Shoppers can't buy items if they can't find them in the aisles; in the app store, it's no different. The inherent inability of app store search engines to expose users to the "long tail" of apps means the vast majority of apps remain virtually invisible. App store research underlines this imbalance, revealing that only 5% of apps accounted for 92% of downloads in 2013.
If app developers are locked in a fight for two scarce resources (consumer attention and shelf space), then it's clear that visibility is the first step toward success. Whether your app is a channel for content distribution, a tool to collect feedback, or a means to boost customer engagement, your success depends on having it seen by users who will appreciate it, not delete it.
While it's helpful to be featured among the top titles in the two app superstores-the Apple App Store and Google Play-it's certainly not a perfect (or sustainable) solution to the discovery dilemma. And even if you invest in a wave of paid promotion campaigns to achieve the massive volume of downloads needed to rocket an app to the top of the charts-and to the attention of your potential audience-it's a fair bet that your fame will be fleeting. This is why cross-promotion is quickly becoming the most effective way to get your app in front of your most valuable users.
Cross-promotion allows app developers and companies to advertise in each other's apps via advertising placements within those apps. It's also a perfect model for content owners with a family of apps, because it allows them to cross-pollinate audiences and promote all their titles in the process.
There are several cross-promotion networks to choose from, so it may seem that app developers are spoiled with choices. However, only a cross-promotion network that nurtures an open community and ensures complete transparency can provide a fertile marketplace for cross-promotion. Both partners in this deal must be sure both sides are delivering ads at prime times and to the right people. This requires data analysis, funnel optimization, and testing. It's the ability to target, track, and guarantee a relevant match that will separate the market leaders from the also-rans.
It's why Tapdaq-a new data-driven, cross-promotion network catering to long tail and indie developers-is very much on my radar. Determined to be a marketplace and not just another cross-promotion network, the company has introduced a mechanism that can boost transparency-and more importantly-build trust.
To level the playing field and ease the squeeze on app developers that are too small to pay commissions or meet minimum traffic requirements, Tapdaq has taken cash out of the equation. This leads to positive results for both developers and publishers.
In many cases, the match between an ad and an app is made because one party paid a lot of money to place it there. With Tapdaq, the match is determined by relevancy and targeting, not ad spend. "App developers trade installs with other developers on a one-for-one exchange, and at no cost at all," explains Ted Nash, the company's 23-year-old co-founder and CEO.
Nash has also cleverly introduced the concept of an open community, allowing app developers to invite their peers to participate in Tapdaq and benefit from the boost. Tapdaq closes the loop by allowing publishers and advertisers to create relationships directly, giving them the power to decide with whom they want to exchange their audiences and users.
Cross-promotion in a community such as Tapdaq isn't only a way to deliver on the promise of personalized and effective advertising by delivering the right ad to the right user in the right app. It's also a way to showcase all the available apps, which will no doubt become more important as developers create more apps to reach more users. Venture capitalist and internet pioneer Marc Andreessen famously said there are only two ways to make money in business: "One is to bundle; the other is unbundle." In the app economy, cross-promotion allows app developers to do both.