How do you get your customers to download your app? And what are the best marketing strategies for mobile apps?
These questions come up a lot at Tapcart. Our e-commerce customers are experts at driving customers to their websites, asking for emails, and capturing phone numbers for SMS text campaigns.
But an app? That’s a different story entirely.
Or is it?
Here’s our guide to mobile app marketing.
We'll dive into Tapcart’s tried-and-true strategies, all of which are leveraged by the top ecommerce brands to fuel growth and retention.
These evergreen mobile app marketing strategies can work at any stage of your app user's lifecycle. Mobile app marketing should focus on engaging users in both the awareness stage (to drive app downloads) and within the app itself once downloaded.
That’s why we’ve created this checklist-esque guide as a go-to resource to bookmark and always return to. Whether you’re new to the mobile app game and are gearing up for your app's launch campaign or an app veteran looking for fresh ideas to power up your app, we've got you.
Why should you spend time on app adoption?
You’ve added a new marketing and sales channel. Now what? With an app, the sky’s the limit.
A mobile app has so much potential that you can invest as much (or as little) time into it and still see results. It’s like social media before timelines changed, or like Google before the algorithm updates. With an app, you can set it and forget and see results…
But nurture it just a little bit more, and you’ll see the app's value grow exponentially.
Why? App users will visit the app more often and spend more than customers who just visit your website.
“Once you get users to adopt the app, they're going to visit the brand 3 to 5 times more frequently than they were your website,” said Neal Goyal, Director of Sales at Tapcart. “Those sessions are going to convert at higher conversion rates, at higher apps, and as a result unlocks a higher lifetime value from your most loyal and coveted base.”
Each mobile app download turns a customer into a brand advocate, and each push notification subscriber means more eyes on your messages. Through community and brand building, app users spend more, with higher average order values (AOV) and lifetime values (LTV).
True Classic is a great example. The team needed to combat skyrocketing acquisition costs, so they built an app to help curate experiences for their best customers. Now, they see a 200x higher conversion rate on the app compared to the mobile web.
Adam Hutton, the Sr. Manager of Customer Monetization at True Classic, said it best himself: “If I want to be the best in class, I need to provide a best-in-class experience, and an app allows you to do that. The app allows you to provide that experience that’s harder to obtain via a website”.
So, without further ado, let’s get into all the opportunities to capitalize on your mobile app.
Sit back, relax, and enjoy this guide with a crisp Poppi (although any fun beverage will suffice).
How should you market your mobile app?
How easy is it to drive app downloads for your ecommerce brand? Driving app downloads comes down to two push-and-pull tactics: marketing (the push) and incentives (the pull).
Mobile app marketing can range from small-time investments to full-blown campaigns.
These are some slam-dunk moves to get your audience’s attention with little lift from you (it's giving LeBron).
Try these light-lift marketing tactics to drive app awareness and elevate your brand:
Create a buzz around your app with social media
Between sales and product launches, include app messaging in your social media post rotation. Everyone is scrolling on their phones on social media anyway, so it’s a smart tactic to meet your customers where they are. Those who already love and know your brand are likely following your social accounts, so no matter the size of your following, organic social media is the perfect place to start building hype for your app launch. And remember, only around 3% of your audience actually sees your posts, so don’t be afraid to share them often.
Here are best practices to craft your social media strategy with your app in mind:
- Remember to promote your app launch! This will help build a foundation of app users and push subscribers. Announce a few days in advance to build anticipation, and then post on the day of the launch. We also recommend posting about your app weeks and months after the launch to keep the momentum going.
- Pro-Tip: Create short video content to highlight the functionality of the app so customers can get a sneak peek
- Add info about your app to Instagram story highlights
- Use the new Bio feature to add App Store links to your Instagram profile.
- Pin your announcement post on Twitter.
- Definitely encourage your team to share about the app launch on LinkedIn or their social platform of choice! It’s a casual flex for your team and a great way to get the word out!
Use influencer marketing to give your brand a voice & promote your app
Tap into the power of influencer marketing to amplify your brand's voice and promote your app effectively. Influencers often have highly engaged communities; some may share a similar target audience with your brand. Collaborating with an influencer allows you to access this shared audience by harnessing the power of their endorsement.
