App Store Optimization: the impact of creative sets

Dave Bell, Co-founder and CEO of Gummicube, looks at the importance of creative sets in making your app stand out from the crowd in the app stores.
With thousands of apps uploaded every day, it is imperative to find ways to stand out against competitors. One of the first steps in App Store Optimization is to help your app get found among the millions available – but once that happens, what makes a user decide to download? This is where your creative sets – the graphic elements that appear as part of your app store listing such as the icon and screenshots – come into play.

A store listing can be thought of like the display windows of a shop. They need to be attention-grabbing, informative and pique a customer’s interest. If done successfully, a potential customer will head into the store – and they may even make a purchase. The same concept applies to the creative set in the app stores.

Optimized creative sets can of course help increase conversion rates, but it can also impact organic search visibility and even make paid marketing efforts more efficient. While some marketers may think of App Store Optimization as simply driving users to an app, optimizing creative sets through continuous, strategic A/B testing is the next crucial step to acquiring users.

Testing creative sets – things to consider
Running A/B tests, such as those available in Google Play Experiments, is a great way to determine creative set performance, while limiting extraneous variables; both variants can be run at the same time. But while testing new creative sets is vital to a successful App Store Optimization strategy, testing “more” creatives is
not inherently better.

When testing creatives, eliminating any outlier variables will help you better understand performance. If the icon is changed at the same time as the screenshots, it will be difficult to determine which element had an impact – be it positive or negative. Running tests without isolating variables can lead to skewed results and a stunted optimization strategy.

Time is also a critical component of running a test. While there is no strict minimum amount of time required by Google to run an Experiment, testing for at least seven days will allow you to eliminate statistical noise and account for any disparities in weekly traffic. Results on a Wednesday may not hold up on a Saturday.

When testing, be cognizant of what marketing campaigns you are running and how they may impact conversion rates. While driving in paid traffic to an app, the audience can essentially become another variable.

A test that trends one way while 100 per cent of traffic comes in organically may show a different result if a sudden influx of Facebook traffic is driven in; another result may show up if a sudden influx of TikTok traffic comes in. These users from different platforms will inherently behave differently once they reach your product page – keep in mind the audience you are optimizing for when running a test, in order to have the best read on its results.

Lastly, while inbound traffic from user acquisition is relatively easy to account for, there are other factors that are not. A sudden viral influx, getting featured on the App Store or changes due to seasonality can cause shifts in conversion patterns. While these are not as directly controllable as paid user acquisition, they should be kept in mind when analyzing the results of a creative optimization to guide the next round of updates.

All of the above factors hold true for an Experiment in Google Play, as they do for launching a full deployment in the iOS App Store, which does not have an Experiments option. Here, changes across the dates before and after launch must also be factored in when assessing changes in conversion rates.

Creative optimization – search visibility benefits
When users search for apps, creatives may be the deciding factor as to if they keep scrolling through the list, or stop to download. Users are quick to decide whether or not to install, so it is imperative that the creatives stand out against competitors – or competitors may receive the download instead.
Although optimization of keyword metadata is the primary way to increase search visibility, clicks you get from search results can also impact your ranking. Creative sets play a big part in this.

When a user searches for a given keyword in the app stores, both Apple and Google’s algorithms factor in how many clicks each app gets for that given term. Apps with more clicks eventually move higher in ranking than apps that do not; making sure your creative is optimized with important keywords in mind can not only help your conversion rate overall, but may improve your keyword ranking if enough clicks are achieved.

Creative optimization – improving UA efficiency
Improved conversion rates can also have a positive impact on paid marketing campaigns. When teaming paid marketing efforts – which drive traffic to your store, increasing overall visibility of your app – with optimized creatives – which draw the users in and increase appeal of the app – you can increase the likelihood of a user downloading your app.

While creative sets can help increase clickthrough rates and potentially rankings for organic search, their impact on paid user acquisition is much more directly measurable. Apple Search Ads and Google Ads run on “Cost Per Tap” (CPT) models; if a user sees your app and taps on it, you will have to pay. While this structure keeps you from paying for impressions that lead to no action, if the user taps to view the app and does not convert, it still costs ad spend.

When testing new creative sets, look for any changes, not just to overall conversion rate, but also to conversion rate from a tap to a download. Improvements here will lead to a lower cost per install, meaning more budget to acquire more users, compounding your App Store Optimization and user acquisition efforts.

Creative elements of a store listing occupy the majority of the page on a mobile device. These highly visible assets can be the difference between a user tapping “GET” or tapping back to look for other apps.

Entice users to download by testing variations of your screenshots that reflect your app’s key features, value propositions and current trends. Creative optimization is not a one-and-done process – continue to evaluate performance, the current market and update accordingly.

Even if the results of a creative test come back negative, the data can be useful in shaping a strategy for the next test. In order to get the most benefit from creative optimization, tests should be run with as few outlier variables as possible to best understand the data and how to proceed.

Aside from the most straightforward goal of improving conversion rates, the increased clicks and conversions from creative optimization can also have benefits on search ranking as well as paid UA spend. Outside of simply assessing conversion rates before and after, be sure to measure the impact of any change on these to get a more holistic picture of what is working, where it’s working, and how to further optimize.

Metadata optimization and paid UA campaigns are a critical first step towards achieving a download. But to seal the deal, your creative sets must be engaging, compelling, informative – and constantly iterated. Like a shop owner changes their displays according to user response and current trends, you must also update your creatives to stay engaging and constantly attract new users.

About the Author
Dave Bell is Co-founder and CEO of Gummicube. Gummicube is a global leader in App Store Optimization with more than 11 years of experience optimizing and marketing apps. We offer the leading enterprise ASO technology and agency services, providing support to clients around the world. Our company is trusted by thousands of enterprise brands and leading startups including Microsoft, LinkedIn, Bethesda, SWEAT, GrubHub, McAfee and many others.