Case Study: Converting Desktop Traffic to Mobile App Downloads

When I joined Big Fish Games a little over a year ago, they had a web based catalog of desktop games, but no such catalog for their newer free-to-play mobile games. These games had presences in the App Store, Google Play, and on Amazon, but lacked their own unique websites.

Enter the web development team! 💪

It’s been our job to design and develop microsite landing pages for each of these mobile games. Early on, we realized that we needed to determine how to convert desktop traffic — users finding these pages through a Google search or links from our social media pages, for example — to mobile app downloads in their respective iOS or Android stores.

Here’s the basic user flow as we saw it:

Mobile and Desktop User Flow

So how do we convert desktop traffic to mobile?

First, we took a look at our competitors to get a sense of how the industry was currently solving the problem. Many desktop sites simply redirected mobile viewports and devices to their respective app store.

We saw two problems with this approach:

  • A missed conversion opportunity, especially for users who didn’t type exact-match keywords. 
    “Let me show you why you should download this game!”
  • By redirecting, we also miss out on using a tracking link to properly attribute that download to desktop traffic.

A mobile landing page was definitely the right choice for us. But how can we get users to switch from desktop to mobile in a way that doesn’t cause friction?


After some brainstorming, we came up with the same solution we’d seen used in television or in print — SMS! Using the Twilio API, we designed a modal that allows the user to enter their phone number and receive an immediate link to the app store on their device. And since this is web, we can even track the conversion!

Side Note: Badges are Informational

Previously, we learned through Visual Web Optimizer’s heatmap testing that our users converted more successfully when presented with a single CTA above the fold. Other links, buttons, and App Store / Google Play badges muddied up the layout and distracted from the action we wanted them to take — to click on the link and download the game.

For apps in particular, the App Store / Google Play badges may seem like built-in button links, but in practice, they didn’t work very well for us.

When using the desktop version of the landing page site, the user would probably expect the iTunes App Store Preview page to open when the “Download on the App Store” button was clicked. But after they reach that page, they can’t download the game until they open that same link on their phone or tablet device.

Instead, we realized that our users regard these badges as informational — they’re both widely recognized and symbols of trust (ex: this game was trusted enough by Apple/Google to be available for download through their respective store).

So let’s ditch the button-badges and display them in a way that simply tells the user where they can play our game:

VWO Gummy Drop! click heatmap

Ah, that’s better! When presented in this way, with a single Play Now! CTA above the badges, our desired action is taken!


Play Now! (We mean it!)

So now that we’ve got those badges out of the way, let’s get back to our Play Now! button. These are the steps we want our users to take:

  1. Click on Play Now! CTA
  2. Enter phone number
  3. Click on the link received via SMS
  4. Download the game from the store

We also realize that some of our users may have a device that doesn’t receive SMS messages, like a tablet. Or maybe they’re prefer an email so that they can revisit the link at a later time. Or maybe they’re outside the U.S. In any case, our Text-to-Download / Email-to-Download modal accomplishes the task.

Gummy Drop! Play Now! modal

Try it out yourself!

Text yourself a link to the game in your respective app store, open the link on your device, and download the game!

Virtually painless!

Conclusions

We learned that the best way to send our desktop traffic to mobile was through a link that we could track — either via SMS or email. We also prefer the opportunity to convert users with our landing pages.

Instead of redirecting our mobile site to the App Store or Google Play, we opted to allow users to text or email themselves the link to their desired device.


That’s all for now! Thanks for reading!