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The avalanche of apps, the recognition that app search is fatally flawed, and the recent raft of changes to the algorithms employed by Apple and Google are turning up the pressure on app developers.

Companies need to move beyond ASO (App Store Optimization) basics to get the most out of their entire marketing funnel, not just their app store presence.

That is the key takeaway of VB Insight’s forthcoming practitioner’s guide, which draws on 35 interviews with ASO professionals and an informal survey of over 500 ASO users. The report maps out how app developers and companies will need to approach ASO as part of their routine, given the hard truth that focusing on keywords alone isn’t going to cut it.

Receive the forthcoming App Store Optimization practitioner’s guide
for free (a $499 value) when you attend Mobile Summit 2016

Expect ASO to morph into App Marketing Optimization (AMO), growing in scope (and budget) to cover all aspects of this field. And brace yourself for a seismic shift as ASO continues climbing the ranks to become the tool app developers and companies need to utilize at every stage of the app life cycle.

“You get the most for your app if you focus on ASO before you launch your app to the market and use the time with the tools to understand the overall landscape of your app from ASO point of view,” notes Mika Levo, who heads User Acquisition at Pollen VC , a fintech company headquartered in the U.K. Levo leads the company’s Pollen360 coaching sessions that advise developers on strategies to maximize reach, response rates, and return on investment.

But the real rewards come when app companies grasp how ASO complements, and can ultimately supercharge, UA strategy.

Fat Fish Games, an independent games studio in the U.K., discusses the role images played in its campaign to impress and acquire high-quality organic users — users excited to play and pay because they are genuinely attracted by the gameplay they see in the screenshots, for example.

Following the advice of Pollen360 and using the A/B testing platform for store content in Google Play, the company was able to make a tough choice between the character-driven and narrative-driven screenshots the team developed.

According to Fat Fish Games, A/B testing revealed that the images the team preferred were far from crowd-pleasers and “actually reduced the conversion rate of installs by 15 percent.”

At one level, the evolution of ASO will undoubtedly create new opportunities for the emerging ASO business ecosystem of vendors, enablers, and agencies, allowing them to move up the food chain. But it will also create challenges for app developers and companies, particularly indies just beginning to grasp how ASO will impact — well — everything.

But it would appear that the headaches that arise will be well worth it.

Looking at the business impact of ASO, our survey shows that efforts are already yielding massive benefit.

While a few app developers report their ASO efforts achieved quite the opposite effect, the average lift you can count on is an impressive 87 percent.


The consensus among the 15 vendors that we studied was a floor of 20 percent improvement, and several vendors reported that they’ve seen organic download rates more than double, with a 120 percent lift after ASO implementation. No vendor wants to promise too much, but based on the data we have, we’re pretty confident in predicting that app marketers should expect at least a 20 percent lift and can realistically hope for much more.

Our report shows that app companies like Fat Fish Games are on the money when they sharpen their focus on visual elements, such as screenshots, as part of a larger strategy to attract and retain users.

It also highlights why app developers and companies need to get away from the traditional notion that ASO is a close cousin of CPI. It’s not about acquiring users quickly and shutting on and off the channels you think are working best. It’s about understanding the user and measuring their response to changes in order to determine what flies and what fails.

Effective ASO requires a holistic approach that puts proper emphasis on all the elements that define and drive the marketing funnel. But this can be a challenge, as ASO evolves to consist of more “moving parts” — titles, descriptions, icons, screenshots, videos — and app stores shift rules and algorithms to reward apps that delight their users.

As the mechanics and components of ASO continue to blur, blend, and change, app developers can count on one constant: the hard work required to bring real business value out of ASO.

The ASO practitioner’s guide will be launched in April. All Mobile Summit 2016 attendees will receive the guide — valued at $499 value — without charge.

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