10 Proven Strategies to Grow Your iOS App

25 Jun 2024

Over years of growing my own apps and helping other developers, I've learned what really moves the needle. I've distilled those learnings into these 10 essential strategies to help take your iOS app to the next level.

Continuously invest in App Store Optimization

App Store Optimization is an ongoing process. Use Apple Search Ads to identify high-intent keywords that drive not only the installs, but also revenue, and retention, even if the campaigns themselves aren't profitable. Regularly update your app's title and subtitle to incorporate these high-value keywords, but make sure you don’t repeat your keywords – otherwise, the algorithm will only see the last mention. Don't be afraid to prioritize keywords over branding. For example, if you’re just starting out, it’s a good idea to put your most valuable keyword ahead of the app name in your app title, because the algorithm assigns the most weight to your first keyword. Make sure you always have at least one live in-app event to target these keywords further.

Quarterly updates to your app title, subtitle, and keyword list will ensure you maintain high rankings.

While keywords are the most important part of ASO, don’t forget to invest in high-quality screenshots and A/B test different variations (you can create up to 35 Custom Product Pages for that). For example, in one of my recent screenshot A/B tests, the dark mode variation (everything else stayed the same) outperformed the light mode variation by 17.9%.

Take a systematic approach to price testing

Pricing is complex, but finding the right price through extensive testing is likely to get a 10-20% revenue boost. For example, in one of my recent A/B tests, the $19.95/mo offer surprisingly had an approximately 18% higher conversion rate than the $9.99/mo offer.

Start by testing weekly prices, then move to monthly and annual. For weekly, test price points like $1.99, $2.99, $3.99, up to $9.99. For monthly, the range is $4.99 to $49.95. And for annual, test $29.95, $49.95, and $119.95 up to $199.95. In my experiments, I discovered that prices under $10 should end at .99, but for prices over $10, ending them at .95 converts better. When you display multiple offers on your paywall – weekly, monthly, annually – don’t forget to show that $119.95 is only $9.99/mo or $2.30/week – this significantly boosts the annual offer’s conversion rate.

Depending on your app, test 3 and 7-day free trials at each stage. When you find a winning annual price, stick with it but keep analyzing monthly and weekly cohorts. Wait until 13 months after annual subscriptions start to compare against 13 months of weekly/monthly cohorts.

Auri.AI Example Paywall

Invest in paid user acquisition

Paid user acquisition is fuel on the fire for apps that have found product-market fit.

Hire creators to produce video assets for your paid campaigns. The easiest way to find them is through the #UGCcreator, #UGC, and #UGCcommunity hashtags on X/Twitter. You don't necessarily need positive ROI on influencer posts themselves. The real value is in the content. Then take that content and run TikTok and Meta ads. Start by allocating a $10K/mo ($300/day) test budget, aim for at least a 1X return on day one, and adjust from there. If you don’t know where to start, use Meta’s Advantage+ app campaigns: upload all your image/video assets and multiple ad copy variants, and it will run hundreds of combinations to find the best performers.

Use Meta Ad Library and TikTok Creative Center to get a sense of which video ads get higher engagement. Monitor your video creative fatigue, and regularly update them. Create Install, Launch, and Purchase custom audiences on Meta and TikTok on day one so you can create Lookalike Audiences once these lists are populated enough. Your Lookalike Audience campaigns will likely be your best-performing campaigns on both Meta and TikTok platforms. Test 1, 3, 5, and 10% audiences – you never know which one would outperform.

Laser focus on the revenue-driving metrics

Relentlessly track your app installs to paywall views. In my experience, revenue moves almost linearly with this metric - double your installs to paywall views and you're likely to double your revenue. Paywall views per non-subscribed user is the second key metric to optimize. Don't worry about diminishing returns until around the 8th paywall view per user on average. Implement a paywall before onboarding, after onboarding, and on every app open to maximize views. Test so-called hard paywalls – when users can only access the app content if they subscribe – in some smaller-scale tests, this type of paywall increased revenue by 35%.

