Creating an Effective App Distribution Plan

Through increased understanding of what drives users to heavy mobile app consumption, a more effective marketing plan can be created and executed to increase Android, BlackBerry, and iOS app distribution. My company conducted mobile app distribution research with both B2B (define) mobile app developers/marketers and B2C (define) mobile app users in an effort to understand more about successful distribution tactics. The results are useful as you develop a kick-ass distribution plan.

This month’s column covers the results of our B2C mobile application research focused on Android, BlackBerry, and iOS applications. The results of the B2B mobile application research were covered in my last column.

B2C Mobile Application Research Summary


This data was derived from 448 valid and fully-completed responses to our mobile app survey. The survey was hosted online with links distributed through a third-party site. Recipients of the survey link were asked to participate in the survey and received $2 for completion.


This survey seeks to quantify aspects of mobile app discovery, acceptable ad formats, app purchases, and Web search from the three leading U.S. smartphone players: Apple (including iPod touch), Google, and RIM.


Due to the difficulties in obtaining Android respondents, the survey company focused more than half of their efforts on targeting Verizon customers. Valid users included only those that correctly answered trap questions and met minimum qualifications. User composition by primary device was: 130 iPhone, 103 BlackBerry, 100 iPod touch, and 115 Android. All were from the U.S. All have an app-capable device. All have at least one app installed on their primary phone.

Quantity of Apps on Smartphone

Tip: Make the iPhone your starting point. Currently, iPhone users are the largest, most passionate user group and install the most applications.

How many apps do you currently have installed on your primary phone?

  • 1 to 5 (24 percent)
  • 6 to 10 (21 percent)
  • 11 to 15 (16 percent)
  • 16 to 20 (15 percent)
  • 21 to 30 (10 percent)
  • 31+ (13 percent)

Twenty-three percent of all users have 21 or more apps installed (heavy app users). IPhone owners have the highest ratio of heavy app users (iPhone – 34 percent, Android – 30 percent, iPod touch – 21 percent, and BlackBerry – 7 percent). These figures are reasonably consistent with the secondary research reviewed.

How many apps do you download per month to your primary device?

  • None (7.61 percent)
  • 1 to 3 (51.23 percent)
  • 4 to 10 (29.31 percent)
  • 11 to 20 (6.94 percent)
  • 21 to 30 (1.79 percent)
  • 31 to 50 (1.57 percent)
  • 51+ (1.57 percent)

Forty-one percent of all users install four-plus installs per month. IPhone owners rank the highest in achieving this minimum (iPhone – 48 percent, iPod touch – 43 percent, Android – 38 percent, BlackBerry – 29 percent).

Role of the Desktop Computer in Mobile App Discovery

Tip: Syncing is a routine behavior, so marketing via the Web is a viable distribution tactic with links back to the App Store. Don’t ignore the influence of desktop websites to mobile app discovery in your mobile distribution plan. Submit free copies of your app along with marketing information to the various mobile app review websites. Users prefer to search the App Store for your app, so make sure the keywords most commonly used for your app quickly bring up your app in search results.

Syncing their mobile device with desktop computer: Eighty percent of Apple mobile device users fully sync at least once per month. Sixty-two percent fully sync at least once per week. These figures are relatively the same between the iPod touch and the iPhone. It would appear that Apple mobile device users are familiar with syncing and for most it is a routine behavior.

Downloading apps using desktop software: Ninety-two percent of Apple mobile device owners understand that you can download apps using the iTunes desktop software (96 percent for iPhone, 86 percent for iPod touch). Seventy-two percent download at least one app per month using this method (76 percent for iPhone, 64 percent for iPod touch). Forty-six percent download at least one app per week using this method (48 percent for iPhone, 40 percent for iPod touch).

Preferred method for downloading an app discovered while using their desktop computer:

Apple mobile device owners:

  • 56 percent prefer to search the App Store from their mobile device for the app
  • 17 percent prefer to use the iTunes desktop software
  • 13 percent prefer to have the download link sent via e-mail
  • >7 percent prefer taking a picture of an app’s designated bar code, receiving a link via SMS
  • >7 percent prefer receiving an alert via a mobile app

BlackBerry owners:

  • 42 percent prefer to search the App Store from their mobile device for the app
  • 40 percent prefer to have the download link sent via e-mail

Android owners:

  • 72 percent prefer to search the app store from their mobile device for the app
  • 11 percent prefer to have the download link sent via e-mail

Mobile App Purchases and Advertising Formats

Tip: Offering the mobile app for free increases distribution. IPhone app users are most willing to pay $0.99. Users are receptive of an ad-supported model. Users are also receptive to paying for additional features. IOS app marketers are successful with the freemium model.

