This post was originally published on VentureBeat.
When Apple first released iOS 8 back in September, the mobile world was quick to embrace its new features. One of the most exciting changes for app marketers was the ability to demonstrate their app through a video preview. For many app marketers, particularly in the gaming industry, presenting potential users with a video demonstration of their product seemed amazing. Not only that, but the first brave marketers to give this new feature a go were often featured on Apple’s new apps chart.
Fast forward to a few months later, though, and app previews are neither new nor exciting. It’s time to examine just how efficient this tool really is.
The first thing to consider is the cost. Creating a decent video preview is a serious mission, and even if you opt for a rather basic production, you still end up with a costly product compared to screenshots design. This price tag will limit your ability to perform creative A/B testing for your app page. Chances are you will not produce a variety of previews, while easy-to-create screenshots will allow you to try different styles and see what works best for your target audience.
As if that’s not bad enough, in the constantly evolving app world where new versions are a regular thing, even the most professional video could become outdated in a heartbeat. You are thus forced to come up with a more general and less creative concept for your promo, one that will stand the test of time (the mobile equivalent of a unicorn) and justify the investment. Not an easy task.
The parameters for creativity get even more constraining when you examine Apple’s rules for videos and their transformation over the past few months. When Apple first introduced video previews to the App Store, we investigated the company’s guideline enforcement procedure. We learned that while the written rules seem harsh as usual, Apple was actually pretty flexible and approved videos that took creative liberties at their own risk.
Well, that was then and this is now. Recent updates show that the company is in a less open-minded mood and apps that do not follow the strict guidelines often end up rejected from the App Store altogether. And while there are guidelines for screenshots as well, they are less specific and limiting, at least for the time being. Mobile marketers should also note that an Apple-approved video can only really serve that specific purpose, since there’s not much logic in using it on other, less constricting platforms.
Even those who opt for a video preview cannot escape the need for quality screenshots as well. That is because video previews are only visible to iOS 8 users, which at the moment make up 78 percent of iPhone users. This means that by producing a video promo for your app, you focus on creating marketing material that leaves out 22 percent of the 700 million devices sold by Apple worldwide. Not great.
But the biggest problem for mobile videos has to do with their influence on users visiting the app page. After examining dozens of App Store Optimization (ASO) projects, we’ve noticed that videos sometimes have a negative effect on the app’s conversion rates. When perfecting the app page experience, your goal should always be to create a compelling experience for potential users. The longer they take to decide whether or not they should download your app, the more you have to lose. For that reason alone, screenshots offer a better marketing tool, since they do not encourage users to deeply explore the app but instead present them with specific highlights and convince them to hit “install”. Videos, on the other hand, drive potential users to contemplate and consider installing the app, which is not always great. While some apps could experience an increase in conversion rates following the submission of a video demo, others could wake up to a massive drop. It takes a great preview to ensure significantly higher conversion rates, and under Apple’s rules and regulations, how great can a preview be?
App marketers should allocate their resources wisely. It’s best to invest in marketing tools that allow as much flexibility as possible and deliver consistent results, as the latest option is not necessarily the best one.