When you are thinking about launching an app, everything seems rather messy and impossible to fully comprehend. There are just too many questions and components to think about.
At least, the App Store fees are pretty straight-forward: Apple charges you $99/year and 30% for every earned penny through your app. For Android it is the same 30% cut, but only a $25 one-time setup fee.
This, however, is just to be able to publish an app, not taking into account the actual amount of time/money to develop an app.
Here is when it gets a bit trickier and also quite impossible to actually say how much it will cost. Benchmarks vary from a simple low functionality table-based app to a fully thought through app developed with a dedicated team. The former starts around $1,000, the latter up to $250,000. There is no actual limit.
Reading these numbers, one can easily get shocked. On the other side, that is rarely the case, if one is just getting started in the app stores. So, by starting smaller one will get a pretty good understanding of how much it would potentially cost to develop the desired app, and which goals one wants to set for their release. What remains a mystery is how to make sure that the app will actually reach the aspired level of success.
Here is where the old myth comes in: ‘If you build it, they will come.’
Since this is just not true, here are a few steps you should take into account and do before launching your app:
1. Do your basic research on your competitors’ use case
How many competitors are out there? What are they doing? How do they differ, how will you differ? How do they earn money? How long have they been in the market already? How have they changed?
Download their apps and study those which have had proven success
2. Decide how you want to make money
Finding the right business model is not a straightforward task. Many app developers end up pushing a paid app into the market where no one wants to pay or — more rarely — the other way around. Will it be paid upfront, via IAP, or via ads? If it is via ads, you should think about how you would implement them even while first conceptualizing the app, to come up with ads that fit perfectly into the user experience. Same applies to your IAPs. Position them that they actually make sense and people are incentivized to make them.
3. Know what you can expect and what’s needed on your side
Choose a tool where you can dig deeper for competitor analysis. Meaning actual performance data with which you can find out what to expect. How many downloads did they have in the beginning/now? In which countries are they active? How are they ranked? How many downloads do they need to be ranked at that position? How much does an average app make in this category? Is the market already saturated or is there room left to tap into? In which countries should I launch?
This will help you 1) set expectations and 2) set up a plan what you might need to accomplish.
4. Prepare your launch meticulously
This can’t be an ultimate list, but a few things you should do is research the right keywords for your app niche. What keywords are people searching for when they come to your area of interest?
Additionally, care about the appearance of your app to catch impulse downloads: make sure you have an eye-catching logo and title, a solid description and app shots or video to convince people. This is just within your app and app store settings. There is obviously a bunch or other pre-launch marketing tactics you can use, like reaching out to bloggers etc. That depends on your situation and niche, or on when you decide to launch. Also, knowing your numbers from point 3, you might need to invest in paid user acquisition, i.e. you need 1,000 downloads to be in the top 10 of your category.
5. Get your tool game set up
Even though the mobile industry is still young, it is still unparalleled when it comes to tracking-and-measuring tools. Make use of them and make sure to track the important data points you need, like attribution channels, usage of your app, competitor analysis, and store stats for yourself.
6. Soft launch and test, test, test
You should always expect things to go wrong, hence, launch your app in a proven test market like Singapore, Australia or Norway. This will give you the chance to receive first feedback without losing a big market due to a bad start. And yes, things will unlikely be perfect from the start. One advantage you would lose for example is that Apple will boost your keyword ranking within the first seven days of your launch in a country. You obviously want to make sure to benefit from it to stay up there. A soft launch not only lets you find problems, but it also lets you test different titles, icons, descriptions, and so forth. A key component of a successful app is the viral loop = one new user bringing another user through social sharing or other mechanisms.
7. Don’t forget customer care
Both, Apple and Google, have a vested interest in providing users with high quality apps after a search. What plays into either app store algorithm is the rating of an app, among other things. Make sure to listen to people to 1) not get a bad rating and — more importantly — 2) to actually improve the app for your users, so they keep using it and spreading the word for you. This involves encouraging your users to provide feedback and making it easy for them to do so. i.e. having a dedicated section in your app where they know they can get in touch.
Having said all that, one can never be sure from the start if the app will be a success, as there are obviously always external circumstances that can’t completely be foreseen (i.e. weather, a celebrity picks it up). What you can be sure of from the get-go is knowing your field and the ballpark you’re about to play in. Do your research, get the right tools, and test, test, test, to not get lost in the pool of over 3 million apps living in the app stores.
If you have any questions, we’re always happy to help; if you would like to expand this list, tips are always welcome.
Other than that: good luck!