Installing free apps as a substitute for paying: Most users would prefer to install three free apps (52 percent) over paying $0.99 for an app or premium feature (42 percent). IPod touch, Android, and BlackBerry users all shared this preference (58 percent, 53 percent, 55 percent, respectively), whereas iPhone users preferred to pay the $0.99 (54 percent compared to 43 percent to install three free apps).

The remaining users (6 percent) selected the other option, which asked them to submit their own custom answer. The general response was that these users would simply avoid apps that require some form of payment.

Ad formats for free apps: Users showed a strong interest in new advertising formats when asked to select their top three options in supporting free apps.

New advertising formats:

  • Submit a rating and a review for an app I like every five uses (25 percent)
  • Complete a short survey every five uses (24 percent)
  • Select and install a free app from a recommended list after every five uses (21 percent)

Existing advertising formats:

  • See a 20 second ad once during each use (33 percent)
  • See persistent small ads during use (24 percent)
  • Select and install a free app from a recommended list in exchange for a virtual good (16 percent)

Influences to purchasing a paid app or extra feature: Forty-two percent of all users have purchased an app or extra feature, after first trying the free version of an app. Apple mobile devices show a much higher composition of users that made such purchases (iPhone – 55 percent, iPod touch – 49 percent, Android – 27 percent, BlackBerry – 34 percent).

Users ranked what motivates them to purchase a full version app or an extra feature (selecting all that apply):

  • Expanded features and capabilities (77 percent)
  • Remove ads (44 percent)
  • Trial expired (35 percent)
  • To support the developer (22 percent)
  • Curiosity (16 percent)

Mobile App Discovery

Tip: Appearing in the top 25 and category lists is essential for effective mobile app distribution. Users prefer to find apps using the top 25 and category lists in the app stores. Popularity (past 24 hour downloads) and total following (overall active users) are the two preferred options for sorting apps from a list. It’s no surprise that in our B2B survey, incented app distribution was the most effective type of advertising for mobile app marketers. This is generally the low-cost, predictable, high-volume source of distribution. Since search is also important, paying close attention to keyword and description SEO tactics is important in your app marketing campaign.

Methods tried by users for finding new apps (select all that apply):

  • Categories (57 percent)
  • Search (57 percent)
  • Featured – new (52 percent)
  • Top 25 overall (52 percent)
  • Features – what’s hot (48 percent)
  • Featured – personalized recommendations (e.g., Apple’s Genius) (18 percent)
  • Ads in other apps (12 percent)

Apple mobile devices have the top two selections being categories and top 25 overall (iPhone Top 25 – 65 percent, iPod touch Top 25 – 63 percent, iPhone Categories – 61 percent, iPod touch Categories – 64 percent). IPhone users are far more likely to try a personalized recommendation solution than other device owners (iPhone – 27 percent, iPod touch – 17 percent, Android – 12 percent, BlackBerry – 15 percent).

Methods preferred by users for finding new apps (rank order):

  • Most popular topics (7.3)
  • Ads in other apps (7.0)
  • Featured – personalized recommendations (5.2)
  • Search (4.5)
  • Featured – what’s hot (3.9)
  • Featured – new (3.3)
  • Top 25 overall (2.3)
  • Categories (2.6)

There was no significant variance between devices.

User preference toward different sorting options in their app store (rank order):

  • Buzz – media mentions and links (7.2)
  • Recommendation – based on other apps you have installed (7.1)
  • Discount (6.8)
  • Newest (4.9)
  • Expert’s rating (4.9)
  • Friend’s rating (4.8)
  • Everyone’s rating (3.8)
  • Total following – active users (3.4)
  • Popularity – past 24 hour downloads (2.1)

The order is consistent between devices, but on Android, the Everyone’s Rating option is noticeably closer to the Total Following option (Everyone’s Rating – 3.6, Totally Following – 3.5, Popularity 2.0). It’s noticeable that several very popular sorts are not yet available in Apple’s App Store (Total Following, Friend’s Rating, and Expert’s Rating).

By understanding user preferences, you can put a more effective mobile app distribution plan together for your Android, BlackBerry, or iPhone app marketing campaign. Hopefully this application research gives you some ideas on elements that are important in your marketing and design tactics. Be sure to read last month’s column on B2B mobile application research and its implications. If you have any thoughts on how to get top iPhone apps, please leave your comments below.

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