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The App Graveyard: Why Apps Fail

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There’s an app for that.

Launched in 2009 to market the 3G iPhone, the ubiquitous catchphrase still resonates. The Apple App Store offers over 500,000 apps and reached 25 billion downloads the first week of March. Additionally, the Android Market offers over 400,000 apps and the RIM BlackBerry App World has 60,000 apps available with over 2 billion downloads.

With close to 1 million different apps available in the market, how do brands create a successful app?

Before answering that question, let’s look at some startling facts and learnings for brands considering launching an app.

  • Stat: Only 20% of apps published by major consumer and healthcare brands globally are successful (getting more than 1,000 downloads). Of those successful apps, only 1% reached over 1 million downloads.
  • Key takeaway: Brands need to understand how to create apps that meet their goals and leverage the technological capabilities of the platforms that enable them.
  • Stat: In 2011, 45% of smartphone users download one app a week on average. 26% of apps downloaded were only used once with a 5% retention rate on free apps after 30 days.
  • Key takeaway: To succeed, we need to understand our audience and their motivations to ensure continual usage.
  • Stat: According to ABI Research, global app downloads are expected to hit 44 billion by 2016, compared to 9 billion in 2010.
  • Key takeaway: To avoid getting lost in the clutter, it is important to create an app that meets customers’ demands rather than simply creating a promotional tool. Only build an app when it addresses an existing customer need.

So, what does it take to make a successful app? Devise a strategy based on your answer to these three questions:

  1. Why are we building something? Who are we building it for?
  2. What are we trying to achieve, and how are we going to measure it?
  3. Starting from top down, what are the business objectives, the key performance indicators, and the associated metrics?

Do you have an app success story or an app post-mortem tale? Share your lessons with us in the comments box below.