- Pro-Tip: Use an influencer to promote an app-exclusive product or promotion
Gamify your creative campaigns to increase engagement
Many businesses use gamification in their marketing efforts, like brand awareness, reward programs, or new product promotions, so your audience (customers, leads, fans, followers, readers, etc.) can engage in a game that offers the chance to win something. In return, you get a marketing boost.
Regarding your app, you can embrace gamification to make the mobile CX more interactive —whether it's puzzles, coding challenges, or trivia. By incorporating this element into your marketing campaigns, you can seriously increase the likelihood of customers redeeming it.
Here’s a gamification strategy you can try now via Instagram stories:
- Create a 5-letter promo code
- Post a new letter every hour leading up to the sale or promotion
- Excite your audience by revealing the final letter through push notifications, prompting customers to subscribe for the complete code
Configure paid ads to push for an App Download with the Meta SDK
Revamp your paid advertising strategy by promoting app downloads rather than simple website visits or purchases. Proper segmentation is essential to ensure you're reaching the right audience.
Here's our key strategy for crafting your ads:
- Create an app download campaign targeting customers who have made purchases in the last 30 days
- Develop an app retention campaign that highlights current promotions for your existing mobile app users
- Utilize the Meta SDK to boost app installations. You can find a detailed walkthrough in this article
Link your Google Ads App Extensions
Elevate your Google Ads by incorporating an App Store listing extension. This powerful integration empowers you to make informed decisions and boost the effectiveness of your mobile app promotions with analytics.
Here’s how you can get started:
- Drive downloads by adding an app extension to your Google Text Ads.
- It's free to add—only pay for clicks.
- Display the App Store link that corresponds to users' devices.
Learn more about improving app downloads with Google Ads App Extension here.
Add a mobile app download banner to your mobile website
Website banners are the easiest, lowest-hanging fruit, and you can use them to make sure your customers know you have an app. Adding a simple reminder to the top of your website will drive new app downloads — especially with the mobile website prompt. For best results, add a quick sentence to the banner about the app’s can’t-miss value to incentivize organic traffic to tap download.
Here are some essential best practices to consider:
- Make your CTA compelling using FOMO messaging or emphasizing a smoother shopping experience.
- Encourage downloads by offering an exclusive app discount code or hinting at app-exclusive collections.
Check out this guide to learn more about setting up your mobile app banner.
Carve out essential real estate on your website to advertise your app
Beyond a simple banner, we recommend reserving valuable real estate in your website's header and footer to showcase the app, complete with official App Store badges.
Want to take it a step further? Create a dedicated landing page highlighting the app's benefits, then drive downloads and sales through an exclusive app-only discount.
Either of these strategies ensures a seamless experience for customers to discover and download your app, increasing engagement and customer loyalty in the long run. This is also a set-it-and-forget-it strategy for your team. We love a win-win.
Pro-Tip: Optimize your app promotion using a single URL across SMS, social media, and QR code marketing.
Sprinkle QR codes everywhere with Capture Kit
Direct your desktop visitors to download the app with Capture Kit. This tool lets you add a QR code pop-up to your site, guiding shoppers directly to your App Store listing. All they have to do is pick up their phone, scan the code, and start downloading… So much easier than asking customers to hunt for your app themselves (and not get distracted by something else on their home screens along the way.).
Neil Patel agrees you should double down on this hack. Put a download link in your mailings (digital and snail-mail), packaging slips, brick-and-mortar stores, on your website, and even in receipts. Place a QR code in multiple places to ensure more customers know about your app.
Tapcart customer BÉIS even does this during pop-ups and activations.
Here’s what Julie, the brand’s Director of Digital and Ecommerce, had to say: “We've really done a good job of conveying to our consumer that, hey, if you love our brand and you want to engage with us and feel more a part of the brand, when you're at these activations, download our app.”
Want to level up this strategy even more? Wherever you post the QR code, offer an app-exclusive discount code or highlight other incentives on the QR code will seal the deal and drive heaps of downloads.
