Some mobile apps are loved. Some are loathed. What about the rest?
Convincing consumers to download mobile applications is a snap. Subscribers across the globe will download an estimated 17.7 billion applications from mobile app stores in 2011--up from 8.2 billion in 2010, translating to a 117 percent leap--according to data issued earlier this year by research and advisory firm Gartner. Persuading users to return to apps time and again is another story: Last month, real-time mobile app analytics firm Localytics reported that 26 percent of all apps downloaded in 2010 were used only once. Localytics data spanning thousands of Android, iPhone, iPad, BlackBerry and Windows Phone 7 applications indicates that among consumers using an app for the first time between January and March 2010, about 22 percent never opened the app again--the one-time usage rate grew to 26 percent during the second and third quarter, and increased to 28 percent over the fourth quarter.
This week, Localytics turned its attention to the other end of the spectrum: Apps so useful and/or so fun that consumers return to them on more than 10 occasions, weeks or even months after the initial download. Coincidentally enough, the share of repeat customers who accessed an app 10 times or more during the third quarter of 2010 is 26 percent--the same percentage as one-and-done app users. Localytics adds that many customers who use an application over 10 times will go on to access that app hundreds of times, suggesting that once an app becomes part of the user's mobile routine, its relevance only grows over time.
Localytics also fills in some gaps on the apps that fall somewhere between one-time use and steady, double-digit rotation. For example, 13 percent of consumers sample an app twice before giving up on it, 5 percent try it five times, and 2 percent give it nine chances before abandoning ship for good. There's no additional data on this segment of the customer base, but it's fascinating to speculate on their behaviors and the apps they've downloaded. After all, an app must have some redeeming value or potential for a user to return to it two or three additional times--so what happens from there? Do consumers simply give up on an app beyond a certain point? Have they bled dry whatever makes it compelling or useful? Is it a puzzle game they've already solved? According to Localytics, 3 percent of consumers use an app eight times before cutting bait: Exactly what kind of app takes so long to reveal its purpose (or lack thereof)?
A favorite app seems a lot like a favorite song--something that commands your attention from first exposure onward, and doesn't let go. To extend the analogy, a worthless app is like a particularly loathsome song, something you hear once and hope to never hear again. The point is that consumer reaction is instinctive and immediate--it rarely, if ever, requires six or seven listens to determine whether a song is great. You just know. But mobile subscribers seem to be giving the average application far greater opportunity to win them over, going back to it on multiple occasions even if it doesn't knock them out the first time around. They want apps to wow them; some do, most don't. Either way, consumers are giving the majority of them a fair shake. Developers can't ask for more than that. --Jason