What happens when your App Store feature ends?

It’s every app developer’s dream to have their work featured on the App Store, but only a select few know what happens to your downloads and revenues when you are. We reveal all.

This post originally appeared on the Pollen blog.

It’s not unreasonable to expect a significant increase in downloads from browsing consumers - it’s the equivalent of your product being placed next to the checkout in the supermarket - but all good things come to an end and, after a short time, your moment in the spotlight is over. What happens next? We decided to find out.

Pollen asked our friends at Berlin-based Priori Data to dive into the numbers behind the icons and find out what happens when your feature ends, to both download numbers and the revenue generated. We picked a random sample of 40 Free to Play (F2P) and 40 Premium (paid upfront) games that were launched since July 2014 and have been featured by the App Store review team, either globally or in single territory.

Download and revenue figures were tracked for 90 days following the peak (which typically occurred just a few days into the promotion) and aggregated across all the games in order to build the curves. This peak is taken as 100% in our index. The results are shown below:

Our findings shows that on average, daily revenues will fall from their peak by approximately 75% within 30 days of being featured, and that your daily download figures will fall by around 85% during the same period.

Two conclusions immediately stand out.

Firstly, being featured in the App Store carries significant weight and is an amazing opportunity not to be squandered. Your spot - pride of place on that virtualised shelf - is valuable should you be awarded with it. Building a product that’s innovative, well made and inherently useful or enjoyable can pay huge dividends in this respect as those are all qualities that can be attributed to our sample of 80 games. It should be seen as a reward too; it’s the cheapest and most-effective form of app promotion, but it’s not guaranteed and it only comes with the hard graft that goes into making incredible user experiences.

Secondly, the data suggests that developers could do much more to capitalise on their feature in order to produce sustained long-term gains. For many developers it’s unlikely that their peak can be replicated, however anything that can be done to extend your run at the top will pay dividends.

Apple have provided the spring-board, you need to make the jump.

So how should developers go about maintaining the momentum?
Word-of-mouth recommendation is one of the benefits of being featured. Your user base has exploded literally overnight and everyone is playing your game. You have a great chance to capitalise on this new-found awareness with active press and social media strategies. Responding rapidly to public user comments creates a conversation and clever journalistic angles can then amplify it.

In-app sharing features are also perfect for moments like this. Well-designed incentivised sharing will have your customers happily promoting your app for you. Most of the time however these features are optimised later in the development cycle; you’re not going to have enough time to improve your in-app tools and submit an update in the 2 weeks before you hit the organic floor.

Apple is unlikely to extend your feature - there’s only so much screen real-estate to go around. So how do you increase that on-screen promotion at short notice? The answer is to double-down on your paid user acquisition during your feature. Use the chart-position gained when featured as a launch pad to your UA campaign. Your eCPI (Effective Cost Per Install) will be significantly improved thanks to the organic uplift generated from being at the top of the list. In short, it’s much more cost-effective to maintain a high chart position than to spend your way up from the bottom.

So far, so good. But hang on, if you’ve only just launched your game and it’s been featured, how are you going to fund a ramp up of your advertising campaigns to match, given that it can take up to 60 days receive that first payout from Apple?

Perhaps you go to the major ad networks and show them the numbers, but they still won’t give you a credit line as you don’t meet the criteria because you’re a start-up. Instead, you’re invited to use their “self service” offerings which mean that you’re expected to pre-pay for ads on your credit card. The reality though, is that you if you need to spend thousands a day on ads, this won’t get you very far…

Using VC money to fund user acquisition is also an inefficient way to deploy capital. If you’ve proven your core metrics - i.e. that your customer lifetime value (LTV) is higher than your Cost per Acquisition (CPA), your game can fund its own UA, and you should not use VC money to fund UA spend.

We think we’ve come up with the solution. Simply reinvest the revenues generated during your feature to fuel your UA - keep your VC money in the bank and your credit cards in your wallet.

A further breakdown of the data reveals a clear difference between free-to-play (F2P) and paid-for games in terms of revenue. After 30 days paid-for games were, on average, 10% further from their peaks than their F2P equivalents. This difference, although not huge on a daily basis, very quickly adds up to a significant revenue shortfall over the 90-day study period.

Check out the difference in the graphs below: