Publish your apps now to take advantage of the biggest holiday season yet

With just a few days remaining before the holidays, I wanted to reach out to remind the developer community of the new Windows Store and Windows Phone Store opportunities available this holiday season. Now is the time to finish the apps you’ve been working on, or update those you already have in the Store.

For me, a great holiday season has to start with a lineup of remarkable devices. This season is especially strong with a large selection of smartphones, tablets, and PCs from our device-maker partners, offering a wide range of capabilities and price points. Even better, the new devices are receiving accolades from consumers and the industry alike. A few of my favorite quotes:

  • “Best Windows Phone device yet.” Engadget on the Nokia Lumia 1520
  • “The tiny Dell Venue 8 Pro has a premium look and feel for such an inexpensive system, offers good stylus support, and runs full Windows 8 in something about the size of an iPad Mini.” CNET
  • “Fresh and frankly quite stunning” NBC.com   on the Nokia Lumia 2520 tablet
  • “Surface 2 is a bargain machine that packs a tremendous amount of value for the price” – Bob Tedeschi, New York Times

 

clip_image001New this holiday season are Microsoft gift cards designed to encourage and enable users to discover and purchase apps on their new devices with hundreds of titles arriving daily (hopefully including yours after reading this post). Taking into consideration the Microsoft and partner promotions and consumer purchase of Microsoft and Xbox gift cards in retail locations, we are forecasting over $100M to be available for consumers to buy apps and games this holiday season across 100 retailers in 41 markets.

We are also continuing to invest in establishing carrier billing connections, recognizing that in many markets (especially those where credit card penetration is low) the preferred method for consumers is to purchase apps via your carrier and the billing relationship you already have established. In fact, we see an increase in transaction volume of over 6x in developing markets when carrier billing is enabled. Just this week, we reached a major milestone of 51 carrier connections across 31 markets, substantially more than any other smartphone platform, and with more in the works for the new calendar year.

The current holiday shopping season and all the great promotions are just underway, and we’re already seeing momentum build with the Store surpassing 12 million transactions per day and Windows Phone Store surpassing 200,000 apps.

The best news is that we’re just getting started. In the new calendar year we’ll introduce creative new approaches to help you reach users in your app developing. Stay tuned.

I recognize you don’t have much time remaining to finish your new apps or update your existing apps before holiday celebrations begin. In fact, we recommend that you submit apps by Monday, December 16, for publishing by Christmas and Friday, December 20, for publishing by New Year’s. These dates take into account our standard, stated turnaround time, and also leave you a bit of room for any changes you might need to make based on feedback you receive during certification. Given the short period of time, I’d like to suggest you focus your efforts in these areas to really make a difference – starting with the quickest/simplest steps you can take, to those that will require a bit more time.

Increase geographic reach

  • Windows Store and Windows Phone Store are available in over 190 markets. You’ll want to select the option for global distribution in Dev Center app submission to reach the widest target. If you’ve already published your app, you can modify the market distribution for a broader reach.
  • For Windows Phone paid apps, publish to markets with carrier billing enabled to take advantage of the increased download rates in those markets.

Offer a Trial option

Almost all kinds of paid apps and games benefit by including trial functionality. Windows Phone paid apps with trial capability enjoy 70 times higher downloads with a typical 5-10% conversion rate, resulting in 3-6x more revenue than paid apps without trial capability. Trial capability is unique to the Windows platform and can be implemented via limited time or limited features (for example, levels or advanced options) by adding a few lines of code. We handle the rest.

Include features that drive user star ratings

Based on our internal research, adding these capabilities to your apps has the biggest positive impact on user satisfaction, expressed through star ratings.

  • Create a Wide Live Tile to deliver maximum information to your users.
  • Build app features into your Live Tile and encourage users to pin your tile to their Start screen to stay connected to your app.
  • Optimize for the device and the user. For example, optimize your Windows Phone app for low-memory scenarios or high-end camera capabilities.
  • Update your app frequently, as much as every 30 days.

Increase local relevance

Adjusting your app to the local audience can increase downloads and engagement.  For example, Kantar’s recent data shows significant Windows Phone growth across Europe, Australia and Mexico (Kantar Worldpanel – July 2013 Windows Phone Share by country.) Options to consider:

  • Price your app to align with local conditions to maximize downloads. You can set pricing by market in Dev Center upon initial submission and at any time if you want to test and make adjustments.
  • Localize your app for users in the fastest growing markets using IDC or other sources as your guide. We have a multilingual toolkit to help you get started. We get feedback from users that they appreciate developers not only localizing the text of the app, but also taking into consideration local context, culture, norms, and if possible, local content.

And you’ll want to be sure to market your new app to drive downloads and increase engagement, especially social promotion and inclusion of the Windows Store and Windows Phone Store download badges on your web site and digital marketing activities.

Finally, if you’ve got a great idea for an app and are new to development, we encourage you to use our new tool designed for novice developers, Windows Phone App Studio Beta.

We can’t wait to try your latest creations and we so appreciate all you do to build and promote the ecosystem.

Happy Holidays!