The holidays are right around the corner. That means one thing for app publishers—the dreaded App Store Shutdown.
Similar to past years, the 2015 Holiday Shutdown is expected to place a weeklong code freeze on iOS apps. During this time, no new app submissions or app update submissions will be processed, allowing Apple’s manual submission reviewers to take a much-needed holiday. No new updates, of course, means no bug fixes, no price changes, no new SDK integrations, and no new significant app store landing page tweaks.
While Apple has yet to reveal the dates this year’s Shutdown has yet to be revealed, app publishers can count on something in the ballpark of December 22 to December 29, in accordance with 2014’s Holiday Shutdown dates.
To help address the Shutdown scare, we’ve answered the most commonly asked questions we’ve collected from around the web. If there’s a question on your mind that we missed, ask away in the comments below.
Q: What does this mean for app publishers?
The iTunes Connect Holiday Shutdown is a double-edged sword.
If it catches you by surprise, the Shutdown can take a serious blow to your bottom line. If you’re ready for it come the fourth week of December, you’ll usher in a very happy holiday as you rake in the downloads, ratings, and commerce that come flowing in each holiday season. And if you’re unsure or fall somewhere between prepared and unprepared, we can help address any questions and concerns in a personalized demo.
Unprepared publishers risk either being stuck with a buggy app when a new update is ready or not being able to release that holiday update they’ve spent months designing. In either scenario, the publishers will have to wait at least a week (likely 2+ weeks as the iTunes team sifts through the backlog) until they can push an update.
During this wait, the surge of new holiday customers experiencing your app for the first time will be greeted with a subpar experience. Either because they expect the holiday cheer to spread to their app experience or because the app is simply plagued by a few bugs you can’t fix until after the Shutdown, your customers will exit the app disappointed—or worse, head straight to the App Store to leave a negative review.
These negative reviews, in turn, can cascade into a series of more serious problems:
- Sacrificed visibility. How prominently your app is displayed in the App Store is a factor of your star ratings. If you release an update immediately before the Shutdown, as in the chart above, your star ratings will reset to 0 and linger there until you can earn the loyalty of your new holiday customers. This reduction in rating corresponds with lower rankings in App Store searches and Top Charts as your position moves below that of your competitors.
- Sacrificed customers. After you experience a drop in App Store traffic from inferior rankings, you’re hit again with a lower conversion ratio of visits to downloads. If you had a 4-star app that dropped to two stars after a buggy, locked-in update, for example, you can expect as many as 80% of would-be customers to pass on your app in favor of a higher-rated competitor.
- Sacrificed revenue. Less visibility, fewer downloads, and churned customers all mean one thing: A missed opportunity to capitalize on the most profitable week on the year. Last holiday season, over 50% of new device activations in the U.S. were Apple products and the App Store saw double its average downloads on Christmas day, compared to an average day in December. Apps caught off-guard capture little of this surge in activity.
For apps that are ready for the Shutdown, each of these problems becomes a blessing: More visibility, more customers, and more revenue.
Additionally, these well-prepared apps can use the ratings reset to their advantage. For each app that plummets in rank, there’s one that soars to the top of the charts after attaining both a high volume of ratings and a high average rating. These apps prove the real winners of the holiday season.
Q: Is something similar in store for Android apps?
Short answer: No.
Long answer: No… well, maybe.
In years past, the Holiday Shutdown has been exclusive to the Apple App Store. The Google Play Store, thanks largely to its more automated app submission review process, has not been affected by employees taking the holidays off.
In the aftermath of Google’s move to a more manual review process in March of this year, there is a possibility that the company will require some sort of shutdown. However, Android app reviews are speedier than Apple’s, taking a matter of hours rather than days or even weeks, so chances of a shutdown of Apple’s scale is unlikely.
At present, Google has not made any indication one way or another, but we’ll keep you updated if that changes.
Q: How can the App Store Holiday Shutdown work in my favor?
This holiday season, you can not only safeguard your app’s ratings, but make the feared Shutdown work to your advantage, as long as you:
- Plan ahead. Submit your app update by the first of December to ensure that Apple’s reviewers have ample time to process the submission. Apple takes an average of seven days to review an app submission, and this number is bound to grow with the rush of the holidays. We therefore recommend submitted updates at least two weeks before the Shutdown.
- Properly test. If you wait until customers report bugs or crashes, it may be too late to fix them before the Shutdown. Your holiday ratings will reflect a buggy app and your new customers will be unlikely to brave through the storm until your next update.
- Spread holiday cheer. Whether it’s in the retail world or the app world, customers love the holidays. Keep the holidays close at heart with a festive interface update, holiday sale, or special in-app greeting. You’ll be rewarded with longer and more profitable app sessions.
- Make a good first impression. Customers decide whether they like an app within 30 seconds of launching the app. Ramp up your in-app customer service initiatives to show customers you care and win back lost customers.
- Protect your ratings. Encourage five-star ratings, intercept negative reviews, and set yourself up for a happy new year with our intelligent ratings prompts.
- Let Apptentive help make the holidays a little less stressful. We’re here to ensure your apps are ready for the holiday season. All you need to do to claim your stake of the all-important holiday rush is:
- Integrate our SDK in less than 20 minutes.
- Segment your customers and only guide those who love your app to the App Store to leave ratings. Engage unsatisfied customers in a conversation rather than pushing them to leave negative ratings about their experience.
- Enjoy a leg up on your competition and celebrate the holidays.
But don’t take our word for it. Hear what our enterprise customers have to say about being Apptentive in the holiday season:
“We launched with Apptentive right before the 2014 holidays and to say that it was helpful is an understatement. Those two weeks are usually nerve wracking; we are in crunch mode before shipping and always worry about a bug we didn’t catch. Not anymore. With Apptentive, we were able to actually communicate with customers who were having issues during the App Store shutdown AND we drove the best ratings and reviews we’ve ever had. Having a 5-star app to finish December catapulted us to the top of the shopping app charts and we haven’t looked back since. My only regret is that we didn’t start working with Apptentive sooner!” – VP of Mobile, Large National High End Retailer
“We’d always hoped during the holiday season, since once we ship the app to the App Store there’s not much we can really do. Or so we thought. It turns out that having Apptentive in our apps during the holidays gave us a direct connection to each and every holiday customer. We could communicate with them, answer questions, upsell them and by the time we kicked off January, we were well on our way to our next version of the app. Thanks Apptentive!” – Director of Marketing, Leading Global eCommerce Company
Ready to capitalize on the App Store Holiday Shutdown? Request a demo today:
With Apptentive, you can significantly increase your 5-star ratings from your evangelists, ensuring that you’re taking share during the all-important holiday rush. More importantly, you’ll set yourself up for an amazing 2016 with a comprehensive customer communications solution for your app.
“Apptentive’s SDK was the easiest integration I’ve done. It just works. It’s dead simple.”—Big Fish Games