Leveraging App Seasonality for More Downloads: Trends & Tips for the Holiday Season

As the year winds down, the App Store and Google Play witness significant seasonality effects, ushering in a dynamic period that varies across sectors, ranging from a bustling rush to a more calmer phase.

For example, in 2021, there was a significant increase in music streaming activity in December, the shift to home-cooked meals on Christmas Eve was reflected in a decline in food delivery app installs and sessions, and an increase in mobile gaming engagement as users entered the new year (Adjust).

In this article, I’ll navigate the landscape of app seasonality, offering insights and tips tailored to your industry’s unique demands. I’ll explore key trends and provide valuable tips to ensure your app stands out and thrives during this festive season.

Whether you’re gearing up for a holiday rush or anticipating a quieter time, this article is your guide to understanding and leveraging app seasonality for more holiday downloads and better user engagement over the seasonal cycles. Who knows, maybe I’ll inspire you to implement some of those solutions into your app the next year…

What Is App Seasonality and Why Is It Important?

Similar to broader market dynamics, app stores experience distinct seasonal changes that directly impact user engagement and preferences. This is influenced by temporary external factors that cause metrics, such as traffic, spending, and conversions, to fluctuate.

Consider occasions like Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Christmas, when users turn to shopping apps to highlight deals and discounts. These events are an opportune time for shopping apps to present holiday promotions and attract users looking for holiday deals. Then, the start of the New Year brings increased interest in fitness and wellness apps, reflecting users’ resolutions to get fit or adopt a healthier lifestyle.

In addition to the traditional holiday calendar, category-specific seasons further contribute to the diverse landscape of application seasonality. For example, streaming apps see an increase in downloads when new shows are released, while sports apps see a surge in user engagement during key moments like the start of the NBA season. Understanding these temporal patterns is critical to effective app store optimisation, allowing app developers to adjust strategies tailored to the unique demands of their industry’s seasonal rhythms.

Why Does App Store Seasonality Matter for Effective ASO Strategy?

Understanding app store seasonality is paramount for effective App Store Optimisation (ASO). The product page serves as the crucial touchpoint where users make the pivotal decision to download an app, making every element on this page influential.

Failing to align your app’s product page with external marketing initiatives and seasonal offerings represents a missed opportunity to create a cohesive marketing experience.

The impact of seasonality optimisation is evident and has been observed by AppTweak (app store acquisition platform driven by data science) within the top 10 spots in the “shopping” category during the 2021 Black Friday and Christmas season. In November 2021, certain shopping apps that initially held their positions saw a decline by month-end, while others surged in rankings fueled by Black Friday and holiday-related keywords.

Other examples are Best Buy and Adidas, which demonstrated a focused investment in ASO, updating screenshots, promotional texts, and descriptions to mirror their seasonal campaigns. This specific ASO investment resulted in remarkable download growth (Adidas +582% and Best Buy +454%) and secured them top 10 category spots leading into December (AppTweak).

Now, let’s talk about how you can implement similar strategies to your app’s product page on your app store and enhance downloads during the festive season!

6 Proven Strategies to Get Your App Ready for the Holiday Season (Insights and Examples from Top-Performing Apps)

Update Your Icons

Adapting your app’s icons for the holiday period is a strategic move to enhance visibility for the sake of a particular season and distinguish your app from competitors, especially during festive times. Icons serve as highly noticeable elements that can be modified to exude a holiday vibe, capturing the attention of potential users.

This tweak is particularly influential on platforms like Google Play, where search results prominently showcase the app’s icon and accompanying copy. By infusing festive elements into your app’s icon, you not only tap into the holiday spirit but also increase the likelihood of attracting users in search of seasonal content.

Your icon update doesn’t need to be a massive change, nor does it have to consume a significant amount of your designers’ time. Often, a simple and delightful touch is all it takes. Take, for example, the game “Dumb Ways to Die 4, Monopoly Go and Allegro, a Polish online e-commerce platform. Both showcase how subtle icon adjustments can still capture attention without the need for extensive design efforts.

Fun fact: At TeaCode, we also couldn’t resist giving our website and social media platforms a festive makeover by adding a touch of Christmas to our logo!

Adjust Your Screenshots

Optimising your app’s screenshots for the holiday season is a strategic move that can significantly impact app installs. While these screenshots should effectively showcase your app’s value proposition and key features, integrating season-specific content can add an extra layer of appeal.

During peak seasons, you can either go all in and refresh visuals entirely like LightInTheBox or alternatively, you can opt for subtle changes. This approach was seen in Starbucks App in last years – app creators updated its screenshots just a little bit by featuring seasonal trends – in their case, these were holiday-themed drinks.

By aligning your app visuals with the holiday spirit, you not only communicate your app’s functionality effectively but also engage emotions and create a visually engaging and festive charm for potential users.

