforms” with billions of active users. As a result, companies can go viral faster than ever. Dropbox, Instagram, and Pinterest are great examples; each leveraged virality and these super-platforms to acquire tens of millions of users in less than three years.
Andrew Chen, Former Head of Growth at Uber

Social Proof

Social proof is an extremely important concept in product growth. The number of downloads and rating on Playstore and AppStore play a big role in persuading the user to download the app.

Social proof is not a new concept. We have always known this concept intuitively, but it has also been confirmed by research. In 1982 in the Journal of Applied Psychology.
A group of researchers went door-to-door in Columbia, South Carolina, soliciting donations and displaying a list of people who had already donated. The researchers found that the longer the donor list was, the more likely those solicited would be to donate as well.

This is a great video explaining how Venmo used Social Proof to optimize the onboarding process and drive referral. Venmo struggled in starting to design the onboarding flow, particularly the landing page. Ultimately, they replaced the landing page with social feed showcasing transactions done by friends. The fact that users see people using the app in the feed right away was a big social proof that Venmo is useful. Similarly, the Facebook feed is a great example of social feed being used to convey the social proof and functionalities.

Social proof can be immensely useful for you app in driving referral and usage of the app.

Social Media Sharing 

Organic social media shares have been a huge source of growth in multiple industries particularly travel, lifestyle, fashion, fitness, and finance. While the direct sharing of the app for usage, which is equivalent to referral is a big positive, even the sharing of app content, accomplishments, badges etc. could help you in getting huge traffic.

Strava, a running and cycling app, is a brilliant example of an app that capitalized on this channel. People inherently want to share their fitness stories and achievement. However, Strava carefully created a hassle-free way to share your fitness stories in a form of an attractive post on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. As these shared posts start reflecting in budding and non-athletes feeds, they also want to give it a shot. At the end of the year, Strava also provides “My year with Strava”, which is an extremely popular feature.

Zynga made a big bet on social gaming when Facebook opened its API for outsiders, and it was a huge success. The company released its first game for Facebook in September 2007. It created a free social poker game on Facebook, chosen because it was simple and it was a universal game that enabled friends to plan a “poker night” with each other no matter if they were far apart or not. Zynga was riding a wave of resurgence that poker had seen since 2003. Zynga’s first game was successful enough to make the company profitable.

Referral Funnel Optimisation

Refferal to increase mobile app downloads

One of the key tactics for improving referral is to fix the leaky funnel in user referral. Your job here is to take the current conversion percentage as baseline and conduct experiment improve this conversion on a regular basis. Right communication with an appropriate mix of email and push at an opportune moment is extremely important for driving referral. Generally, a successful completion of a significant action that delivers value to customers would be an appropriate moment for targeting user to generate a referral.

  • Reduce the cognitive overload with 5-Second Test

Vinod Khosla originally created this test to show executives and VCs that slides thick with information would fail.

The test involves putting a slide in front of someone and then pulling it after 5 seconds. Then he used to ask the audience what they remember.

The idea is simple. Make sure that your landing conveys what it’s supposed to convey. Often the overload of information distracts the users from doing the desired action.

  • Clear communication of benefits

Your referral program must be easily understandable and easily doable. If it’s complete, it would most certainly work. The worst thing you can do in the referral communication is to trick users with false promise or careful play of words. However, you don’t also have to through money. Make sure that the incentive makes sense for your brand and for your customer.


How to icrrease mobile app downloads - growth hacks

App Store Optimisation

ASO (App Store Optimisation) is one of the common ways to increase the top of the funnel organics install and downloads.

Elements of ASO

There are six key elements that you can focus on to optimize your app store presence:

  • Screenshots
  • App Icon Design
  • Reviews and rating
  • Video
  • Backlinks
  • Text Description

I have written extensively on how to optimize these elements for ASO in this blog. However, I would point out a few critical points for text description here:

  • Focus on long tail keywords:

In both the app store and play store, if you are not ranking in the top 10 ranks for the keyword, then it doesn’t matter what’s your rank is. That’s why it’s extremely important to focus on keywords that can help you rank on top.

In case you’re not familiar with the term in ASO: long-tail keywords are simply, search phrases that are more specific than the most commonly searched keywords. In general, long tail keywords are more specific, multi-word keywords based on what exact phrases people use while searching for your app.

