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App Streaming Has Come to Ads: What It Means for Your Business

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As mobile traffic continues to escalate and app-based experiences continue to overtake desktop website experiences, companies are scrambling to maximize visibility and brand exposure in the mobile market. Google, one of the biggest trendsetters in the tech industry, has recently made moves to make apps even more available to mobile users. Now, that move is expanding to the world of advertising, and you need to learn what it means for your business.

The Previous State of App Streaming

In-app content has grown to be more and more popular, but there’s been a significant barrier to user adoption (and user experience overall). Apps are convenient because they forgo the search process altogether; when you want to read a news article, you can pull up a news app, and when you want to access specific functionality, you can bring up the app for it. Users who are looking for general information can find it through traditional web searches and websites.

But what happens if you’re searching for something that exists as content in an app that you don’t currently have installed?

Something like this:

search results on mobile

(Image Source: MarketingLand)

Though this kind of layout might earn a handful of new app downloads, it’s a significant barrier to user adoption.

Google’s solution to this has been the introduction of “app streaming,” which allows users to access certain portions of content from certain apps without ever having to download or install the app on their device.

app streaming

(Image Source: MarketingLand)

This feature isn’t available for all apps, but is currently expanding. Though you could make the argument that such a feature may lead to few app installations, there’s no question that more users would feasibly have access to your app content. Plus, this begins to bridge the gap between app-based SEO and regular, website-based SEO. This will eventually spare search marketers a lot of headaches, but for now is a nifty new feature that favors mobile user experiences.

What’s particularly interesting is how Google is developing this further.

App Streaming Ads

Google has now released a feature called “Search Trial Ads,” which allow users to try out an app for 10 minutes before purchasing it. Currently offered to only a select group of advertisers through AdWords (and only displaying on Android devices), this feature gives users the ability to stream app content, much like in organic results, for a short period of time before requiring a purchase or download of the app itself. Currently, this feature is targeted toward mobile game developers, but could feasibly roll out to other types of apps. Google is offering other new features to game developers, including the ability for users to record themselves playing games (and share the video), and advanced targeting features to reach dedicated gamers.

Major Takeaways for Your Brand

Unless you’re a mobile game developer, this news may not seem that relevant to you, but it suggests a bold new direction for Google’s development, and you have the opportunity to take advantage of it. Consider these main takeaways from the latest development here:

  • Apps are merging with web results. I’ve covered this in the past, but it bears repeating. For the past several years, apps and websites have existed in separate realms, even as users relied on the same mobile devices to access both. For a while, most online marketing analysts predicted that apps were the future and that websites may eventually die away. Now, it looks like the two may be merging together in one comprehensive experience. You’ll need to be ready for this transition as the pace toward it begins to escalate.
  • In-app content is becoming more important. In-app content tends to be more fluid and have more unique opportunities than standard web content. Now that Google is showing off these unique features with app streaming, users will start expecting a higher degree of sophistication and customization from all your content. Though this doesn’t demand you create an app immediately, it does increase the overall value of in-app content.
  • The ad experience is changing. With this move, Google is bringing a new format—and a new experience—to search advertising. No longer limited by simple blocks of text, Google is skipping over the visual/audio experience of video ads and gunning straight for the interactive experience. As more users grow accustomed to such an interactive, unique experience, you can bet that other major tech advertisers—like Facebook and Apple—will offer their own forms of advanced advertising.
  • Users are demanding more information before purchasing. Modern consumers are spoiled with practically infinite information. Before they make a purchasing decision, they’re already used to performing exhaustive research and looking at dozens of consumer reviews. Now they have the ability to try most digital goods hands-on before buying. For consumers, this is a great thing, but for advertisers, this means you need to be more transparent and more accommodating than ever before.

Right now, this feature is somewhat limited in scope and capacity, but as more mobile users grow accustomed to features like “app streaming” in general, you can bet that Google will start doing more to improve mobile app experiences. If you don’t already have an app for your business, there’s no need to scramble to develop one—but think about the potential it would have for the future, and keep it on your back burner as new announcements like these make apps even more valuable.

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Timothy Carter

Timothy is AudienceBloom's Director of Business Development. He combines expertise in online marketing with a passion for helping others build a strategy for success. When not planning his next trip to Hawaii, he's writing at his personal site,

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