Yandex.Store: Alternative App Store in Russia

evgeny kim yandex store

In the Russian version of AppInTop mobile app marketing podcast we talked to Evgeniy Kim, key developer accounts manager at Yandex.Store about promoting mobile apps through its app store in Russia.

Why does Yandex have its own app store, and what role does it play for the company?

Yandex has a mobile ecosystem of apps, built on the Android platform.  These include apps for search, mail and mobile maps.  We also have a browser and cloud data storage.  The store is a logical link in the chain.  Without it, we couldn’t build a complete ecosystem.  For this reason we set up Yandex.Store a year and a half ago.

Yandex has a core product—contextual advertising—and all these additional products draw people to Yandex, and then you sell this audience to advertisers.  How does the store help with this?  Does it also draw in an audience?

No.  We need the ecosystem in order to provide an option to manufacturers of Android devices.  Likewise, the manufacturers of these devices need to interest the end users in these devices, and without a store which sells apps designed for Android devices, the devices themselves become a lot less valuable:  users need somewhere to find games and apps for their smartphones and tablets and to download them from.  Yandex.Store allows them to do this.

Could you tell us how many apps you have in the store right now?  How fast are you growing?  Which markets are you growing fastest in?  Just Russia, or are there others?

Right now we have about 120,000 apps.  As for the rate of growth, approximately two months ago there were 100,000.  We started from zero, with a goal of 40,000 apps.  Our market is mainly Russia, but also the countries where Yandex is developing its services—Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Belarus and Turkey.

On which devices is Yandex.Store available?

Right now Yandex.Store is pre-installed on all Nokia Android devices—this is the Nokia X series of smartphones.  In addition there are the devices with our Yandex.Kit firmware—these are Huawei and Explay.  Plus, if I can just list them, there are OPPO, Lenovo, Fly, teXet, and similar brands which are well-known in Russia.

We have an international partner—Jolla.  They have the Sailfish operating system, which allows you to launch apps on Android devices.  Yandex.Store is preinstalled on that, too.

Say I’m a developer who’s just starting out. How do I start working with Yandex.Store:  what are the conditions, commissions, payments?  Can I work with you as a physical person?  Which of the major publishers work with you?

It takes only a few steps to register in our store. Go to the developer portal, register, enter information about yourself, about the developer, complete payment details, load the apps, publish them, and they’ll be available in Yandex.Store.

The conditions are standard—we pay the developer 70% of sales of their apps and in-app purchases.  As for payments, there are no restrictions where you are located and it doesn’t matter whether you’re an individual or a company.  Payments are made monthly once you reach the level of $100.  This is all spelled out in the terms and conditions, which the developer accepts when he registers.

As for publishers, apart from games, we have a rather large selection of the most popular apps—Vkontakte, Odnoklassniki, Facebook, Twitter, and others like them.

We are now working actively with games publishers.  Right now in the store we have games from publishers like Disney, Gameloft, Electronic Arts, Rovio, Zeptolab, and we recently added Game Insight. We are more focused on the quality, rather than the quantity of games in our store.

What is your policy for moderation of the apps?  Can I upload a gambling app or a betting app?

We have the same standard rules as other app stores for categories of uploadable content.  We don’t have pre-moderation.  An app may be blocked at the request of users, if it somehow violates the rules of the store, or our team of editors might notice an app which doesn’t meet certain standards, and will then inform the developer that his app has been blocked.

One thing we do require when an app is uploaded is that you confirm authorship, so that developers can’t publish someone else’s app.  The confirmation email is sent to the email address for the app given in other app stores. You have to click on the link to confirm that you are really the developer of the app.

In Russia there are different ways to receive payment—credit and debit cards, telephone accounts, etc. What are the most popular?

There are four payment methods in our store:  carrier billing, a bank card, Yandex Money, and recently we added a bonus account. For every purchase made in our store, 10% is credited to this bonus account.  This is a kind of virtual currency which can be used to make purchases.

In Russia the most popular payment method is carrier billing linked to a credit or debit card. Our users mainly pay from their mobile phone account, which works with the three primary operators in Russia—Beeline, Megafon and MTC.

