6 Key Elements for the Perfect App Store
App stores in some ways are similar to desktop browsers: both being a means of delivering functionality and content to users. In fact, one can think of app stores as 21st century browsers that bring structure and identity to the developer-user ecosystem. In early, May 2012, ComScore released data quoting that the web browsers accounted for just 18.5% of time spent online among US smartphone users while mobile apps accounted for a whopping 81.5%, and as we have said before, apps are the preferred delivery mechanism on mobiles as opposed to web browsers .Being a new age delivery platform compared to the web browser, app stores provide capabilities and vital functions that browsers cannot. Capabilities around user identity, app security and others were not possible in the browser world and had to be hard coded by developers with no reliable third-party to vet, facilitate, and ensure overall sanctity of the functionality or content. The following are some key characteristics of app stores that are necessary for success and functionality. Please note that as we discuss apps, we are referring to applications in their more generic form, which includes content, video, podcasts, software applications or any other form of information or functionality.
1. App Discovery
App stores need to have their apps discoverable through various means including search, browsing, tagging, sharing, ratings and a host of other features. As apps proliferate through the economy, sifting through them and finding what is required is a critical requirement for an app store to be successful. The features that provide the discoverability can be categorized as either outbound or inbound:
- Outbound Discoverability – Outbound discoverability deals with features such as cataloguing, searching, browsing, categorizing, featured apps etc. These features enable users to understand the apps taxonomy, navigation, search, sort, folder structures, etc.
- Inbound Discoverability -Inbound discoverability deals with features that are similar to search engine optimization of the web world, social media optimization and gamification. These features enable users to understand the apps popularity, folksonomy, and social acceptance through features such as tagging, ratings, reviews, etc. In keeping with the theme of inbound marketing and ‘pulling’ users into the apps ecosystem, app stores can also include gamification features that bring in competition, peer pressure, collaboration, and win-lose transactions.
2. App Publishing & Delivery
App publishing and delivery is a central feature of app stores, which enables users to browse through, install and uninstall apps on their devices. The heavy fragmentation of device endpoints means that the app store has to support reliable app delivery on multiple devices with varied capabilities and device types. All these delivery features have to be defined well in order to provide rich functionality along with keeping the overall publish logistics simple and intuitive.
3. Version Management
With development cycles of only a few weeks at best, app developers rely heavily on the ability of app stores to seamlessly manage app versions and compatibility. Features such as version management, compatibility selection while upload etc. enable app stores to hide the inherent complexity from end users and provide them with a clean interface.
App store platforms need to enable app developers in creating viable business or service models. App stores enable service delivery, their viability and acceptance is dependent on how they provide for a sustainable ecosystem for the developers, end users, and partners who use them. When app stores are used in a private context, such as within an enterprise or a non-profit context such as government, they need to provide a clear path from efficient service delivery to overall viability of the endeavor. In a more commercial context such as Google Play and the Apple App Store, monetization and business model capabilities such as revenue split, advertising, and in-app commerce need to be provided.
5. User Identity
One of the most important characteristics of app stores that differentiate it from regular web browser is the fact that app store users have online identities. Without a clear understanding and acknowledgement of user identities, app stores cannot provide other valuable services that they have come to be known for. App stores play an integral role in the mobile ecosystem of devices, developers, advertisers, publishers and end users by identifying users to ultimately provide services, block usage as required, and ensure overall security.
6. App Sanctity & Security
App stores are usually owned and hosted by a known entity and one of its primary functions is to safeguard users from malicious apps and subpar content. Unlike the browser world where putting a URL in the address bar could take the user to a completely unknown territory of the internet, app stores need to provide checks, reviews, approval and a host of processes to ensure security and sanctity of the apps that they host.