Why App Growth Isn’t Important Anymore

August 16, 2017

8:30 am

Is app growth obsolete? The numbers in a couple recent studies make it seem so.

Companies are seeing a sharp decrease or complete halt in downloads. Even the biggest app publishers notice growth moving at a snail’s pace. A recent report showed that the top 15 apps exhibited a 20 percent decline year-over-year, accompanied by only a 3 percent growth. Meanwhile, ComScore’s mobile app report indicates that half of smartphone users download zero apps per month.

Still, app development is far from going out of style. In fact, the total number of iOS apps available in Apple’s App Store has reached 2.2 million,  almost double of what it was three years ago.

So, given this huge increase in available apps, what has happened to impede the growth of the once explosive app marketplace?

The App Hype is Over

When Apple first unleashed the famous 2009 tagline, “There’s an app for that,” they meant it. Games, shopping portals, quick reference tools, on-demand music, and social media dominated the app marketplace and saw steady growth as the smartphone rose to power.

But now, smartphones are no longer novel. They’re ubiquitous, and the app hype has worn itself thin. Already satisfied with their current assortment of apps, people don’t tend to search for new ones (that is, unless something game-changing comes along–Uber and Snapchat have both experienced tremendous app growth in the past couple years, more than doubling their user bases in a single year).

Another theory is that there’s no longer just “an app for that;” there are too many apps for everything. With competition riding on the coattails of others’ successes, the app market remains flooded with so many duplicates and spinoff apps that it’s hard to differentiate between the original and its successors. And if any of those similar apps come at a freemium price, you can bet you’ll see your numbers drop.

Engagement, Not Downloads

Still, the trend away from app downloads doesn’t mean you should pull the plug on your app strategy. App growth numbers are only one part of the bigger picture. With the end of the app hype, it’s less important to focus on number of downloads and more important to keep users engaged.

Take Facebook and Amazon as examples. They can’t find many new users; after all, lots of people already have their apps installed. But despite their low app growth, each continues to drive record-breaking app revenue. Why? Because rather than focus on increasing the download rate, they engage existing users with their apps.

While purpose, usability, and design are essential components of successful apps, they still aren’t the entire answer when it comes to app engagement. Even if your app appears interesting, well-designed, and pleasant to use, your users might fail to see its everyday value. And app downloads don’t mean much if your users abandon it after just a few months and nearly 80 percent of them do.

Nearly all app time on smartphones happens within a user’s single most used app. So how can your app become a person’s daily go-to?

Emerging Solutions in Marketing

This is where marketing is key, and a good strategy for maximizing engagement is to market your app to a narrower audience. Rather than try to get as many people as possible to download your app, you can tailor your advertising to a specific type of person. This increases the likelihood that those who do download your app actually use it, as it puts your app directly in the path of the most likely users.

Targeted advertising can be used to encourage app downloads–but it shouldn’t be the only focus. It’s up to app developers, of course, to decide what new features they should add to increase their app’s appeal. But whatever features they choose, they should prioritize a marketing strategy that targets those who’ve already demonstrated potential interest.

A few strategies already serve as creative examples for marketing apps to the right people. Some mobile advertising companies create rewarded video ads which, though optional, incentivize the user to watch with in-app rewards. Rewarded video ads, which are most often situated in mobile games, directly appeal to viewers by employing themes similar to those in the relevant gaming app.

Regardless of your app marketing strategy, the point is that aiming for app downloads is no longer relevant. Instead, you should focus on engaging existing users to ensure that your app doesn’t go neglected. In the over-saturated and continuously growing app market, you do not need a million downloads to achieve success. More does not always mean better.

Read more about mobile app strategies at TechCo

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Shachar is Ranky's Co-Founder. He dreams about Growth, wakes up to the Tweets of birds and he's literally a Social person. He is also a soccer fan and gadgets addict. Stalk him on Google+ and Twitter.