  • Make it look good:

You can improve the readability and visual appearance of the description by using the HTML element and bullets. You can even use bullet symbols such as ❖ and emoji such as 🔥.

Increase mobile app downloads
Play Store Description of Fitso

Here is a list of elements that you can use.

Text Play Store Comments
Blue Blue Colors are not supported in web play store
Bold Bold
Italic Italic
Underline Underline
Header 1 Header 1
Header 2 Header 2
✓☆ ✓☆ UTF-8 and Emoji are supported
  • Make sure that you put your focus keywords in developer name, title, short description, and long description (2-3 times). While this will result in keywords getting used 6-7 times, you must ensure that placing of the keyword looks natural. You don’t want to give the impression of keyword stuffing on your play store.

While the optimizing the play store and app store elements are important, you shouldn’t forget often the most determining factor of ranking – app review, rating and retention of the app. If the retention of your app is poor, then ASO can’t help you much. Make sure your acquisition strategy is aligned to deliver user don’t just uninstall the app. It’s extremely important that you push satisfied users to rate your app on play store and app store. Even an intelligent in-app push or personalized email to a satisfied user can increase your app reviews by 10-20%.

ASO Hacks

There are some white hat tactics that might improve your app visibility in App Store and Play Store. With careful planning and execution, this tactics can give your downloads a huge push.

  • Localization and Vernacular Support

Both the App Store and Play Store want you to customize your product for end users. In addition, a personalized app, in general, received a higher rating and better reviews. For example, at Sqrrl, we launched our app in 9 different languages and even listed the app details in 8 different languages on Google Play Store. This not only helped us get rank better on these regional keywords but also helped us improve our overall rating. In addition, availability of app in different regional languages increased your chance to get featured.

  • Search Hack

Search Boost Hack Play Store and App Store

This is a fairly intuitive hack. Ask your friends, family, colleague, and power user to use a particular keyword to install the app. This will improve the CTR and conversion for that particular keyword, driving up your ranking on that keyword. You can use App Annie to figure the number of downloads required to get featured in the trendings section. For Sqrrl, which was in the finance category, we required more than 4K downloads in a day to break in the top 10 trending app section.

  • Top grossing app hack:

Ask your friends and family to purchase a higher prices version of your paid plan. You can even create a plan that costs huge. Then ask friends, family and powers users to purchase your product at a higher price. You can either return the money back or just offer an excellent service. Performed at scale and at a particular time, this method will get your in the top grossing section for the day, increasing the number of downloads. You can use App Annie to figure how much revenue is required to rank in the top grossing category.

  • Tell a compelling story with your screenshot:

The most successful app pages do not only upload screens but also tell a story. For example, instead of just talking about features, Uber depicts the whole hassle-free process of riding with Uber. Here are a few tips for designing screenshots:

App Store Optimisation Hacks


How to icrrease mobile app downloads - growth hacks

Email Marketing

EMail marketing phases - how to increase mobile app downloads

Email marketing has come along way! The first commercial use of email for marketing probably started in the late 1990s. However, over the years, this channel has been at the receiving end of worst marketing approaches, leading consumer neglect and plummeting open rates. Still, it’s one of the most important sources of website traffic, mobile download, and retention.

Here are a few principles that I followed to effectively use emails for driving download:

Funnel Approach:

You can’t just start sending email to cold lead asking to download. Instead, it’s important to take a funnel approach, where you send multiple altruistic emails that genuinely help users, and then at an opportune time send the email your app with a certain existing offer. It’s also important that each of these emails is engaging to keep users glued.

Increase mobile app downloads- email marketing tips
Example of Funnel Approach

I deployed this approach at Sqrrl. We launched a ‘free 7-day Investment email course’ to capture email. In this course, I never spoke of Sqrrl for the first 6th email. Even I went as far as promising that there will be no promotions in the emails. In the 7th email, I asked for download in the PS. Btw “ps” is really cool and casual way to get things done from users without being pushy.

Email marketing Sqrrl Stats - increase mobile app downloads
Dashboard Screenshot

In these emails, I made sure that I am using precise words, and I kept the email targeted at beginner investor. This intent of the course was not to sell but solve the problem users who want to get started with investing. That’s why the request to download the app was put in postscript.

Depersonalization

This is one of the key emerging themes in email marketing. While I was always intuitively aligned to this theme, I heard this term first in the context of email marketing in the blog post, Susan Su, a marketer at Stripe.