It’s as easy as 1-2-3:
- Begin by personalizing your QR code in the Tapcart dashboard to align with your brand's aesthetics.
- Enhance app downloads by incorporating enticing FOMO promotional messaging to entice your customers.
- After creating your branded QR code, start including a printed version on your product packaging or insert it into cards within customer orders. Given that every shipment has a 100% open rate, this tactic offers an excellent opportunity to engage customers who have already made purchases, ultimately increasing their LTV.
Leverage SMS marketing to boost mobile app downloads
Don’t forget to add app messaging to your already successful marketing strategies. Any channel you use to speak to your customers provides great opportunities to encourage downloads. Combining the power of a high-converting marketing channel like SMS with your most effective (or soon-to-be most effective) sales channel is a no-brainer.
Utilize SMS to drive app downloads and provide seamless and convenient purchasing experiences. After all, when customers open a text message on their phones, they’re already in the perfect place to start downloading an app. By seamlessly integrating these two channels, you can maximize customer engagement and conversion rates, ensuring a win-win for your brand and customers.
Pro-Tip: Use an integration like AppsFlyer to route consumers directly from an SMS message to the PDP in your app.
Use email marketing to get app downloads & promote app-exclusives
Again, including app promotions in existing marketing is a super smart way to drive downloads, and inboxes are the perfect place to capitalize, too. After all, email marketing continues to be a highly effective strategy for reaching and engaging your community: 99% of consumers check their emails at least once daily and 59% of shoppers are influenced by email in their purchasing decisions. It just makes sense.
Those who sign up for (and open!) email marketing are your loyal customers, so they are the target audience that wants your app’s VIP shopping experience. Email is great for educating and long-form content, whereas app’s push notifications are ideal for directly engaging with your customer, so it's critical to get your email list on your app, too.
As part of your initial launch campaign, promote app exclusives and content to grow a foundation of app downloads.
Pro-Tip: Automate your app promotion strategy by adding official App Store Badges to the footer of your future marketing emails. Also, like Smartbreeder, remember to add a few points about the app's value. Not only do these email badges look super legit, but you’ll see a steady stream of app downloads from this growth hack.
Optimize your App Store Listing to increase your app’s discoverability
Did you know that over 70% of apps are discovered through the App Store search? Like SEO, app discovery is a powerful tool…but the great thing is that not many brands realize it. Your App Store Listing is not only essential for users to discover your app on the Apple App Store and Google Play Store, but it’s also key to improving discoverability and encouraging new downloads.
Don’t know where to start? We got you.
Here are some quick tips to improve your ASO (App Store Optimization):
- Avoid special characters
- Don’t include category names in your app name (i.e., Shopping Lifestyle)
- Include 1-2 keywords in your app title
- Limiting listing to 15 characters
- Add screenshots that show off your app
- Check this ASO analyzer tool out for a comprehensive report for not only your own app but your competitor apps as well
Want more tips? Check out this guide from Apple Developer.
Run Apple App Search Ads to effectively improve app visibility
With Apple App Search Ads, enhance your app's visibility and drive more downloads within the App Store. Leverage precise targeting options to reach users precisely when they're searching for relevant apps, making it a valuable tool for boosting your app's discoverability and overall success.
Check out this comprehensive guide to explore Apple Search Ads best practices.
Grow app reviews to build customer trust
Reviews and 5-star ratings play a pivotal role in establishing social proof. Reviews take center stage in most purchase decisions, and mobile apps are no exception. A highly rated app is also crucial for improving your app store ranking and discoverability, leading to more app installs and conversions.
Long story short, securing positive reviews is super important for your app's success, and investing time and energy to get them by engaging your brand community will pay dividends later.
What are some tips for gathering those coveted reviews? We recommend emailing your top 5k customers with a review campaign, encouraging them to share their feedback in exchange for a discount on their next order.
How do you build a VIP app experience that your customers want to download? Focus on curating a community that drives a deeper connection with your brand.
You can do all the marketing in the world, but customers won’t stick around if your app experience is unremarkable.
Your app is a great place to curate your die-hard fans…and convert casual shoppers into brand advocates.