Add Some Holiday Keywords and Update App’s Metadata

For the holiday season, optimising your app’s keywords demands a strategic approach. While incorporating holiday-centric keywords like “Christmas,” “Black Friday,” and “gifts” can wield considerable influence, it’s crucial to align them with your app’s primary focus. If your app doesn’t revolve around Christmas, aiming for broader terms such as “holiday,” “Christmas,” “festive,” or “Santa” might not yield the desired results.

Take an example from the App Store search for “Christmas music” in December 2020, when mainstream music apps struggled to secure top rankings despite promoting holiday-themed content in their app listings. In such situations, it is recommended not to overload the key slots with holiday-specific terms (AppTweak). Instead, consider updating your screenshots and creatives with holiday content and use promotional text or a short description box to showcase special holiday offers. This approach allows you to introduce the holiday spirit without compromising the basic market position of your application and the overall ASO strategy.

Here, you can see a festive-optimised app store description of the Dumb Ways to Die game:

Change the Promotional Text

During the holiday season, perfecting your app promotional text in app stores becomes an effective strategy, especially because of the flexibility that iOS offers. It allows you to modify text without having to fully update the app or resubmit to the App Store.

Your app’s promotional text appears at the top of the description and is up to 170 characters long. It serves as a valuable tool for highlighting seasonal offers, special offers, and features that seamlessly align with your app’s main purpose and existing keywords from your title and subtitle/short description. It’s an effective way to promote yourself without harming your app’s core identity.

Adding a bit of urgency to your holiday-themed updates, such as adding phrases like “countdown to Christmas” or “Black Friday flash sale,” can create a compelling call to action, enticing users with exclusive and time-limited holiday promotions.

Use In-App Events

Using in-app events during the holiday season provides a dynamic opportunity to engage app users in timely and festive experiences. These events, ranging from challenges to live-streamed sessions, can not only engage users more (or re-engage). They can also attract new ones because now events are clearly visible in the app listing in both the App Store and Google Play.

Not only does this provide you with a new opportunity to connect with existing, lapsed and potential customers, but it also increases your chances of standing out, thereby increasing the visibility of your app in app stores.

For example, as a fitness app, you might launch a social challenge encouraging users to exercise for ten days in a row after the New Year – it’s a perfect example of understanding seasonality of fitness category app and user behaviour. A budgeting app could offer a live stream to help users balance their budget for the coming year, or a shopping app could entice users with a special Black Friday discount code when they save ten items on their wishlist.

Strava, a fitness tracking app with integrated social network features, frequently engages in the creation of events. A good example is their December challenges, where both users and app creators contribute to the variety of them.

Another good example is SimCity BuildIt. They launch some events over and over during the calendar year but never forget about Christmas or Easter when users can gain unique, themed items for their cities.

Including festive events in your app not only enriches the user experience but also makes your app a vibrant and relevant destination during the festive season.

New Year & Christmas Updates In Apps

It’s crucial to remember that updating your visuals or description for Christmas should go hand in hand with adding meaningful seasonal twists to your app. Mere visual changes without any festive interactivity might leave users feeling disappointed and could potentially harm user loyalty.

How Top-Performing Apps Add Seasonal Trends

As an example, let’s take Clash Royale, a game that doesn’t just stop at changing its visuals for the holidays. During festive periods, the entire gaming experience transforms. Not only are the game levels filled with holiday themes, but emoticons and badges that players can earn also take on a festive flair. A notable touch is the alteration of the in-game music, adding an extra layer of holiday immersion.

Duolingo, the language-learning app, goes beyond language proficiency by offering users a glimpse into their language-learning journey. With a “Look Back on 2023” feature, Duolingo provides users with a personalised overview of their achievements and progress throughout the year.

While not explicitly holiday-themed, Spotify Wrapped has become a much-anticipated annual tradition for Spotify users. As the year draws to a close, Spotify compiles personalised music statistics, showcasing users’ most-played songs, artists, and genres. The interactive and shareable nature of Spotify Wrapped also contributes to a sense of community celebration among users, making it a social and engaging experience.

Last but not least, Allegro, a popular Polish e-commerce platform, embraces the holiday spirit with a digital twist through its Advent Calendar feature. Users are treated to a daily surprise or special offer, similar to opening a “window” on a traditional advent calendar.

When infusing Christmas spirit into your app, you can consider implementing interactive surprises like clicking on a feature and experiencing a gentle flurry of snow, visual elements like confetti explosions or virtual fireworks, or Christmas songs in the background when users navigate through the app. The list of ideas is endless!

By blending visual updates with interactive elements such as falling snow or other Christmas-themed surprises, you not only enhance the aesthetics of your app but also infuse it with the magic of the holidays. However, make sure the holiday experience within your app resonates with your end users rather than annoys them.

Ensuring a Smooth Experience and Planning Ahead

Having the knowledge at hand, it’s time to reflect on what aspects of your product page you want to modify, set a timeline for these adjustments, and establish clear goals for the outcomes you hope to achieve – whether it’s an increased conversion rate, improved rankings, specific user behaviour, or a boost in organic traffic. For further guidance on selecting the metrics to track, you can refer to my article on Key Performance Metrics (KPIs) for mobile apps.

