App Store Optimization Blog – Metrikal

How to Leverage Apple Search Ads to Run Screenshot A/B Tests on iOS?

The iOS app screenshots of your app store page play a huge role in the success of your business. As visual creatures, existing and potential users judge your app based on the screenshots you feature on your page.

Screenshots give your target audience a quick glimpse of what they would expect when using your app. It is these same screenshots that grab a huge part of people’s attention. Whether you like it or not, people will most likely judge your app through your screenshots. Thus, it is undeniable that these elements could either make or break your app.

If you want to ensure you get the maximum downloads of your app, you need to take advantage of that human tendency. That’s why it is highly important to ensure your screenshots efficiently represent your app.

The question now is, “How?”

Well, the best answer is through A/B testing. In this post, let us take a look at how you can use this powerful technique to ensure your screenshots would work for you and not against you.

What is App A/B Testing?

Source: CleverTap

A/B testing is done in almost anywhere where marketing is involved. It is even done in various professional and personal fields. However, for the purpose of this discussion, let us specifically talk about A/B testing your Apple app.

In its simplest term, App A/B testing is the method of comparing and testing two options (option A and B) and seeing which one delivers the best result. In some instances, A/B testing is also called split-testing.

Why is A/B testing important?

A/B experiments are super important when it comes to marketing. With A/B testing, you can:

  • Understand the behavior of your target audience.
  • Improve download rates.
  • Improve app conversion rates.
  • Improve organic traffic.
  • Identify which screenshots work best.

You see, in the competitive world of mobile apps, if even a minor change in your iOS app screenshots could cause people to download your app, then that’s all the change you need. With A/B testing, you don’t simply identify one or two screenshots that will perform best, but you will also understand better what makes your users tick.

You can never ignore and underestimate A/B testing. You need to perform A/B experiments if you want to bring your app’s success to a whole new level.

How is App A/B Testing done?

As you can see, A/B testing is a great way to determine which screenshots would work best. Of course, A/B testing doesn’t really mean that you are limited to two options. In fact, you can test as many screenshots as possible or as many combinations of them to your heart’s content.

So, what happens is that you create various versions of your screenshots. You use each of them and give them equal time exposed to your potential users. You then measure the results each screenshot or option delivers. 

If one screenshot performs better than the others, then that’s great. You just found out which screenshots you should use in your App Store page.

Through A/B testing, you are able to stop guessing which screenshots would give you the best result and ensure that you make data-driven decisions.

Here are the best practices you can apply when you need to A/B test screenshots on iOS:

Establish A/B testing goals

You can’t simply do A/B testing without any particular goal in mind. Not only that, but your goal should be specific enough so you can determine the right experiment you’re going to have.

For example, some app owners would like to answer this question with an A/B test:

“Do my app screenshots improve my conversion rate?”

That sounds like a great question, but it is vague. You want to be more specific so that your question will lead to solid research data with less room for subjective interpretation.

So, instead, you need to try questions like:

“Are my app screenshots better with green or blue motif?”

Source: SplitMetrics

As you can see, this question is perfect for A/B testing. The more question like this you can formulate, the more A/B testing experiments you can perform.

Create variations of your iOS app screenshots

Now that you have goals, it is time to proceed to the next step which is to create variations of your iOS app screenshots. Invest in creating awesome and impressive screenshots. Remember, your screenshots will dominantly represent your app, so it is something worth investing in.

Let’s take this question for an example:

“Are my app screenshots better with red or blue motif?”

In this case, you would need to create one set of screenshots with a red background and the other would be with a blue background.

Source: AppRadar

Aside from the red and blue background, there’s also a great design variation that you may take into consideration. This is the level of saliency. It means you’re going to experiment whether having a generic and simple look would be better than having an eye-catching and dynamic look.

Execute the A/B testing experiment on iOS app screenshots

It is time to put your two screenshot designs to the test. The proper way of doing this is to ensure you randomly and equally distribute your designs to your audience. You don’t want to create a bias toward any of your designs.

Now, here’s the tricky part. There are different ways to execute a successful A/B testing. However, not all of these methods are equal. 

For example, how can you be so sure that your A/B testing is not biased? 

What if you run one screenshot variation during the day while the other is during the night?

What if you unknowingly distributed one screenshot to more females than males?

What if one screenshot is live when users are more active while the other screenshot was live when users are not active?

What if your sample size is too small or you have run your test too quickly?

You see, doing A/B testing manually might lead to false results. That’s why most A/B testers rely on various marketing tools. Yes, this may cost you money, but it gives you better and more accurate results and you’ll have stronger confidence that your test has been successful. Not only that, but you can even measure the success of your experiment with the right set of metrics tools.

There are a lot of A/B testing tools out there mainly created for apps. You may have heard about Storemaven, Splitmetrics, Mixpanel, Apptimze, and others. These tools come with great features to help you improve your screenshot selections.

However, these tools have one big limitation. None of them is able to create the real App Store experience. They only operate outside of the Apple App Store. Thus, if you wish to A/B test your iOS app screenshots within the app store, then Apple Search Ads is your final destination. We will discuss this later. So, keep reading.

Evaluate your A/B testing result

Here’s the exciting part. It’s time for you to determine the winner. If there’s a big difference between the conversion rates of your variations, then congratulations! You just found the winning screenshots for your app.

