The Evolution of Apple Search Ads: Post 1 – The Omnichannel Opportunity for App Marketers


Discover the transformative potential of Apple Search Ads! Learn why integrating app marketing into your media plan is now essential, not just for app-centric businesses but for all brands seeking to enhance their omnichannel presence. Dive into how Apple Search Ads’ multi-placement strategy amplifies visibility and engagement, offering a unique edge in today’s competitive digital marketplace.

Recent macro factors such as the rapid increase in ecommerce and technological advancements like AI intersect a shifting advertising landscape led by the deprecation of third-party cookies and the growing desire for a holistic media approach. These changes mark a new era where marketers must navigate a more complex ecosystem, focusing on data privacy, personalized user experiences, and seamless integration across multiple platforms.

While each brand and agency has its own approach to this shift, one of the emerging commonalities is an emphasis on a comprehensive omnichannel strategy, encouraging marketers to go beyond an individual channel mindset. It is critical to recognize that today, every digital channel now can impact the customer journey at every stage. The old channel lines are blurred, and this shift towards holistic, omnichannel media prizes each touchpoint’s ability to enhance performance, engage customers, and lead them toward making a purchase.

Through this new lens, app marketing is seen as an essential but often overlooked opportunity for brands often relegated to a siloed app agency or development team to oversee. However, incorporating app marketing into the holistic media plan is both worthwhile and necessary. Apps provide distinct touchpoints that can effectively engage users, delivering personalized experiences that other digital channels find challenging to replicate. Yet, for some reason, apps are often neglected as a central part of the omnichannel approach.

The untapped market for ‘app-seconds’

When considering the role of apps in companies, it is clear that there are two distinct types of organizations based on their approach to app integration and marketing

App-first companies use the app as a central platform for delivering services or products, such as Uber, Spotify, and Airbnb. App marketing is crucial to these companies’ business models as they prioritize driving installs, engagement, and retention to sustain and expand their operations.

On the other hand, most businesses are app-second companies, where apps enhance their primary services or products, including traditional retailers like Walmart or Target. Banks like Chase or Bank of America offer mobile banking apps to improve customer service and accessibility. Airlines like Delta or United enable customers to book and receive flight information through their apps. With app-second companies, app development is seen as important and receives significant investments. Still, the marketing of these apps is often handled separately by specialized teams or agencies, with their primary focus on increasing app installs and re-engaging inactive users.

App-second companies can gain an advantage over competitors by integrating app marketing more closely into their omnichannel media plans. To effectively implement this strategic shift, it is necessary to take a comprehensive approach to app marketing. This means looking beyond simple install metrics and instead focusing on how apps can support overall brand goals and enhance the customer experience.

The power of Apple Search Ads

Apple remains the most popular smartphone brand in the US, with more than two out of every three smartphone users owning an iPhone. The App Store continues to see growth, with consumer spending reaching $89.3 billion in 2023. Because of this, Apple Search Ads is a crucial tool for companies seeking to leverage the App Store’s potential in app marketing. These ads allow businesses to showcase their apps to users at critical moments, whether actively seeking relevant services or exploring app categories. While app-first companies have been relying heavily on Apple Search Ads for years, app-second company investments have been inconsistent, varying widely in their approach.

Key success metrics highlight the impact of Apple Search Ads:

In the past, Apple Search Ads focused mainly on search results ads triggered by user-initiated searches on the App Store. Although these ads were effective, this model necessitated relying on other marketing channels to direct users to the App Store, emphasizing the importance of a cohesive and independent app marketing strategy within Apple Search Ads.

Apple Search Ads now offers four ad placements that allow for a full-funnel marketing approach on the App Store’s ecosystem. This expansion enables marketers to capture users at the point of intent and engage with them throughout their journey without relying solely on external channels to drive App Store visits. With the help of these placements, Apple Search Ads enables marketers to create comprehensive strategies that increase visibility, encourage engagement, and ultimately boost conversions.

The four cornerstones of Apple Search Ads’ multi-placement strategy

1. Search results ads: the foundation

Search results ads are the foundational layer in Apple Search Ads’ multi-placement strategy. They act as a net, capturing users’ intent when they search for apps on the App Store. By directly matching ads with user searches based on keywords, these ads ensure high relevance and engagement, offering an efficient path to conversion. When integrated with other ad placements, search results ads amplify the overall strategy, driving users towards searches that trigger these highly relevant ads, thus serving as a critical component in converting user interest into action.

2. Today tab ads: broad visibility at the entry point

Today tab ads provide unparalleled visibility by placing your app front and center as users begin their App Store visit. This prime placement captures attention immediately, allowing brands to engage with users immediately. It’s not just about broad visibility; it’s about making a solid first impression that can influence the user’s journey on the App Store. By featuring your app on the Today tab, you increase awareness and stimulate curiosity and interest, encouraging users to explore further and search for your app directly.

3. Search tab ads: capturing early interest

Before a user even types a search query, Search tab ads offer a chance to capture their interest. Positioned at the top of the suggested apps list, these ads engage users at a critical moment of discovery, when they are open to suggestions but have yet to decide on a specific app. This early engagement is pivotal, as it can guide the user’s subsequent search behavior, directing them towards your app. Search tab ads, therefore, play a strategic role in shaping the user’s journey, nudging them towards doing a search that could result in encountering your search results ads, thereby creating a cohesive funnel from discovery to conversion.

4. Product page ads: targeting engaged users

When users delve deeper into exploring app details, Product page ads come into play. These ads match with users actively researching apps, presenting your app at a crucial decision-making point. By appearing to users viewing similar apps or categories, product page ads leverage the user’s existing engagement level, offering a relevant suggestion that enhances the likelihood of discovery and download. This placement is especially effective in reaching users in the consideration phase, providing a targeted intervention that can sway their choice in your favor.

Incorporating a multi-placement strategy with Apple Search Ads leverages the unique strengths of each placement type, from capturing initial attention on the Today tab to engaging users ready to decide on product pages. This approach ensures that your app gains visibility across the full spectrum of user interactions on the App Store, maximizing opportunities for engagement and conversion at every stage of the user journey.

Many developers are already seeing the impact of multi-placement campaigns. In fact, on the Apple Search Ads website, there are a number of success stories showing how this strategy is working for many businesses. Covering a range of categories, from finance to gaming to retail, food delivery, and more, it’s clear this is the next evolution of advertising on the App Store.

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Read this ongoing series for a deeper dive into the evolution of Apple Search Ads’ multi-placement opportunity

This post marks the beginning of our exploration of Apple Search Ads’ multi-placement strategy and its crucial role in the evolving marketing landscape. We’ve touched on the benefits and successes of integrating Apple Search Ads into a comprehensive omnichannel approach, showcasing the potential for apps to significantly enhance their visibility and user acquisition.

Looking ahead, we’ll delve deeper into the specifics of each Apple Search Ads placement, providing insights into the strategies, tools, and case studies that can help marketers optimize their campaigns. Stay tuned as we navigate the intricacies of a highly competitive market and uncover effective app marketing strategies that resonate in today’s digital age.