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Ahead of the Pack: 5 Vital Insights Into Your App Conversion Rate


The 4 main conversion types and benchmarks, how to calculate each and how to investigate a sudden drop – here’s the guide to optimising your app conversion rate

Possibly the ultimate measure of tech success is your app conversion rate (CVR).

We spoke recently about low app engagement rates and when your product has low user growth, and, though those are extremely worrying in themselves, and both likely to cause a low conversion rate by nature, it’s worth looking at conversions separately, because the truth is that you can have high engagement and a lot of users – even a great retention rate – and still convert a very low number of them to actual paying users.

When that happens, of course, your product is in jeopardy, since you’re likely relying on conversions for your business income and goals.

So let’s unpack your app conversion rate…

First: What is app conversion?

In short, conversion in the tech space occurs when a user takes a specific pre-defined action that you designed your product to facilitate/create/make happen. The simplest conversion, for example, is when an app store or website visitor downloads your app.

That alone is a great metric for the handful of paid apps, but chances are your app is a free download (94% of apps are), with the aim of generating a later upgrade or subscription (conversion). In which case, downloads alone don’t make you money, so we need to go a bit deeper into conversions…

With free-to-paid apps, there are a number of conversion stages/events you want to track, and people will have different opinions on these, but here is a general selection of potential types of app conversions to track: 

4 General types of app conversions

  • Installs: Users converted by downloading and installing your app.
  • Registrations: Users converted by submitting their details to you.
  • Purchases/subscriptions: When a user makes a purchase or buys your subscription.
  • Other in-app events: With ads or affiliate marketing, converting a user to an income-generating view and click. 

What is a good app conversion rate?

This is a bit tricky since the only publicly available information is around app store install rates from third-party tracking tools like apptweak which gives mainly US app conversion rate figures as iOS App Store at 31%, Google Play at 33% and install rate (direct installs from search bar without visiting the app page) as 4%.

Those are awesome goal conversion rates, but we’d like to see them localised to your region, too, which you can usually get through your analytics tools.

Note; For your “internal” in-app conversions (registrations, purchases, subscriptions etc.) there might not be great benchmarks, because it’s so subjective to the product. Ideally what you want is to perfectly balance your Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC) with your app conversion rate – if the cost to get a customer to subscribe, for example, is X, you want your subscription cost/price (Y) to be higher than X. 

And, as a goal: however many subscriptions (total Y) you need to make a profit over your marketing costs (total X), should be your ideal/minimum app conversion rate.

How to calculate it: App conversion rate formula

Your app conversion rate is the total number of conversions you got, divided by the total number of impressions (number of users who had the option of converting), times 100 to give you a percentage.

Or: CVR = (conversions/impressions) x 100

Here are some examples…

1. Downloads and app install rate

If 1000 users visited your product page and you had 100 installs:

(100/1000) x 100
0.1 x 100
= 10% CVR

2. App install-to-register conversion rate

This one looks at how many of your installs generated registered users. If out of 500 installs, 150 registered:

(150/500) x 100
0.3 x 100
= 30% CVR

3. Purchase/subscription/event

If 350 users generate 75 conversions:

(75/350) x 100
0.21 x 100
= 21% CVR

What if you have a low conversion rate?

If, for example, you need to convert 20% of users to make a profit, but you’re converting less than that, there are two main areas of focus to investigate and intervene – inside your app (in-app conversions) and outside the app, like in the app store, your marketing, social networks and the competitive space in general.

5 External app conversion concerns

1. Ineffective marketing

When people don’t know about your app, they can’t install it, so how and where you market it is key. Marketing should be part of your growth plan, and continually optimising it until you hit your ideal (lowest) cost per acquisition is daily/weekly work.

2. Low-quality traffic

If your marketing is attracting the wrong customer or misrepresenting your product, you might have people coming in and not downloading or stop using the app when they see what it really is about.

3. App Store problems

When your product doesn’t rank well in the store, or the algorithm changes and you suddenly see a drop in discoveries, or it’s misrepresented in the app store, those can all affect your conversion rates.

4. Competitors

A new competitor app or website that offers the same or similar service for free can kill or at least impact your product in a big way.

5. Seasonality and global trends

It’s natural to see spikes and dips in impressions and conversions. If your product serves mainly learning-related content to parents and school-going children, for example, expect drop-offs over school holidays. The best thing to do is to take note of seasonal trends and plan for them in the future.

4 Internal app conversion concerns

1. Your value proposition isn’t strong enough

Does your app solve a significant enough problem for the user? Or can they get the same thing somewhere else? Hitting the bulls-eye of what your market needs is key – see the importance of validating your app idea first.

2. Poor user experience

When people don’t like using your app, they’re unlikely to want to take the next step. Slow, buggy apps that crash often or are hard to navigate indicate an architecture problem – which can be remedied with top-notch app design.

3. Confusing or too many steps/sign-up

No one likes jumping through hoops. If, for example, you’re asking people to commit and register before they’ve test-driven the product a bit first, you could see a drop-off. And, again, this is something you can test and perfect in the design phase – see how to design an app the right way.

4. Not enough feature optimisation

Features are what build usage habits, and it’s important to keep an eye on those and adapt according to what people use and don’t use. That benefits your existing user (making them more likely to tell others about your product) but it also sharpens your pitch to prospective new users, driving up conversions.

How to increase your app conversion rate

Increasing your app conversion rates is a topic on its own. In general, though, taking steps to understand and counteract all the things we mentioned above is a great place to start. 

A few general ideas on increasing conversion rates are:

  • Understand your market and its needs – do the research
  • Keep an eye on your competitive landscape – know what your competitors are doing and the latest app store changes
  • A/B test all your marketing and calls to action
  • Invest in app concept validation before spending resources on creating it
  • Focus on your user experience and creating your user interface
  • Keep optimising to bring your users delight.

Also, see how to increase app engagement.

Let us help you fix your conversion rate

You already know that we at Specno build some of the coolest, high-engagement apps. But did you know that we also have a specialist team that helps you boost your existing app?

Yes! We use our best-practice expertise ad insider know-how to run extensive app audits, user research, app optimisation and even app redesign – contact Specno now. (You’ll get a response immediately.)

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Also see these signs you need a UX audit, the 8 instant business benefits of a UX audit and how to check if an app idea already exists.

And see what we're doing to develop SA's tech ecosystem with the exclusive Founders Den.

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