Merry Marketing – 10 Ways To Cash In On Holiday App Sales

“It's like drinking from a firehose.” – Alfred Huger

Jingle bells, Super Cells. The holiday season is upon us!

The last few years have opened up our eyes to the power of the December tides – having worked at a retail e-commerce site a few years back, I can attest to the surge in traffic and sales that comes during this time. Chartboost just released some info about the Thanksgiving season that foreshadows an even bigger wave this month, citing a 48% spike in volume. It seems the turkey infused naps were no match for the lure of the new iPhone 5 burning in everyone's pocket.

What's even more interesting is that the spikes tend to begin around the first of the month (now) and peak around Christmas time, with a slow trail afterwards.

This can be exciting and overwhelming. You see this freight train of traffic and money coming at you full speed. What do you do?

Here's a breakdown of what you need to know to capitalize on this trend.

10 Ways To Market Your App During the Holidays

1. Update your description and screenshots. If there is one thing you should do, this is it. It's free, it's easy (most of the time), and appeals directly to the holiday shopper. It doesn't take much –  maybe a santa hat on a character or even just some new text that says “Holiday Special!” Remember that in iOS 6 your first screenshot plays a big part in how people are going to find your app. If they see that it's related to the holidays, they'll be more likely to download.

2. Release an update that puts you in control. The biggest issue with controlling apps in the iOS world is that you have to go through an enormous review process to get anything changed. Who has 2 weeks during the holiday seasons to reach your users? Instead, think about stocking up your app with push notifications. These are those little popups that games have that say “Hey, you haven't been playing!” or whatever. You can set it up so that you can send your own or have them automatically popup after a certain amount of time. This gives you the ability to communicate with your customers and have them use your app when you want them to (like Christmas Eve). I use for mine.

3. Stress your servers or anything offline. For most of you, this probably isn't an issue because your apps are native (everything's already inside). But for those of you using any sort of external protocol,  have your IT team or developers simulate some big stresses. If you get an extra 50,000 users in one day, can you handle it?

4. Find partners to cross promote with. This is something that Chartboost does with their Direct Deals platform, but also something you can do with a handshake. If you have a game or an app that's very closely aligned with someone else's. You'll find that it's a lot easier to rise to the top when you can work with someone else (or a network of people). If you have a More Games screen, that's another way you can help promote each other.

5. Make money on the first 5 seconds, not lifetime value. One thing you will find is that users want to try a lot of new apps. No one wants to commit to a lifetime of in-app purchases and fuzzy creature messages while they're tearing open their next gift – they want to be WOW-ed and then move on. A lot of the bigger guys out there are using this time of increased traffic as a way to spike their user base, but I'm not. I know from my own experience in the e-commerce world that the people who shop and browse during this time are probably not going to be your best long term customers. So – fire off your Revmob FullScreen ad at the opening of the game and make some money.

6. Prepare for the iTunes Connect shutdown. In case you haven't been checking the hundreds of emails Apple has been sending, iTunes Connect will be shut down from the 21st through the 28th. That means NOTHING is happening in that area. No releases, no updates, no price changes, nothing. You can't get in there and I can promise you that they're not going to care if you email them to say “OMG I meant to make my app free!” Make sure you have everything ready to rock before the 21st so that you can sit back and drink some egg nog while the market explodes.

Last year they froze the charts during this time, it's unclear if they will again this year. The reason that matters is for anyone out there planning on buying installs in order to drive yourself up the charts. I'll update this if I ever find out for sure.

7. Capitalize on the Christmas hangover. Once the presents have been unwrapped and Mom's trying to save all the wrapping paper for next year, reality strikes that there are millions of people booting up their new devices. They're going to have endless curiosity to download apps and purchase everything in sight. This will NOT die off anytime soon. In fact (as you can see in the graph above), there is a strong bubble all the way to Valentine's Day. This is where you can really see some strong growth. You can shift your marketing away from the Revmob style monetization and more towards a user acquisition model.

8. Create A Unique Pitch. I think it's safe to say that we all agree on one fact – this is the most marketed time of the year. We're inundated with thousands of advertisements and messages, all telling us to Buy Now! or purchase some product for the holidays. The products that go viral and have huge holidays seasons are the ones that can differentiate themselves from the crowd. Spend an afternoon sipping a Peppermint Latté and come up with a pitch for your app that's one of a kind, then put that on your marketing radar. You need to stand out from the crowd, especially in the app store.

9. Add Gifting Functionality. You can get very creative about this, but being able to send a gift to someone is a great feature to add. Without getting into the iOS development, you can talk to your developer about creating a feature where a user can “send 100 coins” to their Facebook friend. You can even skip the development and provide a link to the Gifting App page in iTunes. Here's a link you can copy and paste:

Just change the AppID to your app and you should be all set.

10. Create a Holiday In-App Purchase. People are much more inclined to purchase something that's related to the holidays this time of year, so give 'em what they want. Instead of the “3000 coin pack” create the “Holiday Bonus Pack” as an in-app purchase. Or – add a holiday character. Or, unlock a Holiday theme for your app. The possibilities are endles.

