Using App Store Intelligence to Keep Tabs on Your Mobile Competition

By Trace Ronning | November 18, 2015

The following is a guest post written by Christine Beuhler, Content Marketing Manager at Mobile Action.

Today we’re going to talk about how to gather competitive app store intelligence and insights from the app stores to stay a step ahead of your competitors. The app stores offer a treasure trove of competitive intelligence, from App Store keyword search rankings to ratings and reviews. When analyzed properly, you can easily identify what your mobile competitors are up to and develop marketing strategies to compete more effectively.

Any mobile marketer can access this data using a variety of tools including iTunes Connect or Google Analytics, but today we will use the Mobile Action dashboard.

Step 1: Pick the app or the competitor you want to analyze

To get the most value out of this exercise, identify the app which is the greatest competitor to your visibility and rankings. For demonstration purposes, we will analyze the Macy’s mobile shopping app and compare it to the Nordstrom’s app.

Step 2: Review the app’s keyword tracking over the past year


  • Pick a keyword

Since we’re demonstrating with the Macy’s shopping app, let’s choose the keyword “shopping,” a very important keyword for mobile commerce apps. So how do you decide which keyword you want to track for your competitor? Pick a keyword that is highly relevant to your category and very competitive in the market.

As you can see from the above screenshot, the Macy’s app is not ranking steadily for the “shopping” keyword, so the data will be more interesting to analyze and more helpful to draw conclusions from.

  • Analyze one year of data

Going back a full year gives you a more complete picture of the app’s progress over time. For example, it gives you a better idea if a company owns that particular keyword or how long they’ve been ranking for it. A year’s worth of data also helps you understand the peak times for the app, and see if seasonality plays a role.

The screenshot shows that Macy ranks high for the keyword “shopping” during certain times of year, suggesting a seasonal approach to their app marketing efforts and activities. Specifically, some of Macy’s peak periods are during the back-to-school months of August and September, which could suggest Macy’s turns their marketing spotlight on families at these times, boosting their search ranking for the “shopping” keyword. However, the Nordstrom’s app ranks high for the term “shopping” all year long, not just seasonal times, suggesting a more consistent approach to their marketing.

Step 3: Check your competitor’s category ranking for the past year


Next, we’ll move on to an app’s category ranking history. A year’s worth of category ranking data can show you when your competitors released updates to their app (the information bubbles at the bottom of the timeline) and the frequency of their peak times and low times. For Macy’s, you can see that spikes in their ranking often correlate with updates to their app.

Big picture-wise, an app’s category ranking lets you see how their mobile strategy is changing and improving (or not). If a competitor’s app is consistently ranking in the Top 10, 20, 50 in their app category, it suggests they are a strong opponent and serious about their mobile business. Similarly, an app with frequent updates also suggests greater competition.

If an app does not rank well in their app category, it is often a result of limited marketing activity, both organic and paid. For example, an app that moves up the charts only during the holidays suggests that marketing efforts are limited to these times of year.

Step 4: Analyze your competitor’s App Store reviews over the past year


When analyzing your competitor’s reviews, check which days the app received the most positive and negative reviews. To drill down further, search for specific terms in the app store reviews like “bug” or “crash” and see how many times they’re repeated. This data can help you understand an app’s dedication to customer satisfaction.

You can also check your competitor’s average app store rating since the app was first released. Moving up a star increases traffic to your App Store landing page by a significant percentage, but improving your app rating isn’t easy and often requires making improvements to the app itself.

What we can understand from this competitive intelligence

Through these data points, we can gain insight into a competitor’s marketing strategies and the milestones they’re aiming for. We can tell which companies are listening to their user’s reviews and updating their apps accordingly; they’re the ones with real staying power. Based on our demonstration, if the Nordstrom app’s trajectory follows the same pattern, it’s going to steadily climb the charts and maybe even make it into the top ten. The Macy’s app, however, is not going to be there in the next 6 months.

Another thing competitive intelligence can do is help marketers understand how seasonality affects a specific app. With seasonal data in hand, we can predict spikes in competitors’ activity in the upcoming year and adjust marketing campaigns accordingly. It’s also important to frequently check back on the top new apps in your category to see if you have any new competition.

Why competitive intelligence matters

Knowing what your competitors are up to can give you a huge advantage, the ability to predict when they’ll be increasing spend on mobile. For example, if you know you can’t match ad spend with a huge brand like Nordstrom’s, you’ll be able to predict when their spend is down and strategically run campaigns when the competition dies down to get more visibility.

And while you might not think so, it pays to know your weakest competitor as well as your strongest. SeatGeek was super small starting out and none of their competitors really took notice, but now they’re an incredibly strong player in the market. If you catch a competitor in their early days, you might be able to slow or block their growth.

Every graph has something to tell us, but it’s up to you to interpret that data to your advantage.