The app's goal is to strengthen your relationship with your customers. It inherently does this with impactful benefits like reduced friction and speed to purchase. As Neal Goyal says, “Curate a community and build an experience that brings them together as a customer base, builds community, and [creates] conversations and drives a deeper connection with your brand.”
Even if your app only draws in 10% of your customers, they’ll likely be the ones driving 40% of your revenue. So even if you’re not attracting a large audience, you still want to give them something extra. Spend time thinking about delivering that VIP experience. From app exclusives to customizations or making it a content hub, there are many ways to make the app download worth it for your customers.
Since your app is likely to draw your best customers, think about delivering the ultimate VIP experience. Sometimes, that means doing a little more than creating a carbon copy of your mobile website. It only takes one to three clicks to make a purchase in your app store, while your website likely takes around seven. While that’s a great starting point to drive app downloads, you can (and should) do more.
Here are a few awesome opportunities to get creative with a mobile app to create deeper relationships with your customers.
Try these creative app-exclusive incentives to hook your shopper and see a wave of app downloads:
Now that you've successfully attracted customers to your app, the next step is to focus on retention and demonstrating your app’s value. A pivotal strategy in achieving this is through app exclusives, creating a space where app users feel like VIPs with access to exclusive discounts, invitations, content, and more. This will ultimately solidify your app as valuable to your customers and drive retention and loyalty.
Here are several effective ways to enhance your app experience with exclusives:
- Early access to products — Do your products often sell out? Offer access to your top-selling items hours or even days before your website launch.
- App-exclusive products and collections — Release exclusive products, colors, patterns, flavors, or even entire collections.
- Flash Sales, promotions, and discounts — Trading a discount code for a download is so popular because it works. Offer 10–20% on first-time purchases in the app, or even create built-in app discounts.
- One-Time In-App Welcome Discounts — Pro-Tip: When integrating Klaviyo with your Tapcart account, you can set this up automatically. For more information, check out this guide.
- Free Shopping
- Exclusive brand updates — With push notifications, you can reach customers instantly and directly to deliver the first news about any kind of brand update.
- Exclusive in-app content — We’ll dive deeper into the world of possibilities of content when it comes to the app just a bit further down this guide, but here’s one example of app-exclusive content from Matt Pierce, Director of eCommerce at RipNDip: “We offered phone wallpapers that were exclusive on the app… We've had significant growth just through those small little things.”
- Event Invitations — Whether your brand is hosting a pop-up activation, a digital meditation, just launched a podcast episode, or shared BTS of a shoot on TikTok, you can alert your customers via the app to get their immediate attention.
- Giveaways — Host app-exclusive sweepstakes and giveaways for bigger prizes. Think of in-demand items, a year’s supply of your product, or even luxury goods.
How to pick the incentives to encourage the most mobile app downloads
Picking the right tactics comes down to understanding who your audience is. An app is designed for the top 10–30% of your customer base—your best customers who spend the most money.
“Put yourself in the shoes of your customer base and say, ‘What are the things I can provide to my customers that will encourage them to download?’” said Neal Goyal.
Make your app a content hub that keeps customers coming back
Transform your app into a content hub, offering valuable resources such as blogs, videos, playlists, and more. Incorporating content into your app is a powerful strategy for enhancing the customer experience. This encourages users to return to your app, fostering engagement and strengthening their relationship with your brand. Over time, not only will this increase app sessions and usage, but it will also drive long-term conversions. These efforts collectively contribute to a richer and more immersive customer experience, ultimately boosting loyalty and customer retention.
VRG GRL is a legend at in-app content. Since launching the VRG GRL app, the team has leveraged it as a holistic solution that combines content-driven efforts like brand building with sales-oriented retention techniques.
To ensure the mobile app genuinely offered a different and remarkable customer experience, VRG GRL added its Girl Guide (a content section full of educational articles) and The Group Chat. The Group Chat is a loyalty driver that hosts exclusive content and giveaways. App customers can also download limited-edition aesthetic wallpapers, go behind the scenes, and score early access to VRG GRL’s most-anticipated drops before the collections sell out online.
