App store discoverability has always been a battle.
But the rising cost of paid user acquisition coupled with Apple’s recent privacy changes on iOS means the gloves are off.
“Optimizing and maximizing the organics you can get becomes really important when there’s less efficiency in the user acquisition funnel,” said Dave Bell, CEO and co-founder of app store optimization (ASO) company Gummicube, which was acquired by Airship on Wednesday.
Brett Caine, Airship’s CEO and president, declined to share the deal price but did say that all of Gummicube’s 80 employees will join Airship, bringing its headcount to 367.
Airship offers software to help brands with in-app engagement, messaging and retention, including a platform launched last month that allows companies to release app features without writing their own code.
Combining Airship and Gummicube makes sense, Caine said, because marketers want greater insight and control over the full app marketing funnel, from discovery and download through to monetizing and retaining users.
It’s important to keep people engaged once they’ve downloaded an app, but the app must be found in the first place.
Yet many larger brands that have apps don’t do much in the way of app store optimization, because they assume their brands are well-known enough not to need it, Caine said.
“The point here is to create something that’s end-to-end,” he said. “We recognized that by getting into the process earlier, we have an opportunity to better educate our customers about what it takes to deliver loyal users.”
The Airship/Gummicube merger is largely a data play.
One of Gummicube’s core products is an app store intelligence tool called Datacube, which analyzes Apple App Store and Google Play search data to see comparative keyword rankings, what’s trending, what nonbranded keywords competitors are using and other search-related patterns.
The plan is to make this data available beyond search so Airship’s brand clients can inform features and functionality within their apps, including the onboarding experience.
“We envision that marketers will be able to use these search insights and the data they gather related to user acquisition to create new kinds of onboarding experiences out of the box without having to wait for a developer to do it,” Caine said.
Focusing on the full app experience, from search to lifetime value, is a differentiated approach from what’s on offer elsewhere, Caine said. Marketing clouds want to do everything under the sun, and point solutions zero in on one specific channel, like email.
“Apps are the center of the digital experience and nearly every consumer in the world has a mobile device in their hand,” Caine said. “That’s why we’re totally focused on the app experience.”
But app store optimization can also lower the overall cost of user acquisition and “make up for inefficiencies” tied to Apple’s ATT and the changes coming on Android, Bell said.
“Optimizing the experience in the store, maximizing organics, running A/B testing to push down the cost of user acquisition – all of this is becoming more important now that measurement is getting fuzzier,” Bell said. “It’s a big reason why ASO has really taken off.”