Viewpoint: Just One More App in a Sea of Millions

Apps have been on my mind lately, perhaps because tomorrow in London we’ll be hosting the latest in our Mobile Marketing Summits series, looking at the intricate art of app marketing. The facts around apps, particularly when it comes to churn, are frightening.

According to research from Urban Airship, based on a study of 63m app users, only five per cent of app users will still be using an app 90 days after they open it for the first time. For the vast majority of users, your app becomes one of many gathering digital dust.

When I came across this stat, I was curious to know how the apps I’ve taken the time and trouble to download fare in this respect, so I did a quick count and found that my iPhone 6 is home to no less than 126 apps. Of these, I reckon I use about a dozen on a daily or every few days basis; the likes of Mail, Google Maps, Thetrainline, The Weather Channel, Facebook, Twitter, Spotify, Uber and Shazam. So about 10 per cent of my installed base.

Now I may be a special case, because the nature of my work means I sometimes download apps because I need to check them out for something I’m writing, so I asked a colleague this week how many apps she has on her phone. “Oh hardly any” she told me. “Only the ones I really need.” I asked her to count them anyway, just to humour me. She did, and in fact, she had 35. When I asked her how many she used on a fairly regular basis, she counted them up and told me, six.

Conversion rate
And that’s if you can get as far as getting the download in the first place. One user acquisition specialist I spoke to recently told me that the conversion rate for people arriving at an app store after clicking on an app install ad was between one and 20 per cent.

So even when a consumer has shown that much intent, most of them don’t bother to install the app, because the ratings or the images or the description, or maybe all three, are not good enough. In fact, this same specialist told me, the first thing his team does when a brand comes to them with an app and a budget to advertise it is to check out the app first hand. Then in many instances, the next move is to tell the brand to go and fix the app before they waste any money trying to drive downloads of it.

With around 1,500 new apps being released into the Apple App Store alone each day, according to figures from Sensor Tower, it’s a problem that’s only going to get worse. So what can brands do? It’s a subject we’ll be exploring in much more detail tomorrow, but in essence, work on your app store optimisation – images, keywords, descriptions and ratings. Try to solicit ratings from people you know are loyal customers, or those currently saying nice things about you on social media.

Don’t use download numbers as your key KPI. What counts is attracting the right type of user, and you have to accept that you will probably have to pay more to reach these people. Once your app has been downloaded seek permission to engage with your users via push notifications, but remember the value exchange – give them a good reason why they should want you to send them push notifications, maybe in the form of news, alerts or special offers.

Above all else though, look at the app itself. Eat your own dog food. Is using the app a good experience? If not, put your effort into fixing it first before wasting money on an app install campaigns. Otherwise, you’re not so much driving downloads, as disappointment.