Over the past decade and a half, the Google Play Store and Apple App Store have evolved into a highly competitive space. The Google Play Store has more apps than any other store – more than 3 million, while the Apple App Store has just over 2 million.
In the pursuit of new users and reach, companies spend large budgets, doing Affiliate marketing, not always achieving what they want. There is another solution. Alternative app stores, which tend to be owned by OEMs.
In the mobile industry, OEMs include companies that make smartphones with their own apps and app stores. For example, Samsung.
Setting up advertising campaigns across multiple alternative stores can be a more complex process than the already familiar Apple App Store and Google Play Store algorithms. That said, new channels are effective for attracting users for lower CPI (price per install) and for reaching new markets.
What’s more, OEM inventory is low-fraud because there are no additional barriers between the ad buyer and the OEM itself.
ALTERNATIVE APP STORES AND THEIR ADVERTISING INVENTORY
Let’s look at each of them separately…
OPPO APP MARKET
OPPO makes consumer electronics, including smartphones, and operates in more than 40 countries. The operating system for OPPO mobile devices is called Color OS. It has more than 300 million MAUs (active users per month). The MAU of the OPPO App Market is more than 1.2 billion.
There are several standard advertising formats available in the OPPO App Market: screen savers and icons, banner ads, and push notifications.
Screensaver ads: full-screen ads that are shown based on targeted shortcuts and help attract “warm” users. Promotional screensavers can provide high levels of engagement and conversions because they occupy the entire screen, making them visible to users.
Promotional icons: appear on the Oppo App Market home page, Must-haves, Download Guide, Downloads, and Recommendations sections. The advantage of icons is that they do not require any additional creative effort other than placing the app icon.
Banner ads: This format of ads is displayed on the Oppo App Market home page based on targeted shortcuts.
Push ads: this advertising format supports direct links. Push ads can be sent to users based on targeted shortcuts (like Oppo banner ads).
Despite the absence of non-standard formats in Oppo’s advertising inventory, together with sub-brands Realme and OnePlus, the company covers a wide range of devices from different price segments, which makes Oppo’s alternative app store an attractive tool for attracting new users.
Xiaomi was founded in 2010. The company sells hardware and software around the world. In 2020, Xiaomi became the youngest company on the Forbes Fortune Global 500 list, with more than 500 million users of Xiaomi smartphones in 220 regions.
Xiaomi, one of the top five mobile brands in more than 40 markets, has its own alternative app store for Android. Xiaomi’s market in India grew by more than 120 million users last year to 280 million.
Along with the traditional ad formats found in all alternative app stores: banner ads, icon ads, screen savers, push ads, Xiaomi GetApps has native ads and mini-cards.
Native ads: native ads are not identified as ads and are tailored to the style of the site. In the case of Xiaomi GetApps, these are ads in PNG or JPG format with dimensions of 1200×628 or 600×314 pixels.
GetApps mini-card: The ad is displayed in Xiaomi’s official web browser as a square card.
By showing ads in Xiaomi GetApps, you can target users by gender, age, region, time zone, language and device type. Xiaomi GetApps also allows you to control how often ads are shown.
Xiaomi GetApps helped international online marketplace Joom expand its presence in continental Europe in 2020. To attract new users and increase in-app purchases, Joom took advantage of the promotion in Xiaomi’s alternative app. The firm’s smartphone market in Europe has grown 70% in the past year.
The company relied on banner ads, optimizing their displays in real time based on users’ location, their socio-demographic characteristics, device type and relevant keywords. As a result, Joom surpassed its KPIs, reducing bounce rate by 6%, increasing monthly installs by over 60,000, and ROAS by 100%.
Huawei is the world’s third largest smartphone maker with a 14.7% market share. Huawei pre-installs the AppGallery app store on smartphones used by more than 500 million people worldwide.
350 million users search it monthly for their favorite apps. This search brings in up to 750 million downloads per day.
Compared to other stores, AppGallery offers only three ways to promote apps.