Source: AppRadar

Of course, there’s always this chance that you get no result — meaning, there’s really no big difference in the conversion rate between your two variations. Don’t lose heart: you can always dig deeper, come up with other designs, and do further research. 

Maybe, along the road, it is not screenshots that could change your audience’s behavior. That’s the time when you can also A/B test other elements of your app page, which include your icon, description, and video, to name a few. Of course, that’s another good topic to be discussed in future articles.

Apply your result

Your A/B testing effort would go to waste if you don’t implement it, right? So, in this case, you need to use the winning iOS app screenshots immediately to obtain more results.

Keep experimenting with various iOS app screenshots

You know that the only thing that’s constant in this world is change. As you can imagine, the App Store is ever-changing. New competitors come in. New updates released. The needs of users evolve.

With this in mind, you need to also regularly perform A/B testing. There will always be new improvements you will discover, which you can use to push your app’s growth further.

Using Apple Search Ads for iOS app screenshots A/B Tests

Source: Apple App Store

If you are looking for a specific and effective tool in doing your screenshot A/B tests, then you’re in good hands as Apple Search Ads could be your friend here.

To start with, Apple Search Ads, or ASA for short, is the main advertising tool of Apple for its apps. So, if you’re a developer who wants to use ads to drive app awareness and downloads, ASA is what you need.

What’s cool with ASA is that you can actually use it for your A/B experiments. So, how do you do it? 

Let’s discuss.

Creative Sets and A/B Testing

Source: Profitner

A/B testing can be done in Apple Search Ads using Creative Sets. With Creative Sets, you can use screenshots and display them in various ways and combinations. Each Creative Set can be configured according to gender, age, location, and ad group keyword themes. With this capability, you can test different combinations of screenshots. 

On top of that, with Apple Search Ads, you can track the performance of each Creative Sets, thereby, allowing you to see which combination is the best, which allows you to perform plausible A/B testing experiments.

Keep in mind that the new screenshots you want to use in your new creative set should already be uploaded and available in your listing’s gallery. If you don’t, they will not be visible in the ASA dashboard when you try to create a new creative set. The best practice is to upload those new screenshots toward the end of the gallery. 

Let us give you an example. Below are images from an A/B testing experiment done by Square Invoices. In these images, it is evident that Square Invoices is A/B testing their screenshots because the last 3 screenshots are totally different from the others. Basically, they are A/B testing a brand new design concept with the last 3 screenshots.

Square Invoices’ Screenshot Gallery

Below you can see how they created their creative sets on ASA. They’re A/B testing version 2 against their existing variation, version 1.

Version 1
Version 2

Effective Ways to do A/B Testing with Apple Search Ads

Now that you know that it is possible to perform A/B testing with Apple Search Ads, here are a few of the best practices to ensure your creative sets would give you the best results.

Understand how iOS app screenshots appear in Apple Search Ads

Source: SplitMetrics

The first thing you need to understand when setting your Creative Sets is that the screenshots’ order will follow the sequence of how they are uploaded to the App Store Connect. This means that if your screenshots need to follow a specific order, make sure that you upload them in that order.

In addition, your ads would only display the first three screenshots of your Creative Sets. So, choose carefully which screenshots you want to readily show in your ads.

A/B Testing Your Creative Sets

Here’s the exciting part: you can create different Creative Sets and test them to see which of them perform best. With A/B testing, you can create Creative Sets that differ in what iOS app screenshots you are showing or the order of their placement.

Source: Launch Matic

You can test all you want and eventually improve your tap-through rate (TTR), download rate, and conversion rate.

Testing Further your Creative Sets

The best thing about the Apple Search Ads is that there are various ways you can further customize Creative Sets. For example, you can prepare Creative Sets depending on timing.

With this, you can create Creative Sets that would be shown in the morning, afternoon, and evening. This is especially useful if you want to know when your target audience is most engaged.

Another way to earmark your potential users is to tie your Creative Sets based on gender, age, and country. So, this means that your app’s ads and screenshots would be shown to the right people, at the right location, and at the right time.

Limitations of A/B Testing in Apple Search Ads

While Apple Search Ads and Creative Sets are effective ways to measure the success of your ads, it lacks a lot of features that a true A/B testing tool has to offer. 

Here are some of them:

  • You can’t use Apple Search Ads to A/B test your product page, app title, icon, description, and other elements of your app store site.
  • The data and results you got from A/B testing your screenshots through Apple App Store are less likely applicable to Google Play Store.
  • The number of Creative Sets you can create is limited. This means you can’t simultaneously run as many tests as possible as you want.
  • You can’t use Creative Sets for A/B testing during a pre-launch stage.

Nevertheless, A/B Testing in Apple Search Ads could still provide you important and precious insights on how your app performs in the Apple App Store. It is a tool, which you can’t ignore.

Final Words on iOS App Screenshots

A/B testing your screenshots is vital to your app’s success. It allows you to identify the best configuration of your screenshots and prevent you to blindly guess which one works and which one doesn’t work.

The data you collect from the A/B testing of your iOS app screenshots will maximize your paid ad campaigns. Additionally, These same data will also improve the long-term success of your app upon organic users. Eventually, you will spend less amount of money, energy, and time just to attract new users.

Finally, A/B testing data provides further important analytical insights for your overall app search optimization (ASO) strategy.

Metrikal helps you create A/B tests on iOS faster, reports the necessary metrics, and even determines if there’s a winner. If you’d like to learn more about Metrikal, please start a free trial or schedule a demo.

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