Acquisition & Engagement

7 Hidden Keys for How to Get People to Download Your App

John Koetsier

Every mobile publisher wants millions of new users every month who spend money, watch ads, and tell all their friends about their awesome new app. Most suck at making it happen.

How do you get people to download your app?

Simple: understand them and understand their motivations, then build and market to those goals. Simple … but not easy.

why smartphone owners install apps

I spent much of 2016 studying app store optimization (ASO). I surveyed over 3,000 American smartphone owners for TUNE, I studied a massive dataset with billions of data points on the top 50,000 apps on Google Play and the App Store, and I analyzed 74 million app installs by 48 million anonymized Americans.

Want the full report that this post is based on? It’s free here.

One of the things that emerged: user motivation is paramount.

Here are seven things I learned:

1: Teens are most influenced by marketing

teens most influenced by advertising

Marketers have always known that age matters: buying behavior follows interests, and interests are often influenced by age. Veteran mobile marketers know this too, and understand that they need to not only tailor their product to their desired target demographic, but also their advertising.

Teens are more influenced by marketing than any other age group.

Build your mobile marketing campaigns accordingly.

2: Teens are most influenced by Google or Apple featuring an app

teens influenced by featured apps

Not only are teens most influenced by advertising, they are also more influenced than any other age group by Google or Apple featuring an app. Getting featured is challenging — obviously — but if you target teens, it’s a great way to reach them.

This is also critical for people who are targeting older demographics.

Older people change slower than young people. Older people are more resistant to newfangled shiny objects (and apps) than young people. Old people are more set in their trolley tracks than young people.

But …

… when the kids get excited about something, the old people want to know all about it. They want to be hip, they want to be savvy, they want to be cool, and they don’t want to be be left behind.

Hence Snapchat.

3: Friends’ recommendations matter most to old people (and young people)

seniors and teens influenced by friends and peers

We know teens are heavily influenced by their peers. So are senior citizens, who trust their friends more than anything other than Fox News and Bill O’Reilly.

So reach their peers. And give the elderly some good old-fashioned positive peer pressure.

4: Good old-fashioned Google search is critical, especially for adults

google search important for mobile app discovery

Google searches that end up in app installs are a constant and steady, if not huge, presence in the app install funnel. And clearly, they’re more important for adults and older people than they are for teens (who are all on YouTube and Snapchat).

5: Even millennials need to get stuff done

millennials app install motivation

Task orientation is pretty important across the board.

Even young to middle-aged adults really just want to get stuff done. Drive your app results by amplifying their ability to drive their personal goals.

6: Customers are app users who just don’t know it yet


Bricks and mortar businesses often struggle with mobile: where does it fit, why would someone install my app, how relevant is mobile to my hair-and-nails shop on Main Street?

The reality is that your customers are your app users.

Your app’s not a business card or a brochure. It’s a way for your best customers to get what they want quicker, easier, and at any time … from you. Scheduling, customizing, prepping, booking, paying … all of it can happen on the 3-foot device, the device that is in their back pocket or purse or beside their bed.

You can buy, rent, earn, or own those mobile moments. I personally like to own.

7: Everyone just wants to make their lives easier

why smartphone owners install apps

There is nothing more important to people than getting stuff done. Let me repeat: there is nothing more important to people than getting stuff done.

That is, if it’s their stuff that they want to do.

Task motivation is the single most important drive of mobile app install behavior. So get in front of that train and hitch a ride.

Friends are very important, good ads work, and getting featured is cool, but tasks really matter.

37% of smartphone owners say they had a specific task in mind before searching for and installing their last few apps. Not shockingly, there are similar motivations behind many Google searches, so if you add the 13.5% of smartphone owners who searched Google for an answer and found an app in the results, just over half of all app installs are motivated by a specific, goal-oriented, purposeful hunt for a solution.

Fix a problem for someone, and you’ve got a user. Fix it repeatedly over time, and you’ve got a customer.

Want the full report that this post is based on? It’s free here.

Want all of the 10 or so ASO reports I’ve written over the past few months? They’re all available, for free, here. We’ve built them into an app store optimization masterclass that will kickstart your organic app install numbers into orbit.

John Koetsier

Before acting as a mobile economist for TUNE, John built the VB Insight research team at VentureBeat and managed teams creating software for partners like Intel and Disney. In addition, he led technical teams, built social sites and mobile apps, and consulted on mobile, social, and IoT. In 2014, he was named to Folio's top 100 of the media industry's "most innovative entrepreneurs and market shaker-uppers." John lives in British Columbia, Canada with his family, where he coaches baseball and hockey, though not at the same time.

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