Explainer Videos for Apps: Increasing Exposure, Engagement, and Sales

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How can you make your mobile or web app stand out online? One proven strategy for inciting interest and increasing conversions: VIDEO.

Explainer Videos for Apps: Increasing Exposure, Engagement, and Sales

How can you make your mobile or web app stand out amidst the insanely crowded world of online app marketplaces? The odds are increasingly staggering. As of early 2017, consumers could choose from approximately 2.8M apps in Google Play, 2.2M apps in the App Store, and more than 1.5M apps in other marketplaces (e.g., Microsoft Store, Amazon Appstore, BlackBerry World).

One proven strategy for inciting interest and increasing conversions: VIDEO. Specifically, creating an effective explainer video for your mobile app’s marketplace product page will pay huge dividends. Video widens your exposure, creating another avenue for engaging prospective users. Without asking users for a significant time commitment, it helps them clearly understand what your product is, how it works, and how it will benefit them. It vastly increases the chance that they’ll download your app. Why?

  • People prefer watching videos to learn about products. Increasingly, consumers turn to video content for product research. Four times as many customers would rather watch a video about a product than read about it.
  • Video is an increasingly dominant force in the online marketplace. According to Cisco, by 2019, more than 70% of mobile traffic will be online video content.  
  • People are more likely to buy after watching a video. Countless surveys have shown that watching a product video increases the likelihood that viewers will buy the product: it’s estimated they’re anywhere from 64% to 85% more likely to buy after watching a video. In addition, online app marketplaces that include explainer videos on product pages report overwhelmingly higher sales than those without videos.

If you have a landing page for your mobile app, you can also feature the video there. Video content has a massive impact on increasing your website’s ranking in Google’s search results.

How do you create an effective explainer video for your mobile or web app? To demystify the process, Distillery sat down for a Q&A with Nick Lange, the Creative Director of Nurture Digital, an El Segundo-based digital agency with strong experience in video production and marketing. Lange’s insight and experience can help you know what to expect, what the best practices are, and what NOT to do. In the big picture, says Lange, “It’s about showing rather than telling, which is a much more efficient means of presenting to any audience.”

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Keep it short.

The optimal length for an explainer video is under a minute. The most frequently shared explainer videos are under 15 seconds.

Pay close attention to the App Store (iOS) or Google Play (Android) guidelines.

Both platforms have specific guidelines videos must follow, though the App Store’s guidelines are much more stringent than Google Play’s. Either way, if you don’t follow their guidelines, you risk your video being rejected. Rejection can be an expensive, time-consuming mistake. (Read on for more specifics about these guidelines.)

Frame everything in terms of the benefits to the user.

Don’t just show your mobile app’s features. Instead, show how those features will benefit the users. Says Lange, “Think about the benefits that a user will get from your app, and present the information in that way. Make all the features you show them directly applicable to their lives.”

Create flow.

Make sure your visuals flow smoothly from one animation or visual to the next. Don’t present obstacles they may trip over. Recommends Lange, “Think of it as a journey the viewer is taking with you. You need to keep them moving through the landscape of your video in order to maintain their interest.”

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Waste their time.

Says Lange, “An effective video will not waste any time. From the moment it begins, it should start broad, demoing how the app works, and as the seconds pass, go into greater detail on the specific features users might be interested in. It should do that in a highly engaging way.” Given recent technology upgrades, this has become even more important: in iOS 11 or later, App Store videos will autoplay on your mobile app’s product page. If you don’t get to the point quickly, you risk losing their attention and losing a potential user.

Linger too long on anything.

Explains Lange, “People get bored when a graphic or a screen stays the same too long. The video loses energy and momentum.”

Write or direct it yourself.

“Unless the client is someone with a lot of experience making videos, making a video is best left in the hands of someone who writes videos for a living,” says Lange. In addition, he says, “You should have a director even for something as simple as an app video – a director who makes videos for a living. Even though it’s highly tactical and utilitarian, in order to keep it engaging, it should be shaped into a narrative by someone who has experience doing that.” Thus, the optimal situation is to provide your video producer with a deep understanding of your app, as well as the user for which the app is being built. Then, it’s the video producer’s job to develop the creative solution that showcases your app and speaks to what’s important to your users. And – to be frank – it’s likely a more efficient way to get from the starting line to a finished product that will deliver the results you seek.

What should I look for in a video production partner?

They should focus on strategy before developing the creative content

An effective explainer video is built upon a strong foundation of strategic thinking: about who your users are, what matters to them, and how your product can be differentiated in their eyes. Accordingly, you should be wary of anyone who’s ready to start working on your video before investing in a discovery phase focused on achieving a deep understanding of your mobile or web app, your users, and your app’s value prop. “Discovery is too often undervalued. Some people think it’s wasted resources and time,” says Lange. “But if you don’t know who you’re going to reach and what you want to tell them, no level of production quality will make up for that.” As a rule, on any explainer video project, Nurture Digital invests significant time focused on strategy and discovery before embarking on the creative work.

