When you think of an App Store today, the first thing that comes to mind is surely the Apple App Store or its equivalent on Android, the Google Play Store: a platform where you can very easily find new applications to install on your smartphone, adding new functionalities to your phone.
It’s less known, but there are also App Stores in the B2B world, the first ones, like the Salesforce AppExchange, even predating the Apple App Store. These App Stores are a very interesting but often overlooked source of acquisition for B2B startups.
At Weglot, App Stores have played an important role in our history allowing us to get our first users and get vital feedback on our service. They are still core to our acquisition strategy today being the first point of contact with our solution for more than 30% of our users. B2B App Stores really are secret homepages of many software solutions and it might just be the beginning.
Be careful though, B2B App Stores are not the solution to all acquisition problems. Launching on an App Store is time-consuming and has many limitations.
In this article, we’ll look at the main mistakes to avoid and give you our advice on how to succeed on a B2B App Store.
Important clarification: There is no specific term for a “B2B App Store”. Some speak of “Platform App Stores”, others of “SaaS App marketplace”, or even of “plugins directory”… For simplicity’s sake, we will use the term: B2B App Stores.
Why should B2B App Stores be a part of your acquisition strategy?
Before we even consider how to get started, it’s important to ask ourselves what is the point for a B2B company to be present on an App Store and if it’s worth devoting significant development and marketing resources to a platform that you don’t control.
Be where your customers are
It may sound obvious, but if you want to easily acquire new users, it’s better to be present where they are, rather than asking them to come to you. If you want to sell diapers to a parent, it’s better to be referenced in the nursery section of a department store rather than doing a pop-up store on the Champs Élysées. It doesn’t mean that it is impossible, but changing your customers’ habits is a more complex challenge.
Does your company target ecommerce merchants? There are already more than 1 million of them on Shopify today and they download on average 6 applications from the Shopify App Store. Are you targeting the sales teams of large companies? Chances are they use a CRM like Salesforce and regularly visit the Salesforce AppExchange. Or maybe your potential users spend their day on Slack to communicate internally? The Slack App Directory might be a good option to dig into.
Depending on your target audience, the most relevant App Store may not be the one you thought. Take the time to understand what audience you are trying to reach and where they are online.
A simple integration
The other advantage of being present on an App Store is the simplified integration with the platform itself. If we take the example of WordPress: it is now the platform for creating websites (CMS) used by 1 out of 3 websites in the world. These WordPress website owners will likely want to connect additional services to extend the possibilities of their site via the Plugin Directory, the B2B App Store of WordPress.
Need to create a complex contact form on your site and connect it to your email marketing solution? Dozens of plugins are available. Need to optimize the performance of your site? Just add one of the many caching plugins, such as WP Rocket, in a few minutes. All these “plugins” (a very relevant name used to designate “apps” on WordPress) are specially integrated with WordPress and facilitate the integration between services.
From his WordPress interface, the site owner can access the Plugin Directory in a few clicks, where he can search for an app matching his needs.
By going through the WordPress Plugin Directory, he can be sure that the proposed services will work with his site and that he will be able to integrate them in a few clicks.
A simple integration often means a lot less friction and uncertainty for your potential users which is always important especially when your users are discovering your product.
Trust in the platform
The final benefit of offering an app on the B2B App Store is to capitalize on the users’ trust in the platform itself. By going through the App Store directly available in Shopify, ecommerce merchants are in a context and environment they know. They feel at home and they trust the platform. They don’t end up on an unknown website, in which they have no confidence.
The platforms all perform a more or less thorough validation of the applications available on their store. To offer an app on the Shopify App Store, it must be validated by the App Store Review team and comply with dozens of rules. This is a guarantee of trust for users.
The platform also regulates the powers and data that third-party apps have access to. As soon as an app violates the rules, the platform can decide to remove it from the App Store. Of course, this gives platforms a lot of power and can lead to conflicts. But it is also a strong responsibility that can also lead to strong pressure on the teams in charge of these App Stores.
B2B App Stores are therefore a good way to be visible to your target audience while benefiting from the trust and simplicity of integration with the platform. At Weglot, we see conversion rates up to 3 times higher between our page on the App Store and our own site.
How to succeed on B2B App Stores
The B2B App Stores are a great way to be visible to your target audience but there are several mistakes to avoid in order to succeed. Here are our main key tips after promoting Weglot on more than 5 B2B App Stores.
Focus on one App Store at a time
You might think that simply listing your app on different B2B App Stores will increase your visibility and your number of users and that the solution is to multiply your number of apps of different App Stores. But each app store and platform is unique and maintaining several applications on very different app stores can quickly become an arduous task.
We’ve learned that the hard way. After seeing the success of our WordPress and Shopify apps, we hired a couple of developers to develop new apps for other CMS and Web development frameworks without validating the demand for them. Six months later, we had 4 new integrations to maintain with no users, no traction and no need for it! We finally decided to kill these apps after spending a lot of time and money on them.
