We’ll dive into ASO for encouraging downloads and Push Notifications for keeping your app users engaged beyond the download.

So you’ve recognized the value of a mobile travel app in extending your customer engagement, taking them past the planning and dreaming phase of travel, and through the customer and visitor journey.

Traveler Journey

Dreaming (inspiration), planning (researching), booking, experiencing (travel and in-market), sharing

Customer Journey

Awareness (inspiration), Consideration (research), Conversion (booking), Experience (travel and in-market), Advocacy (sharing the experience, promoting the brand)

You’ve seen the writing on the wall as mobile app use increases and delivers greater conversion than mobile web. Maybe you’ve even attended some of the same conferences I have, like Mobile Apps Unlocked at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas this April, where the gist was that more people are continuing to download more apps in which they're spending more of their total time on their devices and spending more of their money than on web.

  • 2017 total downloads: 175 billion
  • Download growth since 2015: 60%
  • Avg. apps used per month by US users: 36
  • Total apps in both app stores: 6 million
  • Avg. time US users spend in app per day: 2.5 hours
  • Consumer Spend in App Stores Exceeded $86 Billion in 2017

~AppAnnie, 2017


During the Mobile Growth Summit, which I attended in San Francisco this past February, Realtor.com shared that mobile web users are their least engaged, and app users are 2x more engaged than desktop web users. This reinforces what I tell my DMO clients on a regular basis: engagement matters far more than a simple vanity metric such as web hits or app downloads.

But chances are you know this by now. You’ve decided on the type of app you want to give your visitors and how it will engage with them over time.

Now how do you market your app?

Promoting your travel app is essentially a two-pronged process:

1) Building Awareness, or encouraging downloads

2) Maintaining Relevance and Engagement, or making sure your customers don’t just download, but use, re-use, and share your app.

In this two-part blog, I’ll dive into Building Awareness this week, focusing in on App Store Optimization, or ASO, as a marketing tactic for encouraging app downloads. Later this week, in part two of the series, we’ll talk Maintaining Relevance and Engagement with the help of push notifications, a powerful marketing mechanism that connects your DMO, your partners, locals, and your app users and visitors.

Building Awareness of Your Mobile Travel App

The first step in encouraging a customer/traveler to use your app is, of course, awareness. They’ve got to know your travel app is available and that it can offer them something useful and even entertaining. While there are a number of ways to create awareness—word of mouth, email marketing, on your website, through social media, for just a few examples—there are also steps you can take once a traveler is aware of your app and considering downloading, during the consideration stage of the customer journey, just before conversion.

Consider the digital marketing many of you work with Simpleview to put behind your destination website: Content optimization through Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) and Search Engine Optimization (SEO); Amplification through paid media and other factors; Testing; Measurement via data analysis and reporting. Elements of these processes can also be applied to promoting and optimizing your app for a more valuable end-user experience and ROI.

Consider a key optimization factor, and one of our top two tactics for marketing your travel app: App Store Optimization, or ASO. Just like websites have SEO, apps have their own process for getting apps to rank high in app store search results. I talked a little about ASO in my blog How to Increase App Downloads. It was also discussed in depth at the Mobile Growth Summit, and I’d like to share with you some of the best practices I learned while attending this conference, thanks to Simpleview’s generous Personal Educational Development (PED) program. (This program helps staff like me stay on top of the latest trends, technologies, and resources available to best serve our DMO clients like you with up-to-date and expert advice for continued success.)

How to ASO

Two-thirds of downloads come from organic downloads.2 The family networking app, Life360, advised at the Growth Summit that businesses offering apps should optimize their app store page to increase click-thru rate (CTR). Below are some steps that were offered for accomplishing this task.

What to Do With Words

  • Keywords matter, just like in SEO. In fact, there seems to be significant overlap between desktop SEO Keywords and ASO keywords, so don’t be afraid to use the same ones for both. Put keywords in the app description text, and try changing keywords seasonally or around big events.
  • Rethink app titles with the latest app store changes. As of summer 2017, changes within the updated app store include shorter title allowance, followed by subtitles. Tips from Life360: Start with what users are looking/searching for when titling your app. For instance, the title of their app is “Find my Family, Friends, Phone” not “Life 360”. Rank for these terms.
  • App descriptions are key. A clear explanation of functionality in Google Play’s “short description” field often wins the day. Most people don’t read the long description, but it can be useful to help rank for keywords.
  • Provide and promote in-app only content. Consider including deals visitors won’t find on websites or in print promotions.

Set Their Sights on Your Visuals

  • Optimize your icon to stand out in the app store and on users’ phones. Think of it as your brand’s mobile logo. Make a statement with it.
  • Optimize screenshots for small screens, because they show up tiny in search results on a phone. In other words, make sure you can read text in a small version of the screenshot. You can also try videos as screenshots, but be aware that they autoplay on iOS.

Upgrade Updates

  • Be specific. Instead of saying “minor bugs & fixes” for change logs, be sure to include substantial comments.
  • Release an app version update at the same time as updating the app profile to show that the app is getting better. Update frequency factors into ASO.

Test and Measure for Continued Optimization

  • A/B testing is possible in the Google Play store.
  • Define a conversion to identify your most valuable users, then target those users with media buys.

Reviews Make an Impact

  • Ratings matter.Reviews show a big jump in impact from <4 to 4+, and then again above 4.5.
  • Requesting Reviews. As in asking for a job reference or a raise, there can be a right time and way to ask for the positive result you’re hoping for.

    - Ask for app reviews after users perform big actions, like achieving a level in a passport, when they’re more likely to have a positive impression of the app at that moment in time.
    - Ask for reviews promptly after a “moment of joy” in the app.
    - Reddit saw better reviews by changing the language of their request from “Do you like the app?” to “Do you love the app?” because it used stronger emotional language.


  • Apple Reviews. They’re easier for users to create, but requests are limited
    Apple no longer requires you to submit a comment with a review or require a user to go to the app store to submit the review, so it should be easy to do.
    - Keep in mind Apple doesn’t allow you to ask for reviews more than once every 120 days.

The end goal of your ASO efforts is to convert travelers in the consideration phase, to get them to download your tourism app. But once they’ve done so, how do you encourage them to actually use it, and keep using it? How do you get them to engage with and even advocate for your app? That’s the topic we tackle in part two of this blog series next week: Maintaining Relevance and Engagement with your Mobile Travel App.

Until then, learn more about building awareness of your mobile app through your website, social media, email marketing, word-of-mouth, and more with my blog How to Increase App Downloads. Then get in-depth DMO perspective and see a few examples of how to weave travel apps into your digital marketing strategy here.


Now, let's explore the use of Push Notifications to keep your users engaged beyond the download. We'll show you how to do this in the second installment of our two-part blog.