Google Play Custom Store Listings & How to Use Them
First introduced in early 2019, custom store listings (CSLs) are a Google Play Developer Console feature. Custom store listings enable app developers to create an alternative version of their app’s default store listing page, which will be served to a particular segment of their audience.
Over the years, Google has added multiple targeting options for custom store listings, granting app developers even more options than Apple offers with custom product pages (the iOS equivalent to CSLs). These options can, however, be somewhat confusing when it comes to practical situations in which to use a custom store listing. That is why, today we take a look under the hood to help you assess if custom store listings are a feature for you, and how you can get the most out of them.
What do custom store listings do?
Custom store listings allow you to create an alternative version of your default store listing in which you can change any and all text fields and creatives that are used in your default page for any of the languages available in the Play Store. Concretely, this means you can create an alternative store listing page with a different:
- App name
- Short description
- Full description
- App Icon
- Feature graphic
Each custom store listing you create can be written in all Play Store languages. With up to 50 custom store listings, marketers are given a lot of options to build dedicated versions of their store listing for each major segment of their audience, and accurately target users with specific offers and value propositions.
Additionally, Google is building an AI-powered description generator for custom store listings to help developers draft custom store listings based on their default listing’s description. The AI-generated text can help draft a similar message with a particular seasonal theme and tone of voice and target a specific user status (new, existing, inactive or lapsed users).
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Types of custom store listings and use cases
While the customization options offered by custom store listings are amazing for marketers looking to build different “landing pages” for the Play Store, the key question when deciding to create a CSL is how will users reach the CSL rather than the default listing. In fact, this question is first asked by Google when developers create a CSL in the Google Play Developer Console and need to choose a targeting setting.
Country-specific custom store listings
Country-specific targeting is the first type of targeting made available by Google for custom store listings since 2019. While developers are able to create a default store listing available for 71 different languages (and 15 “local variants” such as Canadian French), having language-based pages can cause difficulties for developers who need to oversee which users see which store listing page. This is because their app may not include the same contents or offers.
Such instances are perfect use cases of when to create a country-specific custom store listing:
- A movie and TV streaming app in Latin America may want to highlight a particular show to its Colombian users, while a specific movie would appeal more to their Peruvian audience. While a single store listing page in “Spanish – Latin America” would force the developer to choose which of the two to highlight first in Play Store screenshots, building a country-specific CSL for Peru will allow to properly highlight the movie in that market. On the other hand, the TV show can be positioned in the first screenshot for other countries covered by the default store listing using the “Spanish – Latin America” language.
- Somewhat similarly, a subscription app offering a 10% discount on all plans to its Belgian users will want to avoid showcasing the offer in its default store listing page in “French.” This could be due to the fear that French users may leave negative user reviews for not being able to redeem the offer. Instead, using a country-specific CSL will allow not only to promote the offer to French-speaking Belgian users, but also offers the possibility to promote the offer to Dutch-speaking Belgian users by adding a Dutch-language translation in the same CSL.
- Finally, apps looking to optimize their creatives for the US market sometimes struggle to get decisive results from their A/B tests using Google Play Experiments for their “English – United States” store listings. One possible explanation for these issues can be that with “English-US” as your app’s default language, your A/B test samples become less reliable since they include non-US traffic. In that case, building a CSL for the US specifically can help isolate US traffic from “rest of the world” traffic that is directed to the default store listing page.
Custom store listings by install state
As of May 2023, the only “install state” for which Google Play allows the creation of a custom store listing is “pre-registered users.” This gives app developers an option, available only in some countries, to show a different store listing in countries where the app is not yet available, but users can pre-register to have it automatically downloaded on their devices on launch day. Therefore, while this option can be somewhat “niche,” it is an interesting opportunity for apps looking to progressively expand to new markets.
In May 2023, Google also confirmed during its I/O Conference that it would release a new user status for custom store listings targeting to allow developers to build custom store listings for inactive users. It is not yet clear how Google will establish a user is “inactive” and/or whether it will be possible to also target uninstalled users with such CSLs.
However, a likely use case for these CSLs will be for long-standing apps to build a CSL highlighting more of their recent content and features to engage with inactive and former users of the app. The default store listing page will be utilized to focus more on core features that appeal to users discovering the app for the first time.
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Custom store listings by Google Ads campaign
Another type of CSLs announced by Google during its 2023 I/O conference have been custom store listings by Google Ads campaign. These will allow app developers using Google ads to link their ads to a specific CSL rather than to the default store listing, with the expected benefit to improve the store conversion rate of this referral traffic and, therefore, decrease the Cost Per Install (CPI) of the ads.
While this targeting is likely to become the most frequent use case for custom store listings for many apps, it is important to note that custom store listings by Google Ads campaign will only be compatible with some of Google Ads’ inventories (specifically YouTube and InMobi). Developers will likely not be able to combine custom store listings with Play Store search results ads, unlike Apple’s custom product pages, which can be used for Apple Search Ads.
Tips to maximize the efficiency of custom store listings
With an increased limit of 50 custom store listings per app, developers have many options at their disposal to improve communications with their audience. However, building 50 different custom store listings requires many resources, and most developers will likely need to prioritize which ones should be built first. To that end, you can consider building a CSL backlog and prioritize ideas based on the following:
1) Identify which segments in your user base engage least with your default store listing’s messaging.
Just like with A/B tests, the most important changes are likely to deliver the highest uplifts in conversion rate, so it’s important to start with segments that are the most likely to react to a custom message. If several segments “compete” for this spot, remember to also review the share of traffic they represent.
2) Make sure to clearly state what is the goal for each custom store listing you build.
Not all CSLs have to deliver an improvement in your store listing to install ratio, but each CSL should have a stated goal that helps you measure its usefulness. For instance, improving the subscription rate of a particular audience segment can be attempted with a CSL, but this will require you to guarantee that this segment can be properly tracked.
3) Verify that custom store listings fit in the user journey of your target segment.
Though the variety in CSL-types offers many options, there are still some user funnels that are hard to reach with a custom store listing. For instance, if 80% of the segment you want to target reaches your store listing via Play Store Search, using a custom store listing to target them will be difficult.
4) Don’t forget to run A/B tests on your custom store listings using Google Play Experiments.
Just as with default store listings, iterating on your creatives and text metadata can deliver better conversion and help fight creative fatigue from your target users.
5) Tailor your message to specific countries.
One custom store listing can target several countries at once, and/or include several translations. That means you can deliver a message tailored to one specific country or a subset of countries in several languages that are spoken there. For instance, let’s say your retail app offers free shipping to the US and Canada, but not the rest of the world, and your main store listing uses English – US as the default store listing for the entire world. By creating a custom store listing targeting only the US and Canada, and uploading specific translations and assets in “English – US,” “Spanish-US,” “English – CA,” and “French – CA,” you can highlight the benefits of free shipping to all your American and Canadian users without being at risk from having other users complain that you are falsely advertising you offer free shipping.
Using custom store listings is becoming a must for developers wanting to expand their conversion rate optimization efforts. The growing number of CSL types is a welcomed addition to Play Store marketing tools. As a result, you should try to test them early enough in your marketing mix and identify which combinations of segment, CSL type, and messaging works best for your app. To that end, remember to also leverage audience insights and benchmark data you can find using AppTweak.