To gauge the effectiveness of your changes, consider running A/B tests to compare performance variations and make data-driven decisions. If your app caters to diverse markets, strategise whether your changes will be localised to adjust to different regional preferences and festivities.

Apart from implementing changes to add the holiday spirit into your app, it’s crucial to take care of a seamless user experience. Ensure your app is ready for the anticipated surge in traffic, meticulously addressing potential bugs or crashes to minimise user churn.

Lastly, have a well-thought-out plan for the post-holiday transition, planning when and how you’ll seamlessly remove seasonal messaging from your product page. This comprehensive approach ensures not only a delightful holiday experience for users but also sets the stage for a smooth transition and continued success beyond the festive season.

Which Type of Apps Are Most Affected by End-Of-Year Seasonality?

Let’s unravel the dynamics of end-of-year seasonality, identifying the specific app categories that experience heightened significance and influence during this festive time. I’ll explain the unique patterns that emerge, shedding light on the apps that stand at the forefront of this seasonal phenomenon.

Retail and E-commerce Apps

Towards the year’s end, shopping apps truly take the spotlight, showcasing their peak performance during the festive season. This heightened activity reveals two notable spikes in app downloads, each corresponding to distinct phases of the holiday fervour.

According to Apptweaks, the first surge kicks in between the middle and end of November, aligning with the anticipation leading up to Black Friday. As the excitement builds, people download apps in preparation for a shopping spree. This trend maintains its momentum through Cyber Monday, gradually easing off as December unfolds.

Following closely, the second wave emerges, but not as pronounced as the initial surge. This phase is closely linked with the Christmas season and winter holidays, beginning around mid-December and stretching until mid-January. The peak in downloads for this wave typically occurs on December 26th, suggesting that the holiday spirit extends beyond gift-giving. Users enthusiastically embrace shopping apps, not only for pre-holiday deals but also to take advantage of post-Christmas sales and winter discounts.

These double spikes in downloads clearly illustrate how shopping apps become integral not only to our holiday preparations but also to ongoing celebrations!

Travel Apps

Many people believe that the holiday season is a time to celebrate the joy of being together. Whether it’s a trip to our hometowns or a New Year’s Eve getaway with friends, the role of travel apps is becoming especially clear.

So, as the year comes to an end, travel apps are becoming essential tools for those navigating the holiday season. In the hustle and bustle of the holidays, they help users book flights, secure accommodations, and create itineraries.

The increase in travel app usage during this period is noticeable, reflecting a collective desire to spend precious moments with loved ones. According to Adjust, last year, installations of travel apps from December 25 to 31 were 11% higher than the monthly average and 9% higher than the annual average. Moreover, the number of sessions in the last week of December increased by 7% compared to the monthly average and 14% compared to the 2022 average.

Health and Fitness Apps

As we prepare for the grand finale of the year, the holiday season not only brings joy and celebration but is also the best time to reflect on personal development and set New Year’s resolutions. There is no doubt that many people focus on resolutions aimed at promoting a healthier lifestyle – committing to be more physically active, lose a few pounds, or quit smoking.

According to Apptweak, there has been a significant increase in the number of people using health and fitness apps during this period yearly. Between mid-December and mid-January, these apps see two significant spikes in downloads – one peak on Christmas Day and an even larger one just after the countdown to the New Year.

Summary: Adopt Seasonality For Your App Store Listing

I hope my article has provided you with a comprehensive roadmap for effectively navigating the holiday season’s impact on your app’s installs. From insights on customising visuals, keywords, and in-app events to enhance engagement, consider these strategies as your guide to not just surviving but thriving during the bustling holiday rush or strategically preparing for a quieter phase.

Optimise your promotional text to communicate festive offerings seamlessly, freshen up your visuals with a holiday touch, and strategically update your app icon and metadata. Featuring in-app events directly on your app store listing can significantly boost engagement and visibility, too.

What’s more, ensure your app is robust and ready to handle increased traffic, mitigating crashes and bugs to preserve a positive user experience. And when the holiday spirit fades, plan to seamlessly remove seasonal messages from your product page.

Let these strategies empower you to maximise your reach and impact during this pivotal season. I wish you a joyful and successful holiday season!

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Head of Marketing at TeaCode

Marketing is about research and communication. As a social scientist and marketer with many years of experience, Kasia combines knowledge and crafting to help design the app and plan and execute marketing strategies for TeaCode and our clients.

Even the best app can fail if no one uses it. How do we reach them with our messages in a world saturated with communication? That's why she helps clients spread the news about their apps worldwide.

Katarzyna Sobczak-Rosochacka
Katarzyna Sobczak-Rosochacka

Marketing is about research and communication. As a social scientist and marketer with many years of experience, Kasia combines knowledge and crafting to help design the app and plan and execute marketing strategies for TeaCode and our clients. Even the best app can fail if no one uses it. How do we reach them with our messages in a world saturated with communication? That's why she helps clients spread the news about their apps worldwide.