Trying to stand out from the rest of the apps for sale on the App Store presents a big challenge for app developers. The App Store currently features some 1.2 million iOS apps, with developers using screen shots and simple text to attract buyers. Videos were used to build momentum outside of the App Store, however Apple is changing that...or attempting to, anyway.
The launch of iOS 8 meant app developers had the opportunity to upload 30-second videos to iTunes Connect, as well as other app updates and marketing materials. App Store visitors see video thumbnails, or what Apple calls poster frames, next to app screenshots. Store visitors simply have to hit ‘play’ buttons to launch a full-screen video showcasing what’s fantastic about the app.
Videos are designed to provide visitors with a “realistic experience” regarding the app in question, and function more as demos than anything else. Music is important to the mood and theme of the video, though narrated videos and those featuring animated text and graphics are also accepted by Apple. The company does not allow personal data and real names to be used in the videos.
This tool has been in use for nearly a year, but its effectiveness is up for debate. Creating a visually-pleasing video that really sells why an app rocks isn’t an inexpensive venture, with even basic productions very costly compared to screenshot designs. Video expense subsequently limits A/B testing for an app page, and the possibility of producing a variety of previews is limited as well. Screenshots, in comparison, are easy to create and allow app developers to experiment with different styles to determine what their target audience likes most.
Another problem with app preview videos is the constantly-evolving nature of the industry. Even the coolest, most professionally-executed videos can become outdated in an instant, forcing developers to produce more general, less creative videos that “justify investment” and are essentially evergreen. This in combination with Apple’s video guidelines and rules presents a serious challenge to developers.
Videos even spell a bit of doom in regard to app page conversion rates. The perfect “app page experience” is one that creates a “compelling user experience.” This means the longer a user takes to decide whether they want the app or not, the more the developer has to lose. Screenshots are subsequently the better marketing tool, as they simply provide users with specific app highlights rather than a “deep exploration” of the product. The idea is to quickly convince users to install the app, not compel them to think about it.
If a developer does decide to create a video preview for an app, it helps to focus on two or three specific features the screenshot cannot convey, refrain from mentioning discounts or seasonal offers, and ensure content is rated 4+, or appropriate for all audiences.