If an app is never downloaded, does it really exist?
Developing an app is an exciting time for any organisation – the strategic planning, the creative aspect, the designing, the testing, the refining. When you get the finished product on your device, it’s the culmination of a lot of time and effort from everyone involved.
But finishing the first iteration of your app isn’t the end of a project: it’s just the beginning. You’re eager for everyone to see it in action, but to do that, you need to make sure people actually know it exists – and then to download it, and use it too.
For that to happen, you need to give due time and attention to marketing your app. Here’s what you need to know…
Start with strategy
Marketing activity doesn’t happen in a void. It takes thought and strategic planning.
If you’ve done your research, you’ll already know who your app is aimed at before you start building it: but how much do you know about your target audience? What kind of people are they: do you know their family makeup, income, concerns and struggles? What is their media consumption? What do they read? What websites do they check every day? Whose newsletters, blogs and social media feeds do they follow? Why and when might they use your heritage app?
The more you know about your target audience, the more powerful your marketing message can be and the better you can devise a campaign that connects with your app’s intended users. The Yodel app is based on extensive market research, through the delivery giant’s continuous ‘Have Your Say’ survey: the entire case for the app, its design, and its delivery is based on customer need and demand. 73% of Yodel users wanted an app, an app was a cheaper and more efficient way for Yodel to deliver notifications, and the whole project was a three way partnership between Yodel, ourselves as developers, and digital marketing agency Great State.
Consider the heritage landscape into which you’ll be launching and promoting your app. Think about timing and context. Set timelines with your development plan that include marketing deadlines, and try to time the launch alongside an established event, piggybacking off that exposure.
This doesn’t mean poaching attention from companies you’re not working with. Anniversaries of historical events, calendar dates like International Days and public events are all good choices. A Royal Wedding would be a great time to launch and promote a Sandringham Estate tour app, for example, while our recent Riot! 1831 remake was part of Bristol Open Doors, aligned with and benefitting from a public engagement drive across the city as a whole.
Tactics and channels
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to app marketing, but there are some key tactics (things to prioritise in your marketing efforts) and channels (methods of communication) to think about, beyond traditional PR.
Heritage organisations have a powerful opportunity to promote their app within their own space. Put it up on foyer screens, have banners in reception. Ensure that front desk, the front of house or greeter staff tell everyone that enters about the app, and present download instructions.
Battersea Power Station installed these eye catching plaques around the redevelopment site in order to alert passers by to the app.]
Video is also an effective marketing tool for a heritage app. App stores love video – it’s a powerful show-don’t-tell marketing tool. There are plenty of agencies who specialise in creating promotional videos, or online services like Renderforest or Biteable which help you create your own. In content terms, be sure to show off the main features of the app and how it enhances the visitor experience – if you can, show your target audience using it.
That video content can potentially serve a double duty, becoming a piece of shareable content for social media and YouTube. It’s also a must-include in your email newsletter, to draw in returning visitors with the promise of a new, app-augmented experience. Think about reaching out to either social media influencers or industry peers. Send them an email with prewritten copy, some images and recommended social media messages that they can copy and paste for easy sharing with their followers. If you equip people with the tools, they’re likely to help you spread the word. They’ll need different approaches – industry peers are likely to help you out for the love, while influencers often expect something in return – a free pass, an exclusive tour, or a sponsorship for something they’ve created.
Finally, don’t overlook App Store Optimisation (ASO). App Store or Google Play provide guidelines for promotion. Their suggestions for promotional tactics are the best resource at your disposal. These recommendations evolve regularly, alongside operating system updates and the implications those OS updates inevitably bring, so the guidance is always up to date. Apple provide a full guide to launching your app, as well as marketing resources and identity guidelines, while Google Play has a suite of marketing tools and resources. Spot on.
Once we have the plans in place, the next step is seeing them through.
A marketing plan for an app will likely combine a range of channels, tactics, and carefully timed experiential moments and social happenings. How do you pull all these elements together?
The key here is to give yourself plenty of time. The longer the lead in, the better but give yourself a minimum of six weeks for a promotional campaign. If you have hard deadlines, such as the launch of a new attraction, take these into account and plan around them carefully.
Make sure you have some dedicated staff to work on the marketing and promotion of your app.
Consider using online management tools to help. Trello is a good for making lists of actions and keeping track of their progress. Consider using a social media scheduling tool to ensure you have consistent, regular messages going out to your audience.
Of course, outsourcing is also an option, whether it be to advise, plan and execute the whole campaign or to take the reigns for a smaller, more challenging part. For example; PR is difficult for a business which hasn’t spent years building up press contacts, so it can be worthwhile to work with an agency here and focus your efforts on the promotional materials you can create for yourself.
Reporting and Evaluation
All the above is for naught, of course, if you’re not sure it’s making an impact. Are your promotional efforts actually resulting in anything? Are you getting the crucial return on objectives for the app, and providing a valuable experience for your visitors?
Of course, what constitutes ‘valuable’ will change depending on your aims for the project, so refer back to your plans before the app development started, and remind yourself why you made the app in the first place.
Some aspects of the marketing drive are easier to monitor than others. App store downloads are easy to track. A follow-up survey or a question on registration can establish how each user heard about the app, and therefore which of your marketing tactics was most effective in getting them to download and install.
Other elements and outcomes are harder to monitor. The customer journey – the process by which a person goes from having never heard of your app to downloading and using it – almost always involves multiple ‘touchpoints’. They’ll likely have heard of the app more than once, from more than one channel, which means it’s not just the banner at reception that encourages them to download – it’s the web advert they glimpsed and the info on your flyer as well. This isn’t just a technicality – to understand how your promotional efforts are paying off, you need to understand their combined impact. How are your users hearing about your app – what does the journey look like, and what touchpoints do they meet along the way?
Finding out what people thought of the experience is the most important thing here. These insights inform and inspire changes to the app and experience. Beyond that, reacting to comments and reviews will increase the promotional performance of your app. This includes feedback given directly via the app store – be sure to respond to any constructive criticism. Showing that you’ve listened to your audience and made changes according to their feedback will enhance their loyalty to your site, and encourage repeat visits.
In addition to monitoring the app store for reviews, finding out what people think can be as easy as handing out paper feedback forms and pens to people when they enter your site and are told about the app. The first run of HRP’s The Lost Palace came with an extensive qualitative questionnaire, the results of which fed into future iterations that went on to win multiple awards.
As a general rule, don’t get too hung up on download numbers. Heritage interpretation is all about creating meaningful experiences and connections to people – and while getting people through the door is important, forging amazing memories is the ultimate goal.
It’s one thing to design and build a heritage app: quite another to make sure people know it’s there. Considered promotion and marketing will ensure the project extends beyond the build itself into ensuring the app gets used. A well-researched marketing strategy with a long time line and keen sense of the target audience’s behaviours and demographics will go far, especially if it’s informed by qualitative feedback that puts experience, not numbers, at the heart of the process.
To see how we’ve built and launched our heritage app projects, take a look at our heritage case studies.