What should I keep in mind during the interviewing and selection process?

If possible, check out a company or a director’s past work prior to approaching them.

“Are their sensibilities and skills a good fit for what you’re producing? There’s no better indicator of the final product you’ll receive than an individual or company’s prior work,” says Lange.

Don’t expect any creative work prior to engaging a company.

While it’s fine to ask for general creative ideas from prospective video production partners, don’t expect detailed demos or samples. “Any creative [work] you’re getting for free is probably worth about as much as you’re paying for it,” explains Lange.

Be honest about where you are in your decision-making process.

If you’re interviewing several video production companies or directors to help you showcase your software design, be straight about that with everyone you’re interviewing. They’re happy to put time into estimating costs and suggesting creative approaches, but they’d rather not suffer the false impression they’re the only horse in the race.

Banner image showing process of explainer video development

How does the process work?

While video production companies each have their own process, the process at Nurture Digital is representative of what you’ll find at many companies.

At Nurture Digital, it all begins with discovery. During the discovery phase, the director and other team members spend time with you to understand your goals, your product, and your audience. They then work with you to develop a strategy for your explainer video – a strategy that will showcase your software development product in a way that will resonate with your audience. The director captures that strategy within a brief which serves as the foundation for the creative work to come.

Next, the writer, director, and/or creative team use the brief to develop a treatment. The treatment consists of two or three pages of text and images that describe the proposed explainer video. It doesn’t necessarily include the language for the voiceover talent, though it may. Ultimately, the treatment is designed to give you a sense of what the finished product will be like. When they present you with the treatment, they want your honest feedback and guidance; that way, they can refine the treatment until they achieve something that aligns with your vision.

Once you’ve approved the treatment, the writer and/or director develop a script that follows what was outlined in the treatment. They’ll continue to refine the script until you’re happy with it. Once the script is approved, storyboarding begins. During storyboarding, the team assembles a comprehensive, moment-by-moment picture of what you’ll see and hear throughout each second of your explainer video. It will detail each screen that will appear and what the narration will be at each point. Again, you’ll be asked to review and ultimately approve a storyboard.

At this point, illustrators and designers begin the process of creating vector images and other assets that will ultimately be animated. Again, you review and approve. Then, they’ll put together an animation test featuring different styles of animation for you to consider. After you choose the style you prefer, the design team gets to work on creating the animations that will complement the screen capture images showcasing your mobile app. Finally, the video is assembled and sent for your review.

Ultimately, the process is designed to make sure your creative team doesn’t get too far down a road that won’t get you to your goal. The multiple approval checkpoints make certain that everyone comes to agreement before additional action is taken, so that no time or resources are wasted in unproductive directions. That’s also why it’s important that you’re honest with your feedback throughout the process. Don’t worry about hurting feelings; instead, worry about making an explainer video you’ll be proud of.

Banner image reading video for app store and google play

What will my video look like?

It’s important to understand that screen capture images will be a highly prominent part of your video.

In particular, the App Store has stringent stipulations about this, stating that “App previews may only use captured footage of the app itself. Don’t film people interacting with the device (such as over-the-shoulder angles or fingers tapping the screen), and don’t use app previews to show behind-the-scenes footage of your app’s development. Stay within the app.” You are allowed to add graphic elements and animations that demonstrate how navigation or interaction works within the mobile app, but the App Store specifically prohibits overlaying animated hands. If you’re planning an iOS mobile app, you should closely review the guidelines before embarking on the making of your video.

Google Play, on the other hand, gives much more general guidance. Ultimately, however, the goal of any explainer video is to help prospective users have as clear an understanding as possible of the software product they’re considering. Accordingly, whatever platform you’re designing for, it’s best to – as the App Store recommends – keep the focus on the app.

If you want to develop a video that showcases your mobile or web app in a more playful or creative manner, you may wish to create a separate explainer video to be used on a product landing page.

If I’m developing for the App Store, how can I embed creativity?

According to Lange, creativity within these confines is really limited to the way you animate the screen captures, as well as the music you choose and the content you use in the voiceovers. But don’t fret. You’re not trying to win an Academy Award. You’re simply trying to help your users understand how and why your mobile app will add value to their lives. For that purpose, simpler is always better.

What limitations are there around the music I can use?

You must have the legal right to use any music featured in your video.

In other words, it must be either something you created yourself, or something you’ve specifically licensed for use in your video. The App Store guidelines very specifically state that they will reject any video that does not adhere to these guidelines.

What’s the single most important piece of advice you can give to someone creating an app explainer video?

Don’t overcomplicate things.

“Keep things as simple as possible,” says Lange, “and focus on making your message memorable and comprehensible.” Don’t start by explaining your mobile app in terms of platitudes or principles. Instead, quickly show people exactly what your app is and how it functions. And that’s it.