Regardless of the payment method, the developer still gets his fixed 70% share.

Are there any features on your platform a developer can use to promote his app?  Do you have any ways of cataloging apps?  Is there a ‘New Apps’ section?  Can a new developer get 10,000 free installations with no advertising budget?

At present the only free method to promote an app is a banner on the main page.  This promotion is free, and the apps promoted are selected by our team.

Naturally, we are thinking of adding other ways to promote apps.  These include cases where a developer pays for installations made in our store.  That is, when he runs his own ad campaign, selects the desired parameters and pays for every installation made as part of this campaign.

And does the store have a section for “New” or “Interesting” apps?  Do all apps appear there, or only those selected by the editors?

We have those sections.  All apps which were published relatively recently in our store appear there.  They all have a chance.

There is the Editor’s Choice section:  sometimes we put together selections of apps in certain categories.  For example, now we have a selection of music apps, but it could be apps for watching videos—video players, video catalogues, etc, and also games.  In this way we showcase the variety of content in our store.

Does Yandex explain to developers how to design their apps so that they’ll be selected for the Editor’s Choice section?

There is a set of rules which the editors follow.  The most important is that the app doesn’t violate the conditions for using the store.  For example, if the app uses an alternative payment method, outside Yandex.Store, then that app will not be considered for promotion.

Naturally, we select these apps according to criteria like quality, usefulness for users, ratings in the store, and reviews from actual users who have downloaded the app.

We’ll talk to any developer.  You can always contact Yandex.Store technical support and they will forward your question to a staff member who will respond.

How is ranking done in the store?  What affects an app’s position?  

Since our company operates a search engine, there are many parameters, as well as search results for that particular app.

Its rank in other app stores also has some influence on an app’s position in our store.

Do you have ways to combat bogus reviews and ratings and other methods used to artificially boost ratings?

We pay close attention to the growth dynamics of every app and if we see a suspicious surge, we get in touch with the developer.

You’ll just write me a letter, but won’t ban me immediately?

Right.  First we describe the situation, begin a dialogue, and then make a decision based on its results.

How do you ensure that the Store is free of viruses?

Our screening is done jointly with Kaspersky Lab.  We check every app when it is uploaded.  If we find any suspicious files in the app, we don’t publish it and we notify the developer that he can’t upload the app into our store.

If he has any questions, he can contact technical support and we will explain the reason in more detail.

One Platform Foundation — What is this and what solutions does it provide?

One Platform Foundation is an open initiative, and its main goal is to allow developers of mobile apps to minimize their costs when they support alternative stores, like Yandex.Store.  This is an open initiative which Yandex actively supports.

For example, the One Platform Foundation has a universal billing library.  If a developer integrates this into his app, he can in one stroke support stores like Google Play, Amazon, Samsung Apps, Yandex.Store, and other open stores which participate in this initiative.  These include SlideME and Opera.

One Platform Foundation includes other projects, which are also aimed at supporting alternative stores through single build systems for apps.

For example, it’s no secret that the biggest headache for developers uploading an app is to keep it updated in all stores.  The team at the One Platform Foundation are trying to solve this problem.

We openly support the OnePF initiative.  We don’t have our own SDK for other purchases.  We support OnePF.

As a developer I don’t have to pay anything for this?  I just go there, upload my app to all the stores and save time?

Yes.  This is a non-profit organization.  It just provides tools for developers, which they can use to support many stores. The tools are all for Android devices.

You have a product called Yandex.Metrics.  What unique features does it have?  How does it differ from the competition?  Does it have tools to combat fraud?

Unfortunately, I can’t speak in much detail about metrics but I know that our mobile metrics support the major mobile platforms—Android, iOS and Windows Phone.  Its main advantage is that it provides data in real time. Mobile metrics service is free for developers.

This is a translated and edited interview from the Russian version of the AppInTop mobile app marketing podcast produced by AppInTop, an automated mobile app marketing platform. Subscribe to the English version of the podcast via iTunes or TuneIn. If you find our materials useful for your profession, please sign up for a mobile app marketing course here.