Unlike a few years ago when the app market was in its infancy, the main challenge is no longer making it on to the virtual shelves, but rather surviving once a user downloads the app. The store is an easy threshold to reach. Once done, two other barriers block an application’s success, leading to the 99.998% death rate among apps.
There are three major benchmarks an application must reach in order to have a chance at success:
Benchmark 1: Securing Store Placement
Most professional developers have a relatively easy time gaining visibility on stores like Appstore or Google Play. After a publisher submits its application (assuming it boasts the right graphical assets and is bug-free), it takes between 2 hours on Android to 2 weeks for Apple to reference the app. But a mention by one of these stores hardly means anything considering the app is competing with 1.2 (1) million others.
Once available for purchase, there are two ways to gain awareness: through an optimized ASO (Application Search Optimization) or a featured placement. Being featured used to be the Holy Grail for publishers. However, now application store managers have created more than 100 end head display, limiting the impact of any featuring. Featuring used to generate up to 500,000 downloads world wide, but with the new country-by-country, category-specific approach featuring now generates as low as 10,000 downloads. It is good for the ego, but barely moves the needle in terms of gaining sufficient downloads. On top of that, the stores have developed a series of tools that favors apps based on growth and ratings, making it harder to compete as a new app. Business relationships still a contribute to gaining premium placement, but it is not guaranteed anymore. Scoring an editorial or preferred placement is just as cut-throat. The decision depends on an editorial committee reviewing 60 applications in a weekly 60 minutes meeting. No mercy for even minor mistakes.
Benchmark 2: Spurring Users to Download
Assuming, in the middle of the 1.2M applications, you have been visible and attractive, 65% of the users in US have not downloaded an application in the last 3 months (2) —a grim statistic for publishers. Once the application is downloaded you’re only two-thirds of the way. You are in the handset of the end user but surrounded by an average of 30 other applications on the phone.
Benchmark 3: Becoming Indispensable to the User
The concentration of usage makes the selection tougher. Indeed only 10 to 12 applications are used on monthly basis. Consider the 12 applications the average user has. One is for for email, one for calendar, and one social, which leaves 9 slots available. In other words, the race starts with 1.2 million competitors and finishes with 9 potential winners. As an application publisher, the probability to be selected and used by an average user is 0,0008%!
It also means that as a publisher, if you manage to have 1.2 million monthly unique users you are performing 100 times better than the average publisher, with 12 million users you are doing 10 000 times better and so on…
The picture becomes even more challenging if you look at the usage. Assuming Comscore ability to track time spent is accurate, 2/3 of the usage is dedicated to just three applications (2).
News is becoming a leading category
Therefore the main question becomes what are the most successful categories.
The expected answer is social. But surprisingly news is pacing just behind social and messaging apps. News application has a 91% penetration rate in US (weather apps were removed from this category), according to Comscore, positioning it as a leading category. Compare that to the high-performing social apps: according to a study in April, 94% of users launched a social app, while just 72% launched a game app.
These findings indicate news and social are outpacing games.
So what to learn from this funnel ?
6 take-aways :
- Being in the application store is a prerequisite but has virtually no value. As one application manager loves to claim: “Featuring is not marketing”, and therefore your acquisition channel has to be built outside the store.
- Preload directly in the handset by the OEM is a powerful go-to market. It gives the opportunity to shortcut 99,9975% of your competitors.
- With so few slots available, and such tiny number applications used, you have to stand out among competitors across categories and prove indispensable to users. In other words, the key is to be addictive.
- User loyalty is far more important than you think. Many publishers are focused on the visible part of the iceberg: downloads and install base. But as demonstrated in this article, your ability to keep users will make the difference on the long run.
- Be proud of each user you have. Having a user on mobile is highly competitive game, having millions is an amazing achievement that demonstrates your skill and your expertise of the field.
- Besides email and social, news is performing surprisingly well, outpacing the more visible games category.
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(1) number of application on the Appstore announced at the WDC
(2) Comescore report