Engage users with strategic notifications

Notifications, when used intelligently, are your greatest growth lever. Send daily push notifications to prompt users to open your app. Remember, every app open is an opportunity for a paywall view if you've implemented an "every app open" paywall. Monitor your 24-hour and 7-day retention closely as you ramp up notifications. There may be some drop-off, but the revenue boost will likely outweigh it for users who wouldn't have been retained anyway.

Create organic short-form content

The playbook is simpler than you might think:

  • Find a face for your account using the method from the third tip. Look for a charismatic creator who's already putting out great content in your niche.
  • Craft a viral video series. Work with your creator to develop a theme or format that's engaging and easy to replicate. The goal is to create content that's primed to go viral repeatedly.
  • Multiply your accounts. Once you've found your winning formula, start creating multiple accounts that repost your top-performing content. You'll be amazed at how even accounts with just a handful of followers can generate massive view counts.

As you work with creators, aim to post at least one video per day. Start by sticking close to the style of content they're already known for, then gradually experiment with integrating your product. Remember, you don't need to break the bank on massive influencers - even smaller creators can drive incredible results with the right content.

Once you've dialed in your viral video series, it's time to scale. Create multiple accounts that all repost your top content. For example, for Auri AI, I currently have eight different TikTok accounts, some with just a few dozen followers, that all post similar videos. It's not uncommon for my smallest accounts to get even more views than my main account!

Regularly run sales and promotions

Well-timed sales and promotions can account for up to 20% of your app's total revenue. Take advantage of major holidays and seasonal events to run 50% off sales. Think Christmas, Black Friday, New Year’s, Memorial Day, Labor Day, Mother's/Father's Day, and seasonal sales. Implement win-back promotional offers.

Localize your app and the App Store listing

Developers often neglect other markets, focusing solely on English-speaking countries. But did you know that, for example, Japan is the second country by revenue right behind the US, but only ninth by the number of downloads? With localization, you can also 10X the size of your keyword list. The default keyword list for each country is capped at 100 characters, but the US App Store uses the keyword list for English as well as Arabic, Spanish (Mexico), French, Chinese (Simplified), Chinese (Traditional), Russian, Korean, Portuguese (Brazil), and Vietnamese. This means that if you add all of these localizations, you’ll get 1,000 characters for ASO in the US.

App Store Localization

A/B test everything

I’ve already mentioned the importance of A/B-testing your pricing and screenshots, but that’s only the tip of the Conversion Rate Optimization iceberg. You can use Firebase's Remote Config to create different variations and run A/B tests for text, images, features, UI elements, and the entire app flows. One of my favorite tests for freemium apps is finding the sweet spot of just how much I should give away for free before I see diminishing returns.

Talk to your users and create surveys

User insights should drive your sales strategy. Implement post-cancellation surveys to understand why users didn't convert. Distill the most common responses into multiple-choice options. Then, create supporting paywall elements to address those specific concerns. Things like feature comparison tables, free trial timelines, or "50% off" framing can help overcome common objections. Let your users tell you what they need to see to convert. Beyond that, create a channel where you can regularly talk to your super users.

It can be a Discord server, a Slack channel, a Circle community, or even email. Your super users are invaluable as they will tell you more about your app and the problem it solves than hundreds of tests or thousands of regular users. But be careful to not blindly implement their solutions, but find the best way to solve their problem – remember Henry Ford’s saying “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.

Growing a successful iOS app business requires a combination of strategic planning, data-driven decision-making, and continuous optimization. By implementing these tips and lessons, you'll be well-equipped to navigate the competitive app market, acquire and retain users, and ultimately drive long-term growth and profitability.

Keep experimenting, talk to your users, and always update your methods.

If you have questions or want to share your own app growth tips, please feel free to reach out on X/Twitter!