The holidays are right around the corner, which means app publishers everywhere have begun planning for the annual iTunes Connect holiday shutdown.

This week, Apple announced their 2017 iTunes Connect holiday schedule, which begins December 23 and runs through December 27th (Pacific Time).

The 2017 holiday shutdown is expected to place a week-long code freeze on iOS apps. During this time, no new app submissions or app update submissions will be processed. This allows Apple’s manual submission reviewers to take some much-deserved time off around the holidays. The shutdown also means that no bug fixes, price changes, new SDK integrations, and significant app store landing page tweaks can occur during the time the submissions team is out. While app store submissions will be unavailable, other iTunes Connect tools will remain accessible to developers throughout the holiday period.

To help you prepare your app for the 2017 iTunes Connect holiday shutdown, we’ve put together five tips to get ahead during this year’s freeze. Check them out!

5 ways to prepare for the 2017 holiday shutdown

1. Protect your ratings

True during any time of the year, app ratings are a huge trigger for app store success. But high app store ratings don’t happen overnight! If your ratings could use some improvement, it’s time to start focusing on boosting them well before the holiday rush.

iOS 11 ushered in big changes to how app publishers should approach ratings. App publishers can now only present Apple’s Rating Prompt three times per year. This emphasizes the importance of finding the right time and right place to engage with consumers. Now that you can only ask for an app rating three times per year, it’s imperative that you identify evangelists, determine when to activate them and measure all interactions with your customers.

Check out the opportunity cost of a star from our recent research:

The opportunity cost of a star

The opportunity cost of a star—Apptentive research, 2017

2. Leverage new features in iOS 11

In their 2017 holiday shutdown announcement, Apple encouraged publishers to let customers know about promotions, upcoming features, and events within your app at any time using the promotional text field in iOS 11. As mentioned in the ratings discussion above, iOS 11 is a great opportunity for brands to understand how more of their customer feel since more consumers are taking the time to leave ratings. Apple has made it easier for consumers to rate apps, but the onus is on each company to understand who their fans are, how they can improve the customer experience, and how to form lasting relationships with their customers.

The App Store also received a makeover with iOS 11, including description page enhancements, in-app purchase promotion opportunities, and more. Read our detailed piece on iOS 11 App Store changes for more on how to make the most of the changes in each area.

3. Plan ahead

While an app ratings “freeze” hasn’t been a concern for years, app publishers should still be aware of—and plan around—the iTunes Connect shut down. As mentioned above, the shutdown means that no new apps or updates can be added to the App Store, and prices and descriptions for existing apps cannot be changed. However, front-end functionalities (like app rankings, ratings, and reviews) will be unaffected.

To prepare for the shutdown, we recommend submitting your app updates, new versions, and pricing changes by the first week of December for plenty of time to review. Don’t get caught submitting late updates, or they might not make it through Apple’s queue in time for the holidays!

4. Consider holiday promotions, but don’t sacrifice value for rank

Everyone loves a deal, but make sure your holiday pricing aligns with your business goals. When the App Store freeze was still a major factor, app publishers would discount their app’s price to boost its value (and its ratings) before the top charts were frozen. Because this freeze no longer applies, these types of gimmicks are much less effective, and app publishers should be wary of pricing their app below their true cost of acquisition.

Before heading into the holidays, we recommend revisiting your acquisition costs and taking a thorough look at how much revenue you generate from each engaged user. Once you are sure of these metrics, you can create a holiday strategy that maximizes either new user volume or increases your average revenue per user, depending on your goals.

While you’re revisiting your goals, take a peek at our latest research around what mobile shoppers value most:

What do holiday shoppers value most?

Apptentive research, 2016

5. Let Apptentive help

We’re here to ensure your apps are ready for the holiday season, and our product can help give you the competitive advantage you need to get ahead quickly. All you need to do to claim your stake of the all-important holiday rush is:

  • Integrate our SDK in less than 20 minutes.
  • Check out our Learning Center for our best tips and practices.
  • Ensure you’re using your three prompts per year wisely by targeting the right customers, at the right place and at the right time in their mobile journey.
  • Enjoy a leg up on your competition and celebrate the holidays!

With the right plan in place, you can make this holiday season stress-free for your team and your customers. If you have additional tips for getting in front of the iTunes Connect holiday shutdown, we’d love to hear them in the comments.

Happy holidays!