Market Maneuvering: Marketing Starts Here

The Market Maneuvering post series will cover various tactical things you, my fellow Android developers, need to do to gauge and improve your success in marketing your Android applications.

When the doors blew off the iPhone App Store on its initial launch, with trivial applications earning developers thousands of dollars per day, I knew that eventually, people would expect the same thing with Android.

The problem is, the iPhone App Store circumstances just don’t happen all that frequently. It is eminently possible there will never be another launch like the App Store’s was, because it had a unique mix of ingredients: a hot piece of hardware, backed by one of the world’s great consumer marketing firms, with some barriers for developer entry (application fees, Objective-C, App Store approval process, etc.), and months of advance notice. By comparison, the Android Market has a nice piece of hardware (but not iPhone-level sales) with negligible traditional marketing presence, some barriers for developer entry (Market fees, Java, etc.) and, effectively, zero advance notice.

Rather than compare the Android Market launch to the launch of the iPhone App Store, it would behoove you to compare it to something more ordinary: a catalog.

After all, any online store, whether it be or J.R. Liggett’s, amounts to a very fancy catalog. The catalog gets distributed to a lot of people, some of those people look through the catalog, and a few of those people buy things from what they find.

Let us say that there are one million Android handsets in users’ hands today. That is how far the Android Market “catalog” is distributed. But, what percentage of those users are actually going to look through the catalog on any given day? 1%? After all, even with the launch, while Android enthusiasts knew the Market was opening, there was little press coverage, so Jane Q. Droidowner might not have realized anything in particular happened. So, maybe 10,000 people a day look at the catalog. How many are going to find your app, either by browsing random categories or searching for your specific type of app? Unless you are highly-rated in an interesting category, odds are only a few hundred people, if that, will see your app in a list, let alone click on it, in a given day. And then, for the priced applications, you have a few hundred characters and a rating to convince them to spend money on it.

All of a sudden, getting just a few sales per day does not sound so bad. Or, rather, it sounds bad, but it sounds credibly bad.

Welcome to the real world. Few products sell themselves. If you want sales, you are going to have to work at it.

In particular, you need to understand that simply having an application listed in the Android Market is not going to guarantee you much in the way of sales, if you do little else. Of course, you will get some sales this way, just as every brand of breakfast cereal on grocery shelves gets some sales. However, those with strong brands backed by marketing (e.g., Raisin Bran) will do better than those that are just on the shelf (e.g., Uncle Sam’s Toasted Whole-Wheat Flakes and Flaxseed). Or, to draw a more personal parallel, having a Android programming book in will guarantee some sales just by people interested in the subject, but it takes a lot of blog posts and a lot of Google Group posts and a lot of other efforts to really get it moving.

Marketing starts with the Android Market. It does not end there. If you want sales, you need to make sure your target audience finds out about your app and goes searching for it in the Market or elsewhere.

  • great point Mark. I think developers of paid apps need to be in contact with bloggers and give them a free same so that they can have more tha 24 hours to go through the app.

  • Andy

    Along with what you said, there’s a few other things that hinder sales of paid apps. For the past several months before they were available, there was the free apps. So by the time paid apps became available, a lot of people, for the most part have become content with what they already have on their phone. At least, this is the case with me. In order to get me interested in buying something it has to be different and significant enough from what I already have.

    The other thing is, it would sure be nice if there was screenshots, videos, etc. along with the text descriptions so I can get a better idea of what an app or game is really like. Also, there’s a lot of room for improvement on organization and searchability of things in the market, even though they did an okay job. You’d expect more than a okay job on search from Google, however.

  • Thomas

    To further add to this. You constantly see iphone ads showing off apps. Yet, you CAN get those on the G1 too. But has T-moblie or Google or HTC brought this up. Hey the iphone can to this – so can we….. nope not one add should what the G1 can do – just the same initial ads of the original here come the G1 – its out. NOW should ads of what it can do.

    They wont get the sales without the marketing.

  • Dear Mr. Murphy,

    Great article! But I must say that the AppStore from Apple only looks that good, because it’s often in the media (where Android is nowhere…). I read about a study, done by pinch media, which analyzed the general AppStore users and statistics ( An important fact was that only 1% of the users really use their downloaded apps in a long term. Most of the time, the users just download (and pay for…) it and delete it or don’t use it anymore. This is of course marketing wise really intelligent. Apple gets his share, the developers get their fast money and the user thinks that he just bought a good product (although I’m not knocking on the products in the AppStore!). Whereas important issues like organization, security and marketing are nowhere found around the Android Market (which were the pulling factors of the AppStore!).

    The Android platform itself is a great idea with potential, but it has to develop slowly to grow into something big. Apple’s strategy and idea of the iPhone + the AppStore is different from the Android platform but in some terms, we as the users and developers, follow the same path as the Applerians (?!). But after this developing stage of the whole platform/community the Android Market will acclompish it’s mission and become really big.

    We, as Android participants in any way, should watch Apple and learn from the good points as well as from the bad points of the AppStore platform and turn Android into something great, that’s where the real power of Android is lying, its community!

    Sincerely yours,


  • I expect sales on Android will gradually ramp up. G1’s are getting to the European countries, and the last SDK update official supports German localization.

    The HTC Magic will generate a lot of Android buzz, and Vodafone’s adoption of Android will give it serious numbers. When we start seeing Android on other carriers in the states, and on 4G networks, there be a lot more numbers and buzz here.

    What developers should be fighting for now is postiion. Work on their reputation in the Market place. A lot of them seem very concerned with immediately monetizing their once free application.

    The better IPhone apps have a suite of products. Aurora feint, for example, has a good free version. A cheap add on that adds a lot of good content. Last they have a high end fully networked, social, app. I was a free user, I bought the small bundle, and I already know that sooner or later I’ll buy the next product. I just have to top off my itunes account 🙂

    Google did just pump a lot of juice into Android by allowing paid applicaitons. Electronic Arts launched bejewelled, and I’m sure we’ll see a lot of your standard mobile J2ME product line show up on Android. If they do some advertising it could help everyone seeking to sell Android games.

    What I’m hoping to see is a boom in people using targeted advertising. You can buy adds that will only go to Android users, and you can link straight to your Android market placement.

  • Contextside

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  • I think that iPad will be the boss now. It is almost perfect

  • Brian Dillon

    designing an app for the android phone but have no idea how to market it. it is a sky tracker with star consulations planets etc any ideas to help?

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