“We’re not only desensitized to {firstname} in the subject line of emails we receive from marketers. We’re actually repelled by it. People who really know me, and whom it’s my priority to read and respond to, would never put my {firstname} in the Subject line.”

The focus now is to keep the tone casual, fresh and different from other inbox emails. Hard selling doesn’t work in email anymore. The best approach is to just gain attention and solve a problem for users.

Fabulous email - increase mobile app download through email

One of the most awesome examples of this form of email writing is emails from Fabolous, a health and fitness app. As soon as you sign up for the app you start receiving emails from Amber. These emails are extremely thoughtful and considerate.

Download link in the signature

This just a small tweak – ask everyone in your company to incorporate the download link to the App Store and Play Store in their email signature, particularly the sales team and client-facing team. While this is not a big channel, users often look at the signatures of the person they are speaking to. That’s why it results in a decent number of downloads.

Short subject lines

“Hi, This is Obama”. This probably had been one of the most amazing subject line ever used in the email. The idea was simple – keep it short and keep it genuine. Also, this aligns with our focus on maintaining a casual tone. People don’t generally write long subject lines in emails to friends and family. That’ why it’s critical to avoid long complex sentences in our product communication emails.  

Forward (Fwd) and reply (Re) in the subject line

Yes, they might get you a higher open rate.  However, once the users figure out he will feel duped, and he might unsubscribe or report spam. That’s why I would never recommend using such delusional tactics. If you are still looking email as a transactional approach you are wrong. Email has to be a long-term relationship based approach – truthful, personal and value adding. That’s why I don’t recommed such tricks and tips to deceive users into opening the email.

Sender’s name

It’s generally neglected in the email writing. The name of the sender is extremely critical and should be rigorously A/B tested to figure out what works. In some cases using a common name with the brand name – “Ajitesh from Fitso” or “Lea from Frankfurt” works. However, in some cases, writing complete name could be better particularly if your company uses personal branding tactics.

CTA is overrated

Gone are the days when a big CTA button would drive the results. It’s not about the hard sell anymore. While the size and color of the CTA button are still important, the focus should be on communicating in a persuasive manner.  I have written a blog on the science of making people love your product. In this blog, I talk about BJ Fogg’s Behaviour Model and Robert B. Cialdini Model of Persuasion. Broadly, you can use 6 psychological tools to trigger action:

  • Reciprocity: Offer something of value – free guide, tips or tricks – to trigger reciprocity   
  • Make people commit to a certain goal and keep reiterating that in emails
  • Offer social proof that what you offer works  
  • Build mutual likeability

Exhibit a personality

Be sorry when you are reporting a breach. Be happy when you’re conveying a good news. Crack jokes when you can. Emails aren’t supposed to be system generated. Personally, I connect to email content that is honest, fun, and sensible.

Walkaway Email

This is a phenomenally useful trick to renegage users who have been active in the past. Essentially, you are sending an email suggesting that you will remove him from subscriber list in case you don’t hear otherize. When I received this email, I immediately clicked and even confirmed to stay on the list. After this incidents, I also became a regular reader for a while.

Walkway email - best email marketing hack to increase app downloads

When I tried this at Fitso it almost doubled my opening rate. It’s definitely worth a try.

Email Marketing Resources:


These were my sure shot ways to increase mobile app downloads. However, as promised, here are some bonus ways that might help you:

  • Google Universal App Campaign – This is an extremely cost-effective channel for driving downloads in the early stage. I have written extensively about optimizing Google universal app campaigns here.
  • Strategic Partnership: A support from a bigger, established player is nothing sort of an angel investment for an early stage startup. Airbnb though a bit unceremoniously uses Craiglist API to grow. I have written about using API for growth here. At Sqrrl, we heavily benefitted from our partnership with Mobikwik, a bigger and more established brand.
  • Affiliate Marketing: Paying people or companies for performing your marketing work is one of the key channels of marketing. Amazon has done a fabulous job here. Bloggers recommend a product and take a cut when sales on Amazon are through the sales channel. One of the key advantages of the affiliate channel is that you get to define the conversion. Thus, you are in more control to ensure the ROI.

That’s all. I would love to know what channels worked for you. Please feel free to email or leave a comment. 

4 thoughts on “Definite Growth Hacks to Increase Mobile App Downloads”

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