The battleground for app discovery has more to do with where an application ranks in search results and not in adverts or brand websites. At least that is what a recent Airship app discovery survey shows – about half of internet users find apps to download via app store search.

Browsing The App Store – The #1 Way To Find Apps

On May 23, mobile app experience company Airship released a new global consumer survey in partnership with Sapio Research detailing how, among other things, consumers discover mobile apps.

The survey revealed that searching and browsing mobile app stores was the top way internet users found apps to download. 46% of the surveyed respondents across the world said they search app stores when they are looking for new applications to download.

Source: Airship survey

Search engines such as Google and Bing are the second most common app discovery method with 40% of respondents saying they use them to find apps. Hearing about an app from friends, family or colleagues pushes 35% of mobile app users to download. Meanwhile, reading about an app in the media prompts another 25% of global app users to download it.

This result is consistent across household income levels, generations, and the majority of countries. Note that Airship’s survey involved 11,000 global consumers aged 18 and above in the U.S., Canada, U.K., France, Germany, South Africa, Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia and Brazil.

Therefore, breaking this down to national levels reveals that searching app stores is a key driver of app downloads in the United States. From the chart above, it can be seen that 44% of the surveyed American adults said that they browse app stores when they are looking for mobile apps to download.

Zooming in (see chart below), word-of-mouth becomes the second most preferred method of discovering apps amongst U.S. internet users.

Data adapted from Airship survey

This means that personal recommendations by friends, family, or colleagues are among the top drivers of app downloads in the US (36%). WOM is, however, the number one way of app discovery in the UK (41%), France (44%), and Canada (42%), where users turn to family and friends for recommendations much more than app stores.

Just like in the US, WOM is the second most common method of finding apps among consumers in Germany (27%) and Singapore (41%). The top way of finding apps in German and Singapore is by searching and browsing the app store at 53% and 50% respectively.

Note that other factors including social/user-generated content, the brand’s website or email, and in-store signage contribute between 8% to 20% of global app downloads. The figures are between 10%-18% for US consumers and 3%-32% for other countries.

Implications For App User Acquisition

The first step for brands who want to retain users and drive repeat usage is app user acquisition. The findings of the Airship survey reveal the importance of on app store’s inbuilt search feature in helping users quickly and easily find the apps they are looking to download.

This is not to say that other avenues for app discovery can’t drive user acquisition, we acknowledge that developers get a boost when they are highly ranked on search engines or are talked about on social media. This research, however, indicates that app store search is an area that should not be overlooked.

App store search engines reward popular apps, and the better an app’s visibility, the more downloads it will get. Most app stores work this way, so they need to improve the user search experience, to maximize the number of downloads.

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