Sticker Packs for iMessage — WTF

RARDOZ
7 min readAug 17, 2017

It’s almost been a year since we created our first sticker pack for iOS. Since then we created over 100 sticker packs for the iMessage store. What did we learn? Honestly I’m not that sure. The sticker market is very up and down. One day you are hot, and the next day you are not. Even though the sticker market is unstable, I have learned a ton. In this post I will be sharing the data I have, and some of the learnings we have taken away from this experience.

Yep 100 sticker packs

By putting out a ton of sticker packs we were able to learn really fast. We gathered a good amount of data, and we have some clear takeaways. A question I get often is––“How are you making these sticker packs so quickly?”

At first I created a sticker pack using the sticker pack template in Xcode. After a few packs, I learned that was a big mistake. There’s no tracking or custom code that you can write for sticker packs. The sticker pack template is really designed for people who don’t know how to code. After a bit more research I discovered that I needed to make an iMessage app that could send stickers. We get a few more benefits using this approach:

  • Custom code
  • Tracking & analytics
  • Custom UI
  • Ability to monetize

With the new iMessage template, I was able to start tracking what was going on with our users, and really start to discover what makes a good sticker pack. We created about 40 of these. Each sticker pack took about 2 hours of work. My partner and I would work in parallel. He would make the images, while I did the app registration and setup in Xcode. Eventually I got really sick of doing the same cut-and-paste job over and over again, so I created a bot using OS Automator and Fastlane to do all the work for me. Now I can create and ship sticker packs in less than 30 minutes, and all I have to do is babysit the robot and sip on my coffee.

Getting featured

The obvious way to get the most downloads is to get featured in the app store. We have been featured over a dozen times in the last year for various sticker packs. One of our stickers was even in the latest Apple commercial.

Sometimes, Apple creates a roundup of featured app store items based on what’s going on in the world. For example, last year Apple featured our Super Scary Halloween sticker pack because it was around the time of Halloween. We saw the same trend with other holidays. Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year, you name it. If it’s a holiday, you have the best chance of getting featured.

The other way to get featured is to get downloads. If a sticker pack has more downloads than the rest, it will float to the top of the ranks and become more visible. You can even land on the top purchased or free sticker pack list.

Getting featured in the app store is really important if you want to get a good amount of downloads without much marketing.

Go viral

Source: nasa.gov

Viral is a word I don’t use very often. It’s almost like this black hole of unknown information that you can’t really understand. Our Flowers Galore sticker pack went viral, and now it gets a lot of really good organic traffic.

How does going viral work for sticker packs? Its really simple actually. When you send a sticker, a link to the app is sent out if you don’t have it already. From there you can download the sticker pack. Its basically word of mouth. The texter is advertising the sticker pack with each text of the sticker.

What makes Flowers Galore so special? There are a few key differences between this app and the others:

  • Vibrant and colorful
  • Very bright app icon
  • Over 100 stickers in the pack
  • There are 3 volumes
  • Flowers are cute and people like flowers

Campaigns

If you have any marketing experience, you might be familiar with the process of running an advertising campaign in order to drive traffic to your applications. Facebook, Instagram, and Tumblr are a few advertisers you can use for cheap. I recommend putting in 50–100 dollars to test out how the ad drives traffic before you put in a bigger amount, and here’s why.

Sticker campaigns don’t really work that well.

We saw no boost in revenue or traffic by running a sticker campaign on any of our usual platforms. We have other applications such as Spellcaster for iOS and Android that works well with these types of campaigns, so we know it can work. Sticker packs have a couple of things against them that makes it hard to drive traffic to:

  • Stickers are only available for iOS — you want a product that can be installed on multiple device types for the biggest chance of an install
  • Stickers are very niche — young target audience, specific subjects
  • Sticker store is confusing — if you are familiar with the sticker shop then good for you. If you are being dropped in for the first time you might get confused or drop off and install other stickers because its your first time using the iMessage sticker store.

Our best sticker packs

Out of 100 sticker packs, there are only a few that stick out. These sticker packs receive steady traffic and are ranked from the most to the least popular. Gay Pride Unicorns is showing a lot of promise and was released on late June.

#1 Flowers Galore

#2 Sticker Pop

#3 Pop Art

#4 Boho Chic

#5 Super Sweet Treats

#6 Animals Super Pack

#7 Gay Pride Unicorns

What makes a good sticker pack?

Beats me, but here is what I noticed:

  • Colors — You want the sticker pack to pop out. Keeping it brighter than your competition will drive more traffic.
  • Keep it broad — For instance we have the Animals Super Pack. It isn’t a Pandas sticker pack, but instead it has all the animals. Super Sweet Treats is the same in that regard. It isn’t just donuts. Its a wider range of treats.
  • Generic key words — The titles are all pretty generic, and the key words we put in are broad.
  • Quantity — You want a good set of stickers in your pack. 10 wont do. You want to fill up the screen in your preview screenshot at the very least. The more options you have, the better. Flowers Galore has over 100 stickers in the pack and its our most downloaded sticker pack.
  • Quality — Quality matters. Users don’t want a crap sticker. They want a poop emoji that sparkles.
  • Audience — Know your audience. Young people are your demographic here. They want hip, trendy, and unique sticker packs that can make them look cool and speak for them. They are an extension of the self.
  • Bigger is better — You have 3 options for sizes for your stickers (small, medium and large). Never use small, and be smart about using large sizes. If the stickers have typography, stick with a large size. If you don’t know what size to use, stick with medium.

Conclusion

The iMessage sticker store is really hard to find. I had to find a youtube video just to show my friends how to download and use my stickers. This is beyond our control as developers.

According to the latest WWDC, the new iOS 11 will have a more prominent store in the iMessage app which should really shake things up for us. I’m excited to see exactly how these new changes will effect our sticker pack downloads. I bet we will see a massive boost in our day to day installs a few months after the release of iOS 11.

For now we put out a ridiculous Trump sticker pack called Load of Covfefe. It is pretty horrifying and has received zero downloads since it was released earlier this month. I guess if there is one thing to take away from this article it’s don’t make Trump stickers.

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RARDOZ

I’m a nerdy mad scientist witch boy living in sunny Seattle.