It’s That Time of Year: How to Prep Your App for the Holiday Rush

Mobile_Christmas_Stocking-980838-editedThe signs are everywhere: from Starbucks' red cups to the TV specials to the general euphoria that’s sweeping the nation. Something wonderful is right around the corner.

We’re excited and you should be too, because this gift-giving season, a whopping 91% of people intend to make purchases through a mobile app. Another 96% of users plan to research/browse products on apps before buying something (this number is eight percentage points higher than last year!).

And just think about all those lucky individuals (obviously on Santa’s “nice” list) who will wake up on Christmas morning, unwrap a shiny new smartphone or tablet, and then eagerly load it with apps upon apps. 

It’s indeed the most wonderful time of year for mobile marketers. But it can also be one of the most competitive and lucrative. Is your app ready for the holiday rush? Is it going to spread some cheer? Is it going to be delightful?

Here’s how to make your app lovable like the season.


8 App Marketing Tips for a Very Merry Holiday

Deck Your Push and In-App Messages With Boughs of Holly 

Tip #1: Use holiday-inspired imagery and copy in your push and in-app messages to give them a warmer look and feel.

The holiday season tends to make people joyful and nostalgic. We count down to spending time with our loved ones, forget our worries, and bask in glowing lights hung from every lamppost, roof, and tree. Why not inject some of this seasonal pleasantness into your app marketing? 

Specifically, think about incorporating famous jingles, lyrics, words, catchphrases, etc. into your push notifications. For in-app messages, also add some holiday visuals like snowflakes, presents, garlands, etc. You can even update your app’s logo or microsite to add a touch of Christmas (like adding a Santa Claus hat or some red and green colors).

Whatever way you choose to deck out your app, remember that the goal is not to go overboard (both in design and frequency), but to connect with users by sharing the holiday spirit.

For example, take a look at how Free People’s app subtly reinforces the warmth of fall while the FOX NOW app is a bit more holiday-themed (and they both work!).        


12 Days of Christmas Deals

Tip #2: Enhance your in-app offers (and tie them to holiday activities if possible).

Don’t be a Grinch. Dole out some gifts to your users. This year, the average American is expected to spend a little over $800 during the holidays, up nearly 5% from last year. And as people lighten their wallets, you can lighten their shopping stress by offering coupons, sales, free shipping, or buy one get one free specials. Consumers are on the lookout for deals and everyone loves a “just in time for Christmas” bargain. 

If your app doesn’t fit into the mCommerce category, think about other (non-shopping) ways people could use it during the holidays. For example, travel apps could provide city guides and maps that highlight seasonal must-see spots, while other apps could customize virtual goods. The point is: don’t just customize your push and in-app creatives, try to tailor your promos too.

Take a look at how a music app ran an event-based offer.  


’Twas the Night Before Christmas, When all the App Marketing Campaigns Were Launched

Tip #3: Don’t wait until December! Launch your holiday app/offers in November.

Last year, about 50% of marketers created and launched a holiday campaign before Halloween. Think this is too early? Think again because 30% of Twitter users tweet about holiday shopping before October. So, don’t delay and get your holiday offers running in your app as soon as possible. 

Frosty the App Store?

Tip #4: Try to top holiday app charts (and stop relying on the app store freeze).

Once upon a time, app stores were infamous for “freezing” during the holidays. In other words, Apple’s App Store charts would stop refreshing for a period of time. This allowed app marketers to secure a top spot for their app with an opportune advertising blitz. But this strategy is no longer an effective one. 

In 2009, the freeze lasted for one week. In 2011, it was about 48 hours. And in 2013, it was pretty much negligible. As a result, app marketers should shift their focus to ranking organically on relevant category (and subcategory) charts though app store optimization tactics. Usually, app stores also have special holiday charts, which showcase the best apps of the month/season. Wondering how to get featured on these? Check out tips three and four above. Or, you can also run a survey campaign to motivate users to positively rate you in app stores ahead of the holidays.

Let it Show! Let it Show! Let Your Other Marketing Channels Show-Off Your App!

Tip #5: Incorporate your app into your holiday marketing campaigns on other platforms.

The best way to get exposure for your app during the holidays is to promote it through the other channels at your brand’s disposal – like email, social media, and on your website. For example, add a call-to-action to download your holiday app (and highlight why it’s awesome) on your homepage. Or, spotlight an exclusive in-app deal when you send out your Cyber Monday reminder email. 

New Apps (and App Updates) Should Come to Town

Tip #6: Launch a holiday-themed app (if you don’t have one already).

Let this sink in for a moment: 1.2 billion apps were downloaded between December 25th (Christmas Day) and December 31st (New Year’s Eve) in 2011. If that was three years ago, imagine how high that number will be this year. The winter snowfall brings with it a huge spike in app discovery. Don’t have an app? This is the perfect time to release one and stake out a place in the mobile space. 

People are especially interested in apps that help them manage the holiday hullabaloo; so think about how your app could simplify and solve the season’s stressors. For example, health brands could launch an app chock full of recipes to teach people what to cook for company. Or, fitness brands could introduce a boot camp app that shows people how to get into tiptop shape for all the parties. The key is to make your app relevant for the holidays and oriented toward family activities. 

Don’t have resources or budget to launch a full-blown app? Consider building a seasonal promotional app. It requires less investment, but it will still help you take advantage of the surge in app downloads that happens between November and January. 

Below, we’ve included a collage of some holiday-themed apps (organized by vertical) to inspire you to create one of your own!  

Examples_of_Christmas_Apps_by_VerticalTip #7: Update your app to increase engagement and stability.

Apps that update during the holidays see their users increase four times faster and report more sessions per user. If you already have an app in your marketing arsenal, now’s the time to introduce a new version. For example, you could release an update that gives a holiday makeover to your app’s user interface or adds additional functionality that will come in handy during the shopping frenzy (like a wish-list feature). 

Check out how the Angry Birds Seasons app updates to celebrate unique events from around the world.

Holiday_Themed_App_Marketing_-_Angry_BirdsFrom a technical standpoint, make sure your app is ready to handle the influx of users and downloads. Double-check your code to confirm that it isn’t buggy and safeguard your app against regular crashes.

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like New Years

Tip #8: Don’t worry about battling Christmas blues. The app industry also booms in January!

A few years ago, approximately 6.8 million new iOS and Android devices were activated on Christmas Day alone. Guess what these lucky new smartphone/tablet recipients do all through January. That’s right, they go on an app-downloading and app-testing spree. App proliferation continues well into January. That’s why you need to take New Years into account when you plan your push and in-app messages. 

This is the time when people make resolutions and try to better their life. Can your app be a part of this process? Think about that food app that showed people how to make festive dinners for friends and family during Christmas break. In January, it could shift its marketing strategy to highlight healthy recipes to help consumers lose the dreaded holiday weight. 

Finally, January can also be the time people ditch some of the apps they download. Therefore, app marketers need to implement nurturing strategies to retain the new users they gain during the holidays. Here’s how to do that


Appy Holidays!

Our dear mobile marketers, the holidays are upon us! This is a time of great joy, love, and heightened app activity. Make the most of it by employing some seasonal strategies. We’ve made you a list of tips to get started. And we’ve checked it twice. We’re going to find out which apps are naughty or nice (to their users). So be good for goodness sake.