“We like to try lots of different stuff,” said Cale Suesskow, Co-CEO.“We don't just rely on one thing because then it gets a bit boring to the customer. And different customers have different reasons. Some people purely want a discount code, some want early access, and some might be interested in getting more behind-the-scenes content or just feeling a closer connection with the brand.”
Pro-Tip: Create shopping collections that match the products featured in your app’s content!
Add in-app loyalty to secure lifelong retention
A loyalty program within your mobile app can significantly enhance your brand's relationship with shoppers. According to a 2022 survey, 79% of US consumers stated that loyalty programs influence their decision to continue engaging with a brand. It’s no surprise, then, that offering a loyalty program on your website and within your app is crucial in nurturing a stronger relationship with your customers.
Utilizing a loyalty program enables customers to earn points for actions like orders and reviews, encouraging deeper app engagement. Exclusive VIP statuses and in-app redemption options, including fixed and percentage discounts, also enhance the customer experience, fostering brand loyalty and long-term retention.
Here’s how you can promote your loyalty program in the app:
- Create a page or block that promotes getting started and building and redeeming points.
- Roll up your loyalty program and mobile app into a bundled customer retention campaign.
Send push notifications to stay on top of mind
Push notifications are a powerful communication tool that lets you connect directly with your customers. When it comes to customer retention, the top ecommerce brands rely on a mix of email, SMS, and push notifications to form a customer retention flywheel that drives high customer lifetime value. When appropriately deployed, these communications lower churn rate, boost LTV, and indirectly lower CPA by making those already-acquired customers increasingly valuable.
Tapcart’s push notification feature makes it easy to send and see results. Push notifications are easier to create and see higher engagement compared to email marketing.
Since push notifications are so easy to use, smart brands use them to not just for encouraging sales but also for brand-building and value-aligning messaging. Something as simple as sending an on-brand hello or Happy Friday message can positively impact your shoppers.
This is why push notifications are such an impactful and unique marketing channel — they’re easy to send (especially compared to the effort it takes to send an email). And, you can send unlimited messages with Tapcart, which is not the case with SMS, where marketers tend to be more cautious. Ultimately, push notifications are an awesome engagement tool to reach those “inherently VIP” app customers, making this type of communication wildly effective and highly profitable.
Plus, push notifications cost nothing extra to send.
“Push notifications are free dollars,” according to Julie Chalker, Director of Digital & eCommerce of BÉIS. “We know that [app customers] have a higher appetite to consume the brand on a more frequent basis where consumers for the site or subscribers to email and SMS, they may be a little bit more fickle. Consumers who have downloaded our app are committed. They're less fickle than the ones that we acquire in other ways.”
We recommend sending push notifications 2-3 times a week to maintain a strong presence in your community. Through our experience launching thousands of mobile apps, we've discovered that this frequency is optimal for driving engagement and revenue through this sales channel.
And remember, your community of loyal customers are the ones signing up for your push notifications, so make sure to offer value, use your brand voice in your messaging, and, dare we say, have fun with it!
To spice up your strategy, use push notifications to:
- Promote Flash Sales
- Announce In-Store Events
- Introduce New Products
- Send On-Brand Messages
- Feature App Exclusives
- Promote Sales Channels
- Showcase Customer Reviews
- Announce New Content
Automate and segment push notifications with Klaviyo
With Klaviyo’s segment builder, you can power push notifications with automation to send targeted notifications, ensuring you reach the right people for each campaign. With it, you can increase your conversion rate by enabling automated push notifications that trigger based on user behavior, like:
- Welcome Series
- Abandoned Cart
- Back in Stock
- Fulfilled Order
- Wishlist Reminder
Want to learn more about what’s working for brands and what’s not? Join our exclusive customer community, UnTapped. Where you can connect with fellow Tapcart customers on best practices, gain inspiration, and learn with one another. To learn more or sign up to join, click this link here!
Remember, your app isn’t replacing your mobile website—it targets your top customers with a VIP experience. And it pays off.
Ready to learn more about creating and promoting your mobile app? Visit Tapcart Academy for lessons and inspiration.