Google Play adopts App Store-like features including in-app events and custom product pages

At Google’s I/O developer conference, the company rolled out a series of updates for Android app developers who publish to Google Play. Among these were two high-profile changes to its Google Play app marketplace, custom store listings and in-app events, which follow updates Apple made to its own App Store just last year.

Google had been offering A/B testing for product page enhancements since 2015 — a feature that allows developers to see which text and graphics would best convert users.

Apple later adopted a similar feature when, at last year’s Worldwide Developer Conference, it introduced Product Page Optimization designed to help developers to try out different app screenshots, videos and even app icons to try to appeal to different types of users. Developers could segment a certain percentage of App Store traffic to these cohorts to see which product pages performed better before deciding which page should be their default.

Apple last year also announced a related feature called Custom Product Pages that lets developers create different product pages to highlight different app features, each with its own unique URL to be used in external marketing channels.

Today, Google is following suit and essentially launching the same thing with Custom Store Listings.

Instead of simply testing different product pages, Android app developers will be able to make up to 50 custom store listings for their apps. Each page will have its own analytics and deep links available. Notably, this is more listings than Apple’s solution offers, which is currently set at 35 per app. Google explains developers can use this feature to display different listings to users based on where they’re coming from. For example, a developer with a recipe-finding app could target ad campaigns to U.S. users based on U.S. holidays, by showcasing recipes for Thanksgiving or Fourth of July. But it could target users from other markets at different times with recipes related to their own cultural traditions.

Apple last year also introduced an App Store feature, in-app events, to allow developers to promote real-time happenings going on inside their apps — like special events or even just seasonal deals.

Google Play is now rolling out its own take on this feature, as well.

With the launch of what it’s calling “LiveOps,” developers will be able to submit content for featuring on the Play Store, including major updates for their app or game, in-app events and limited-time offers.

Google says LiveOps can drive 5% more 28-day active users to apps and deliver 4% higher revenue for those using the feature compared with those who don’t. The feature is in an invite-only beta testing phase for the time being.

While these changes were the highlights among those designed to help developers target, acquire and reengage their users, Google also announced a few other notable Google Play updates.

The company said the Play Store would be updated to help people find the best tablet-optimized apps with new large-screen focused editorial content and a separate review and rating system for large-screen applications. Google Play will also later this year be updated to look better on tablets and foldable devices.

Image Credits: Google

For developers, Google also launched the Google Play SDK Index, which lists over 100 popular SDKs and which app permissions they use, so developers can determine if they adhere to Google Play policies and help fill out their app’s privacy labels.

The company said it will soon launch a new Play Console page dedicated to deep links to put all the information and tools for deep links in one place. It also improved its Store Listing Experiments feature (aka A/B testing) to allow developers to see their results more quickly, with more transparency and control so they can better understand how long each experiment may need to run.

And beyond this, it rolled out features focus on improving app quality, including a new Developer Reporting API for accessing Android vitals metrics and issues data outside the Play Console; support for viewing vitals data at the country level; and Google said it’s making it possible to view vitals alongside Firebase Crashlytics. It¬†updated the Play Console by adding revenue and revenue growth metrics to Reach and devices and overhauling its device catalog to include install data and filters by new device attributes like shared libraries. It said it’s now easier to test apps on different form factors including Android Auto and soon, Wear OS.

Play App Signing was updated to use Google Cloud Key Management and the ability for any app to perform an app signing key rotation in the event of an incident or as a security best practice from the Play Console.

And finally, Google’s In-app Updates API will now let users know if there’s an update available within 15 minutes instead of up to 24 hours.