Shopify App Store Ads - the Full Guide
It all started during the New Ways to Grow Your Business on the Shopify App Store track session on the last Shopify Unite, when Jhonathan Zhao and Mladen Rangelov from the Shopify app store team revealed that Shopify is about to launch PPC app ads on the app store. They were thrilled about this announcement but I can’t say the same about the audience, the room was filled with a variety of app developers, and the news was received with mixed reactions- some were excited and some became silent for the rest of the track session.
For some of the app developers, this meant that from now on they would have to pay in order to stay in the same positions on the app store that they’ve worked so hard to achieve and maintain. Other, smaller, app companies were thrilled to hear that they can finally get a chance to conquer those sweet top searched positions.
So, from now on, will the apps with the most advertising budget control and dominate the app store, leaving bootstrapped app developers with scraps, regardless of the product’s quality?
Well, I’m not so sure. In this article, I will go through everything we know so far about the Shopify app store ads, try to see how we can leverage those ads to our advantage even with a low budget, and raise some questions about the future of ads on the Shopify app store.
How can I advertise my app on the Shopify app store?
Ads on the Shopify app store are still in Beta, which means Shopify selected 20 partners to participate in the Beta before releasing this ability to all partners at the beginning of 2020.
So if Shopify didn’t include you in the beta, you will have to wait a couple more months to try it out. This is not the first time Shopify runs experiments with ads, about 6 months ago Shopify included a few apps in a different ads experiment without opening the admin side of the ads manager. This was a short, few days long experiment.
The impact of ads on the Shopify app store
Ads will be very useful for partners looking to promote their apps on the app store when they first launch, or just to get more installs for existing apps.
This seems like something that can provide great opportunities for up and coming apps to place themselves in front of merchants’ eyes, but with room for only 3 apps at the top, the bigger apps will probably be able to out-bid the smaller ones easily.
A similar but different issue that might come up, and for the same reason, is how quickly this can go sideways for competitive niches In app categories with more than 3 big apps, bids can be raised fairly quickly, and easily reach a high cost per click.
Another point that creates both an opportunity and a challenge is your competitors’ ability to bid against your brand and app’s names. You will essentially have to pay to stay first on the app store when merchants are looking for you by name. One thing to keep in mind about biding for your competitors is that unlike Google ads, you have no control over the ad’s icon and text, since it is automatically taken from your native app listing (much like Apple Search ads).
Eventually, in the long run, most of the impact will depend on merchants, and their adoption and understanding of ads in the app store. If it’s anything like Google, overtime people will get used to ads and skip directly to the first organic results. According to Gorilla360, only 15% of traffic goes to paid ads and about 71% goes to organic traffic (the rest either abandoned the search or find different places to click). We can assume the same effect will happen over time with Shopify app store ads.
Shopify app store ad campaigns
It seems like at least at the beginning, only search CPC campaigns will be available on the app store, based on keyword targeting (similar to Google ads but with fewer features and options). At launch, developers will be able to create daily budgeted campaigns of at least $5/day, and select keywords and negative keywords to target- these can be either broad or exact matches.
You can’t bid for Shopify branded words and apps (including Oberlo) and you can get Shopify to restrict your app’s name as a search term as long as you own the trademark for it.
We came up with a negative keywords list for you to get started with:
Shopify app store ads attribution & billing notes
It seems like Shopify will attribute conversions for merchants who install your app within 30 days of clicking your ad, which seems like a very long time for conversion attribution, especially considering the average cycle a merchant goes through from first searching for an app, up to choosing and installing one.
It makes sense for Shopify to want to display low costs per conversions, and convey a high ROI. It’s a good start, but my hope is that they allow app developers to pick the conversion window themselves in the future, since each app’s acquisition process is different. Deciding to install a $400/month app will probably take a merchant much longer than doing the same for a free app.
Shopify does mention that it takes into consideration click fraud, which is a big deal especially among developers, and will not charge for fraudulent clicks. Not only that, but Shopify also makes sure your ads are not displayed if your app is already installed on a merchant’s store, or if the merchant’s store doesn’t meet the requirements to install it. Shopify app store ads will also not display on mobile devices, since their conversion rates are low.
Overall it seems like Shopify takes all the necessary steps to take care of its own partners.
What can we expect in the future for Shopify app store ads?
It’s hard to tell what to expect from ads on the Shopify app store just yet, but I’m sure over time Shopify will improve both the search engine algorithm and the paid ads functionality. This will not only make life easier and cheaper for app developers, but will also provide a better experience for merchants.
We can only hope that in the future, Shopify will allow developers to target merchants in other ways other than keywords. Some great targeting opportunities will be Shopify plan, country, other apps installed, sales channels, etc.
Another great thing we can expect is to run retargeting campaigns for merchants who have visited our app listing, watched our video and images, or read our app’s reviews. Even better will be running ads for merchants that uninstalled our app.
It’s probably a matter of time before we could choose different ad placements- app store collections will probably be a good start, followed by email ads, Shopify blog posts, app recommendations in the merchant’s admin panel, and more.
Campaign Objectives and bids
We can only hope Shopify will allow new campaign types such as reach and impressions based campaigns, which will allow partners to expose more merchants to their apps in the lowest price possible.
Another great feature that might help everyone get better results is a CPA bid type. It will allow you to put a cap on the amount you’re willing to pay per install, and limit campaigns from running when they are not converting with an ROI that correlates with your customers’ average LTV.
To Sum up
Overall, I think that ads on the Shopify app store are a great opportunity if you look at it objectively, and are willing to work with it.
Just like app bridges, integrations with other app services, translation and localization of apps and the app listings- challenges come with any change, and adapting to them might not be easy, but it is definitely both possible and worth it.
If you ask me, if I can spend my money on Google Ads where only about 10% of my impressions are Shopify merchants, or on Shopify where 100% of my impressions are Shopify merchants, I pick Shopify any day.
Hacking Shopify apps ads?
I wouldn’t say I’m a PPC expert, but I’ve been running ads for the past 5 years or so and I do have at least 5 hacks I think will help you get started with Shopify ads. If you’ve read so far and you find this interesting, leave a comment below and let me know you’re interested.