How App Stores Can Compete With Android Market

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Amazon last week took a big step toward opening its own Android app store by launching a developer portal and inviting app creators to submit their wares. The online retailing behemoth hopes to create a kind of upscale alternative to Android Market, vetting apps to make sure they perform as advertised before they can be downloaded by consumers.

Such efforts are just one example of how Android Market’s shortcomings have created a variety of opportunities for those willing to get into the app-distribution business. And there’s plenty of room — from online retailers to social networks to pure-play startups — who want to tap the ever-expanding Android audience.

To lure users away from Google’s Android Market and toward a third-party storefront, though, app distributors must meet a few key challenges:

  • Attract developers. Retailers must make it easy and cheap (or free) for app developers to sign on and get to market. Make the development and submission process painless, and help developers who have problems tweaking their apps for your store. Offer premium placement and other marketing tactics for great apps, and be flexible and creative when it comes to sharing download revenues.
  • Vet and test your apps. Android Market’s biggest weakness for consumers is its lack of oversight, so competitors need to make sure their storefronts carry only top-notch stuff. Not only should apps make good on their claims, they must be tested for malware and to ensure they’re not pulling any shenanigans when it comes to sharing user information. If you can’t differentiate yourself from Google’s storefront through quality, you’ll lose. But it’s also important to have clear-cut policies regarding your approval policies (unlike Apple’s opaque rules for approval to its App Store) and to tell rejected developers exactly why their offerings weren’t accepted.
  • Fill a niche. Amazon has the muscle to establish a massive app storefront and compete with Android Market head-on. But other smaller retailers should find a specific demographic market or app genre to lure consumers. The startup BloomWorlds, for instance, is targeting parents by distributing family-friendly Android apps, which is a sound strategy considering some of the racy stuff kids could come across in Google’s store.

Of course, these steps alone don’t guarantee success, and numerous other challenges face online retailers looking to compete with the Android Market. For more, read my column at GigaOM Pro (subscription required).

Image source: Flickr user superwebdeveloper

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