Apple Changes Let Developers Target Downloads

With two significant moves this week, Apple is making sure developers get quality users, not just a lot of them.

First, App Store ads are changing just a touch. Instead of one option to buy ads and have them populate above search terms, there’s now a “Search Ads Basic” option. Developers still pay for ads, but only fork over cash when those ads are converted to users downloading an app.

It’s important to note developers are paying for click-through users, not clicks on ads. If a user were to click on the ad – which takes them to the app’s landing page – but not download the app, there’s no charge. Developers only pay when the app is downloaded.

Developers can also set the price they want to pay per click, and Apple caps spending at $5,000 per month.

Second, iOS developers can now set any app up for pre-order. As we saw with Nintendo’s “Super Mario Run” (the first app or game to utilize this feature), any developer can now choose to queue orders and downloads for apps. The window can be as little as two days in advance, or as far out as 90 days.

Pre-order apps must be designated ahead of submission for review. The scheme is only available to new apps. Updates, regardless of how significant, can’t be set up as pre-orders.

Apple Targeting Differently

These two features mean good things for developers, especially indie devs and smaller firms.

Both allow for better marketing. It’s difficult to time the marketing around apps; Apple has streamlined the process. Rather than doing a bunch of “coming soon” hype, developers can say, ‘Pre-order now.’ This is beneficial for two reasons: you get a better idea of what your income from the app will be during roll-out, and you can adjust your marketing for it accordingly.

Similarly, click-through ad buys provide solid proof the ads are working. It’s also good for ranking. Apple sees ad-generated downloads as high-value downloads, and sends an app’s ranking upward. Apple tells TechCrunch that developer cost per acquisition from ads has been steadily below $1.50, and conversion rates are over 50 percent.

This new activity is in the same vein as Apple’s recent changes to the App Store, which made app landing pages a bit more lively. In making those changes, Apple quietly put the pressure on developers to start treating their profession as a business, rather than using the App Store as a hosting repository. An emphasis was placed on screenshots and video, as well as better app descriptions.

There are even new data resources for pre-order sales, including cancelations and the ability to target timeframes to figure out when preorder activity was most (or least) active. Apple charges 30 percent for most app sales (it drops to 15 percent if you have longstanding subscription sign-ups), so more tools are welcome. In a lot of ways, this balances the scales many saw as tilted in the favor of big businesses and prioritized partnerships.

Now, about the Mac App Store

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