Tax & admin ยท 27 April 2017

Making your mark: How to stand out in the app store

App store
Consumers have a lot of choice in the app store, so you need to stand out
Going up against the competition can be tough, and even more so when all you have to differentiate yourself is a shop front in the app store. We hear how one small business navigated this issue.

Des Gale founded Altered Gene, a micro studio that makes video games, back in 2013. Initially, the business was established?as a means of doing freelance production work, but Gale soon found a coder, some freelance artists and started making a game ? Hyperstellar SV.

As part of our new Problem Solvers series, we will be exploring some of the hurdles small business owners have had to overcome, and the lessons and advice they would pass on to other budding entrepreneurs.

In this instalment, we look at how app developers can make a splash in the app store.

We caught up with Gale to hear what problems he has encountered along the way, and how he solved them.

What have been the main challenges so far?

At the beginning trying to decide how to set up was the first challenge ? should I be a sole trader or a limited company? But what appealed to me about limited companies is how it?s a separate entity to me, so there?s no room to muddy the waters.

Initially, getting clients was tough to do on a freelance basis too ? because a lot of teams prefer having project managers in-house permanently. I have a lot of experience in the industry though so eventually we found some clients.

Another challenge is getting funding, because the video games industry is still relatively new and the people holding the purse strings don?t necessarily understand it.

The biggest challenge though has been competition ? it?s tough trying to stand out in the app store.

What does your competition look like?

Our competition on the app store ranges from one-man bands to much larger companies at the other end of the scale. The app stores aren?t segmented, you?re all in the same bucket, so essentially it comes down to your relationship with people that control the stores and marketing money.

We can?t compete pound for pound on marketing spend, but there are some things we can do. We make great effort with our social media community, and that?s been a godsend because we can speak directly with customers. Hopefully that creates goodwill with them, and they will be heralds for us ? word of mouth recommendation is worth a great deal.

How do you make sure you stand out?

I?ve read up on this a lot, and there are various ways you can game the system. The main thing is to make sure you have a really nice store front, and a recognisable icon. Then you need your screenshots, preview video and store description to be engaging.

What we?ve learned over the last couple of months is that customers respond well to a call to action. We added a ?Download now? button and saw a spike in downloads.

We also use more ethical methods to monetise the games. Some companies have in the past used subtle misdirection cues ? so on one screen an accept button will be green and cancel will be red, but on another screen, it will be flipped and if you?re not paying attention you can get caught out. We offer in-app purchases, and players can opt-in to ads to win extra lives, but it?s entirely possible to complete the game without spending a penny.

How has KPMG Small Business Accounting helped your business?

If it?s not coding or art work, it?s me that takes care of it. I?m not bad at finances, but it?s also not something I particularly want to do ? the fee I pay KPMG Small Business Accounting more than makes up for the free time, and gives me the flexibility to focus on other areas of my business. It?s also great to have an internationally recognised name behind me, so that when I go in for investment there?s that much more confidence in my reporting.

What would be your advice for a small business like yourself entering the app store?

Focus on what you believe in and what you love. If you love what you?re doing, it?s definitely going to shine through in the product. Also, don?t be afraid to learn from the competition.

This article is part of a wider feature series called Problem Solvers, a collection business stories, brought to you in partnership with KPMG Small Business Accounting, showing how small business owners have overcome potentially harmful problems with their companies. See what other businesses and problems we?ve featured before.

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Letitia Booty is a special projects journalist for Business Advice. She has a BA in English Literature from the University of East Anglia, and since graduating she has written for a variety of trade titles. Most recently, she was a reporter at SME magazine.

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