An increasingly competitive mobile app market requires an evolution in app intelligence tools
Many app developers begin their competitive and market intelligence journeys by analyzing the performance of their apps in the App Store / Google Play Top Charts, but to succeed in today’s competitive app ecosystem they have to go a step further.
Top Charts are ranked lists of apps organized by country, category, device, into three groups: Top Free, Top Paid, and Top Grossing. The charts are updated multiple times per day and give a great snapshot of “who is winning right now” in the app stores.
The platforms themselves don’t make the historical charts publicly available, but there are dozens of external companies which collect the data and allow you to plot the chart rankings over time. It’s understandable why this is the go-to resource for many mobile professionals — it’s one of the only free sources of app market intelligence out there! (UNTIL NOW.)
The Limitations of Top Chart Analysis
Top Chart analysis is a great way to get a quick idea of how an app is performing and is also a natural starting point for a competitive or market research project.
But any mobile marketer, product manager, or investor who has spent more than a few hours actually trying to analyze the top charts for deeper insights quickly gets frustrated.
Here’s the thing: “it’s not you; it’s the charts”.
- There is no global top chart. Looking for an idea of how Pokemon Go performed globally? Sorry, there is no global chart ranking. In a marketplace where the default setting of your apps is global distribution, top chart analysis provides no efficient way to get a holistic view of performance.
- It’s hard to know the value of the same rank in different countries. It is certainly interesting to know that Bitmoji Keyboard overtook Pokemon Go as the #1 Free app in the US App Store for a couple of days last week, but what if you’re interested in the relative performance of an app across different countries? Unless you have some indication of the number of installs that correspond to a particular rank position, you won’t get very far. For example, I know intuitively that the US is a larger market than Germany, but is position 15 in Germany “better” than position 25 in the US? What is the order of magnitude of difference?
- Categories are broad and imprecise. Because app developers can choose their own categories (and sometimes switch them in a bid for more visibility: see Twitter), categories are imprecise indicators of a competitive set. We see this clearly with dating apps on iOS: Tinder is a leader in the Lifestyle category while Match.com is a leader in the Social Networking category!
The Power of Download and Revenue Data as a common denominator
Download and revenue estimates are a great way to both simplify and strengthen your competitive and market analysis.
- Aggregate neatly to a global level. Because the underlying metrics are the same (download/revenue attributed to a unique user across multiple devices), you can get a global view of performance in a single statistic.
- Understand country scale and comparisons. Again, leveraging the common metric, you can now clearly understand the tradeoff between a number 5 position in one country versus a number 25 position somewhere else.
- Break free from categories. By building a watchlist of apps which are relevant to you, you can collect and aggregate only those apps you care about, and ignore the irrelevant results that are present in the category charts
To compete successfully and market efficiently in today’s mobile app stores, market data and intelligence tools are a must. A free app store rankings solution is a great start, but it will only take you so far. With hundreds of new apps entering the stores on a daily basis there is little margin for error in mobile, so don’t spend your time fighting with unwieldy rank data that only tells part of the story.