The Case of the Mystery App Store Sales (With Exciting Pictures and Charts)

Tue, Apr. 16 2013

A funny thing happened amidst all the hoopla surrounding the big debut of our New & Noteworthy Mystery Math Town app.

One of our other math apps, Marble Math Junior, made a stealthy run up the Education charts, and is currently jostling for position in the Top 75 (up from 250).

We actually noticed the increased sales in late March just before we released Mystery Math Town on April 3rd, but couldn't see a direct reason for it, and well, I suppose we can also be accused of showering the new 'baby' with all of our attention, and neglecting poor Junior, so we didn't exactly launch a full investigation. Marble Math Jr Rank Trending 3/24 to 4/16

Normally, when sales jump over 60%, we can see a big Education purchase, or we can point to a promotion or feature, but the only event I could see as a launching pad for Marble Math Junior was the Common Sense Media ON for Learning Award, which would make sense IF the 'older' Marble Math also saw a sales increase, since they both received the Award on the same day. We did see a Marble Math spike at the same time Junior took off, but Marble Math immediately dropped, while Junior just kept climbing.

The mystery of your app sales in the App Store can be tough to solve. Apple only provides aggregate buckets of information - we can see daily totals for downloads, gifts, promo codes used, returns, and educational purchases. That's it.

We use tools like appFigures and App Annie to collect our sales and ranking data from Apple and report back to us with colorful graphs and charts. They also report when apps are Featured in the App Store...sometimes. Unfortunately, the Featured app reporting seems to be somewhat sketchy. Mystery Math Town, which has been a Featured New and Noteworthy selection since April 4th, and has a giant banner in the Education store right now, is not showing up in any of the reports as Featured. So it often takes a bit of good old fashioned detective work to discover why people are suddenly downloading your app.

So, I packed my pipe and put on my best sleuthing cap and set out to discover what favorable forces had propelled Marble Math Junior to its lofty position on the charts.

This is what I found:

Evidence suggests that on Thursday, March 28th, Apple added a new "Entertain Your Kids" banner to the showcase carousel on the home page of the App Store.

I present Exhibit A:

A deeper analysis reveals you'd likely discover Marble Math Junior as a featured Game if you were inclined to tap into the banner:

It appears that one week prior to the Mystery Math Town release, Apple did feature Marble Math Junior in a rotating feature, AND that our reporting tools did NOT report this fact.

Since the release of Mystery Math Town, Apple has added two more of these rotating Education banners, Apps for Preschool & Kindergarten and Apps for Elementary School, that expand into various categories and also feature, quite prominently I might add, you guessed it...Marble Math Junior.

So, what does this tell us?

A.)  Apple has a big heart.

B.)  Apple is trying to curate apps to offset the daunting prospect of searching the App Store.

C.)  Given the current App Store design and limited availability of real estate, the only decent display option for pop-up curated app collections is to put them in big splashy banners that rotate, so your potential customers have to be looking at the banners at the precise moment your collection is visible if you're to realize a single additional sale.

D.) Being an app developer requires the wearing of many hats if you hope to understand your business.

If it sounds like I'm complaining about Apple, I'm not - see A. and B.

Also see the mystery of our nonexistent Shake-a-Phrase sales on Android and Windows - that's a case to crack another time.

I'll be back with a report on Mystery Math Town when the dust settles.