Focusing on one App Store at a time is also important to have time to discover and understand the platform community, its codes and to participate in events to meet all the actors. The vocabulary is often different from one platform to another even to designate the same thing. Weglot has learned a lot by attending many events in the WordPress and Shopify ecosystems. Two ecosystems that seem close (they are both solutions to make websites) but in fact very different.
Don’t bet everything on this single source of acquisition
Even if we’ve seen that being available on a B2B App Store can be a very good way to acquire customers, especially at the beginning, it is important not to rely on this only source of acquisition.
First of all, the competition is getting tougher and tougher on the App Stores. Many third-party solutions competing with yours are probably already present on the App Store you are targeting and it will not be easy to breakthrough in a few days. It is important to promote your solution through other more traditional acquisition channels: online ads, content creation, prospecting, …
Plus, you are never immune to a change by the platform that could make your application useless or a disagreement with the platform that decides to exclude your application. If 90% of your leads are discovering your software via an App Store, this is a big risk for you. Try to find other ways to market yourself. We’ve invested a lot in the last few years in content marketing, partnerships and ads to diversify our acquisition sources.
Remember that you don’t control the platform and even if most of them are very happy that you bring value to their users, you should always be careful and not have all your eggs in one basket.
Invest time on your App Store Optimization
Once you have identified the most relevant App Store for your B2B software, your goal is of course to develop an app that solves a problem for users of that platform. We won’t focus here on the development of the app itself since it depends a lot on your software, the complexity of the app and the platform on which it is developed.
Once your app is developed, you need to get ready to launch it on the App Store and promote it. Don’t overlook this part. If you’re lucky, you can get leads from your app without doing much. But even though marketing options can be limited on App Stores, there are still a lot of ways to make your app stand out from the competition and make a successful launch.
Customer reviews, the key to success
If you take only one tip from this post, it’s this one: work on your customer reviews. Most App Stores allow their users to rate the apps they’ve downloaded and used. These reviews play a big role in the success of your app.
First, it’s the first thing potential customers will look at. We live in a rate-everything world whether you like it or not. Online reviews are impacting decisions for over 93% of consumers even if we know that we can’t trust them 100% of the time.
Second, it’s also a great way to show users that you care about them and they can actually rely on you if they ever need anything. At Weglot, customer support has been a key value of the company since the start. Everyone does at least 1 support case every week and more than 1/3 of our team is dedicated entirely to support. This is great of course for our customers but it also has a big impact on our marketing.
If you ever have an unhappy customer leaving you a 1-star review, reach out to them, try to understand what went wrong and how you can solve their problem. It will help you improve your app and they will most likely remove their review once they see how dedicated and helpful you are.
Another mandatory step is to work hard on your app’s presentation page so that it answers clearly the problem users are trying to solve. Consider this page with as much attention as the homepage of your site. This is where taking the time to understand the ecosystem and its codes will help a lot.
What term do they use: App? Plugin? Addon?
What are their users’ main goals or issues?
How does your service integrate with the platform itself?
Use all the possibilities of your App Store listing page to stand out. Add images, videos, customer case studies, … and take time to improve them on a regular basis.
Optimize your App ranking in search results
To look for an app, users will likely use the search bar of the App Store. So you need to take the time to understand the most important keywords you want to rank your app on and understand the search bar’s algorithm to optimize your ranking in search results. Exactly as you would do with SEO to be well referenced on Google.
Depending on the App Store, the search algorithm may take into account several things:
The presence of keywords in the title and description of your app
The number of active installs and uninstalls of your app
Your overall app rating
The precise algorithm is of course never openly available but it is possible to understand how it works in general terms by discussing it with other third-party app developers (hence, again, the importance of investing time in the community!)
As for Google Search Engine Optimization, the goal is to understand the algorithm to optimize your app listing and even your app itself to best fit how it works and rank as high as possible for your main keywords.
Relationship with the platform itself
The last point not to be neglected is the relationship with the platform itself. The platform’s developers often have ways to promote applications in “Featured” sections. A promotion that can have a very important impact especially during the launch of your app.
Of course, to be able to get this depends heavily on your relationship with the platform owner. They usually have a team in charge of the App Store marketing. It’s difficult to get in touch with them but not impossible. At the risk of repeating myself, this is where taking the time to get involved in the ecosystem and community can play a big role. If you’re active on forums, attending and sponsoring events organized by the platform owner, it will help you get noticed and start talking with the App Store team.
After almost 5 years growing Weglot through B2B App Stores, we can definitely say that this channel can really have a big impact on your acquisition strategy and I’m prepared to bet this is still the beginning. B2B App Stores acquisition fits perfectly with the big shift to Product-Led Growth currently happening where usage of your product is the main vehicle to acquire, activate, and retain customers.
Are you also interested in B2B App Stores as a marketing strategy? I’d love to discuss it with you. Feel free to send me an email at myfirstname + @weglot.com.
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