Ho Ho Ho! Milk And Cookies For Everyone!

The holidays are a rising tide for all of us. We all get to benefit from overall search increases and thus we increase our success. Just remember that the users coming through your app are thinking a bit differently than usual, so cater to that. It only happens once a year and MAN is it fun! If you have any other cool ideas, please comment below so everyone can hear about it.

Good luck to everyone and happy holidays.




  • Mo December 1, 2012

    Wow, a another fantastic blog post! All great suggestions. I am planning to send my first iOS app for review (Before the cut-off….thank you for reminding me!) and was going to release two versions. One with Revmob and the other paid (not enough time to implement in-app) But few blog post ago you said something intrigued me. If I remenber I think you said something like just release one app paid with Revmob embedded. Then few weeks later change the price to free and turn on Revmob for that app. Sounds a great way to have only one app but what about people who already paid for the app. They will get ad too when I turn on Revmob no? I am sure that would piss a lot of people!

    I am sure I probably miss-understand you but would love to hear your point of view on this.

    Thanks again keep up the great work!


  • Carter Thomas Carter Thomas December 1, 2012

    Hey Mo –

    Well, yes and no. This assumes two things: all the paid users still have the app AND they all update. When you look at the benchmarks for all retention, chances are that’s about 20% of your initial users. Then, the chances of them getting pissed are probably 1 in 5 (enough to write a bad review), so you’re looking at like 2-3% of people actually caring enough.

    That’s just the marketer in me talking.

    Good luck!


  • Mo December 2, 2012

    Hello Carter,

    I cannot believe I missed your response! Is the system set to send email notification?

    Anyway, beleive me, I trust your marketing skill big time. I agree that I may not need to worry since as you said many people who paid for an app won’t stick around long enough to get pissed off!

    I am wondering about experience with Revmob and for the holiday season, would simply release the app paid for the next few weeks since people maybe more willing to pay. And then in 2013 make it free by turning Revmob. My thinking is paid app would better fit for the holidays time. What do think?

    Again great job with the blog. Love it! This is really the only place where I can get info I can actually use!



  • jim December 10, 2012

    hi… love your site, it is the very best out there…

    have my first app (utility app) at my developer, should be done in 1-2 days……

    my question is: what ads are best for utility ads? which company? do the ads have to be placed in the app before submitting to apple?

    for games there is more than enough info, but not so much directly for utility apps…..

    also, are you planning on dong any mentoring programs? would be very interested in spending time learning directly from you…


    jim in toronto

  • Carter Thomas Carter Thomas December 13, 2012

    Hey Jim,

    Congrats on the app! That’s awesome. Here are some answers:

    1. Best ads for Utility apps tend to be banners, oddly. Most popups are around Free Games which don’t convert as well in Utility. I use MoPub ( and in there integrate iAds and Tapit.

    2. Yes, you need to place them in the app before, but you can control what ads show, etc from the website.

    3. I’ve been asked by some people about a mentoring program. I might do something next year. Right now I’m super focused on building out a really big network and establishing all my techniques.

    Thanks for reading. Let me know if you have any other questions.


  • Payal Seth December 18, 2012

    Hi Carter,

    I am a big fan of your’s and Chad Mureta. It was because Iof reading your blog and Chad’s book (App Empire), I was inspired to start my own app company. In the last 3 months I have released 4 apps. The first one was with a friend to test the waters. We came up with the idea for the app and got it outsourced following the steps outlined in Your blog and Chad’s book. It’s a simple free game app and we have managed around 2,000-2,500 downloads per day. We used admob in it and average around $15 in revenues per day in ad revenues. The app stays around the top 200 free Entertainment apps in the Us charts. It cost us only $1,500 to develop and we have already recovered our money. Subsequent to this I have come out with 3 other non-game apps on my own. 1 app is a business app. I managed to get each these apps developed at a low cost of around $300-400 each. The business app is a paid one and reached top 50 in the US Business paid iTunes chart. I made it free for 2 days and it reached # 8 in the US Business free iTunes Charts and had around 18,000 downloads in a day. Overall I have recovered the cost of my apps in a month and will hopefully start earning revenues soon.

    The purpose of this post is not to brag about my achievements but to say a big thank you to you and Chad for sharing your experience with us. Although I have not yet made a whole lot of money, I’m thankful my journey to being an appreneur has started. I would be glad to share my experience with anyone else who is interested.

  • Carter Thomas Carter Thomas December 18, 2012

    Dude this is sick!! Nice work. That is an inspiration to all of us. Thank you so much for sharing with everyone. In this industry, the more we can work together, the better.

    Good luck to you in the future. Also – check out MoPub and TapIt as alternatives for Admob. You can integrate Admob into MoPub if you still want to use that, but I think you’ll see a dramatic increase in your daily revenues using other networks.


  • George March 27, 2014

    Mopub pays 60% of Marketplace Revenue to publisher. Is it still worth using Mopub?

  • srp September 3, 2016

    I really like your marketing skills, i tried most of the things ,but my revenues are still low, i use admob

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