In-app advertising: this format allows you to advertise in the app search function using up to 200 keywords per task. Depending on the keyword, different bid prices can be configured. According to Huawei research, this advertising format provides the highest CTR.
Quick search feature: allows you to display recommended apps when the user enters a relevant keyword before clicking the search button.
Media ads: these are advertising icons of 216×216 pixels, which can be displayed in the recommended apps field in the store.
The Galaxy Store is pre-installed on all Samsung smartphones and the Samsung Gear smart watch. Galaxy Store is available in 125 countries and includes applications for Android, Windows Mobile, Bada and Tizen.
Galaxy Store is able to make personalized recommendations based on user preferences, seasonality and current events. Within the app store, there is a My Galaxy tab that allows you to customize your device to your preferences and make exclusive in-app purchases of popular games.
Three tools stand out among the ad formats compared to other manufacturers’ inventory.
Welcome screen: users can select multiple apps to install from the recommendations that open when they first enter the app store .
Notification format: users are shown an “app of the day” tailored to their interests.
App review: apps are displayed as “Favorites” on the store’s home screen. This format also allows you to advertise in app collections, for example, in the “Priority” section.
Search bar ads: this format allows you to bid on keywords and show apps to the user at the moment of relevant queries.
VIVO APP STORE
China’s Vivo app store has over 74 million monthly active users. Vivo has the second-largest market share in India and the fourth-largest in Indonesia.
This makes the inventory for promoting apps on the Vivo App Store the most sought-after among companies that plan to expand into the Asian market.
The advertising formats available in the Vivo App Store include both standard app placements in the Recommendations, Popular Apps, and Must Have sections, as well as non-standard ones. The latter include: push ads, banners and screensavers.
THE MAIN ADVANTAGES OF ALTERNATIVE APP STORES FOR ANDROID
Developing apps for the different requirements of alternative stores can be a daunting task initially, but access to millions of new users is worth the effort.
A business scaling tool: OEMs allow marketers to grow globally, reaching new audiences and reaching new markets.
Effective UA tool: OEMs have lower setup costs and higher user engagement rates.
Fraud-proof advertising inventory: Marketers have access to a completely fraud-free ecosystem of alternative app stores. This is because there are no intermediaries between the customer and the OEM: the advertising reach is completely controlled by the OEM.
Higher trust in advertising: Users who are loyal to a smartphone manufacturer’s brand will have more trust in advertising within its ecosystem.
HOW TO RUN AN AD CAMPAIGN IN ALTERNATIVE APP STORES
Before launching an ad campaign, it is advisable to upload the app to the corresponding OEM partner’s store. Some OEMs allow you to run ads within stores, taking users to Google Play. A more effective way to promote is to upload the app directly to the OEM’s store, as this increases the reach and advertising toolkit.
The advertiser can download the app and run the advertising campaign himself. This requires some knowledge of mobile advertising. If there are several OEM-partners, the process can become several times more complicated, because you will have to manage several advertising campaigns in different stores at the same time.
Another option is to involve partners, such as agencies that specialize in mobile advertising and marketing. BYJU’s, India’s largest online education platform, with more than 80 million users, decided to attract new users to the app during the transition of students to distance learning in 2020, while maintaining high engagement rates.
BYJU’s turned to an agency that helped launch advertising campaigns with several OEMs in demand among students at once: Xiaomi, Samsung, Vivo, and Oppo. At the same time, the company optimized advertising formats in alternative app stores on a daily basis, lowering rates whenever possible.
The result of the advertising campaign: 300 thousand new installations of the app, a 30% increase in registrations on the platform and an 80% increase in the reach of users with Android devices.
OEMs are challenging the biggest players in the mobile advertising market, Google and Facebook, by offering their own advertising inventory and reaching audiences not yet reached.
To think of OEM app stores as a niche alternative to the Apple App Store and Google Play Store is a big mistake. Due to their large reach at relatively low rates and lack of forage, these channels should be in the media plan of marketers by default.