Why Apps Fail to Take Off: Things to Avoid

Smartphones drive the mobile technology industry for their portability and ease of use. Despite so many apps in the marketplace, the average smartphone user literally downloads zero apps each month, so you can just imagine how many apps fail!

According to ComScore, only one-third of smartphone users download at least an app per month, with the majority downloading an average of 1-3 apps. That’s an indication that more than 100,000 apps are being added to the Google Play Store each month end up lying at the bottom of the pit.

That’s an incredibly large number of mobile apps, but what are the reasons for such a significant app failure?

Reasons for Prevalent App Failure

It takes technical insight, creativity, and strategic marketing efforts to create a successful app. While apps are utilized more today than ever before, users don’t download them quite as often. It simply means that a select few apps have dominated the overwhelming market share. Therefore, it is crucial for app developers to solve real problems with their products and perform fundamental research before writing any code.

One reason why apps fail is to do with usability issues. In fact, statistics indicate that less than 0.01% of mobile apps become commercially successful. This is counterintuitive given that the app market has grown exponentially over the last couple of years, currently representing about 52% of the time users spend with digital media. In fact, 7 out of 8 minutes of mobile media consumption is spent via apps. In addition, US users on average have 42 apps on smartphones and 35 on tablets. 

When you dig deeper into these insights, you’ll be surprised that the app market isn’t quite what it looks like. The app marketplace is saturated with apps for nearly every possible function, but users seem to be content with what’s already provided. So, unless you develop an app that solves an exact problem, you may just form part of the statistic of app developers that sink into oblivion. 

Another reason apps fail is that Apple’s app store doesn’t seem to allow for much discoverability, causing millions of frustrated users to ditch the below-par search functionalities and resort to downloading from the featured “top 25” apps on the list. So, you’ll need to employ a unique marketing approach to push your product up the ladder by making it discoverable.

Only 200 Apps Dominate the Entire Market

Statistics from Nielsen indicate that the top 200 apps in the market account for 70% of total US smartphone app usage. So, how many apps fail? A follow-up study by comScore that analyzed the top 25 mobile apps in America also confirmed that Facebook was the top app with more than 115.4 million unique monthly visitors, representing an impressive 72% penetration rate

Having said that, here are the key reasons why apps fail and what you can do differently to penetrate the market:

1: Lack of Originality

The App Store is incredibly oversaturated with unoriginality. Not surprisingly, you can find “Ubers” for all kinds of services, including Uber for Alcohol known as “Minibar,” Uber for dog walkers known as “Wag,” Uber for Pizza known as “Push for Pizza,” and the list is endless.

All these apps are based on concepts that have literally dominated the covers of most high-impact global publications for years. Suppose the unique and innovative aspects of someone’s idea for an app have already dominated top spots in the Wired Magazine or ranked in the iTunes “top 25 apps” list. In that case, the idea is neither unique nor innovative. 

Both Uber and Airbnb had a strong value proposition accompanied by a unique execution style, so there’s no chance you’re going to dislodge them from the top positions. Instead, try something unique that solves emerging problems.

2: Failure to Identify Your Target Users

In a recent survey of App Store entrepreneurs and developers, most people reported that app development offers no financial rewards. In fact, more than 67% of app developers were not making adequate money to sustain their business. Yet, surprisingly, the majority of these developers created apps that they personally needed. In fact, 49% of the developers reported that their primary goal for creating the app was to satisfy their own needs.

But that aside, statistics indicate that nearly 1 in 4 users drop an app after a single use, which points to two critical issues in the UX, UI, and growth strategies that app developers employ these days. Developers rarely spend time to study and identify a viable need before developing their products. And when they do create the app, they don’t research how users expect the product to function. If you want to succeed in the app industry, avoid creating products that appeal to you and assume that other users will simply buy-in. Instead, act in real data insights to understand what your users truly desire.

3: Failure to Solve Real Problems                            

Whether it’s an app development or any other business venture, even the most intuitive idea won’t succeed if there is no genuine demand for it. Unfortunately, thousands of app developers design in the dark and release products in the day, only to be perplexed by mediocre outcomes. So first, verify that the market demands your idea by studying the problem your product seeks to solve. In other words, begin by examining the problem and then extrapolate the solution from there. That way, you’ll be able to take a more calculated approach to your concept development.

Through concept verification, you can ensure that your app is something users would likely download. Afterward, you’ll need to go further to retain those users by creating an in-app UX experience. It’s always wise to introduce user research at the very beginning to help develop a product that is centered on the user, solves real problems, and delivers on its promises. This also helps with quality process improvement to ensure that users keep using your product long after they’ve downloaded it.

4: Choosing the Wrong Platform

If you’re developing a mobile app, you can choose between the two most popular mobile app platforms: Android and iOS. However, your ultimate choice will depend on your target audience and the features you want your product to have.

Think carefully through the decision since developing an app for Android is quite different than developing for iOS. Moreover, if your target audience is in the US, you might want to choose an Android app since 53.3% of US smartphone users own Android devices, while 44.9% have Apple devices. However, an Android app is about 30% more expensive to develop than iOS, so the choice is not as straightforward as you might assume.

5: Inadequate Software Testing

One of the biggest problems with apps today is inadequate performance testing before the product is released into the market. According to a Blancco study, 58% of iOS apps crash due to inadequate software testing. Creating a bug-free app is challenging, but it’s the responsibility of the app developers to carry out thorough product testing before finally launching it to provide quality assurance.

Here are some examples of tests you’ll want to perform:

  • Usability testing
  • Performance testing
  • Security testing
  • Function/feature testing

During testing, be sure to document results to help identify your app’s weak points. Also, note the results of every test you perform for reference purposes if problems arise later. 

It’s Possible to Create a Successful App!

The app industry is a highly competitive market, but with proper preparation and an understanding of why apps fail, you’ll be better equipped to face the competition. Always conduct extensive research, choose the right development platform, and execute the plan you’ve laid out for your developers.