Apps Are Dead: It’s All About Channels in 2017

Talk about app retention and usage seems to be the new black as we race into 2017.

Talk about application retention and usage seems to be the new black as we race into 2017.

For all of us who strategize around installs and retention, there is some good news. A report from IDC tells us that we can expect the number of app installs to increase from 156 billion in 2015 to 210 billion in 2020, which is a year-on-year growth rate of around 6.3 percent. There is some bad news, too, however: The majority of apps have to prove their worth in one day.

Mobile marketing company Appboy reports that fewer than 25 percent of people return to an app the day after initial install, and overall app retention drops to around 11 percent within a week of install. After 45 days, that number is less than 5 percent, before hitting 4.1 percent after 90 days.

A lot of thinking and money goes into marketing, in-app promotions, placement in the iOS and Android stores, and rightfully so. In order to sustain an app business, you need a team of people that are solely focused on sourcing users and retaining those users post-download.

There are, however, a few lessons that can be learned from similar industries that have done an amazing job of sourcing community and keeping them engaged. These are lessons that app developers, marketers and strategists should be trying to integrate into their own businesses on a daily basis.

What the social networks got right, and what you need to be thinking about

Why are Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram and Twitter so popular? Their platforms not only give people a voice, they also keep us engaged with friends and family in unique ways. At the same time, these online networks let users establish their own identities and share interests and ideas.

Back in the day when the concept of social networking took flight, it quickly took off, and founders spent time iterating on new ideas and transforming their platforms into channels where people felt welcome and actively engaged on a daily basis.

What’s the big lesson here? Think about the elements of your app that engage users. What keeps them coming back regularly? Are you optimizing and building out updates around those features?

In 2017, app companies need to start thinking beyond the install and in-app transactions (things they should be thinking about already) and spend more time focusing on how they transform their app into something that users want to come back to on a daily basis.

It’s all about the data and not so much the brand … in the beginning

My thought, as I wrote the header for this section, is that many readers are likely cringing and thinking to themselves, “Who is this idiot? Of course the brand also matters.” And yes, I agree with you: The brand does matter. In the beginning, however, don’t think so much about the brand. Do what you can to get by and present a viable product that people will start to know and love. Focus instead on optimizing against the data and elements of your app that really matter to your users. As you acquire more users, harness that data to help create a strong acquisition and retention path.

We see advertisers using data in both the online and offline worlds in some of the most unique ways, and this is an area we (the app world) and our own acquisition and retention channels–the Googles and Facebooks of the world–are just wrapping our brains around. The power of data will become even more prevalent in 2017. Being on the cusp and riding this data wave is where every app developer needs to be.

Content is still king

As data becomes a more powerful tool, it will also be useful as you start to think more about your app as a channel. For example, content is a big driver in the world of social networks. The Facebook News Feed, Instagram photos, Twitter posts–this is all content that people can view, like, share and comment on. It also helps to proliferate these platforms and drive users and daily usage.

As we–meaning my team and I– iterate and evolve our channel, we look to the data on how users consume our content. This helps us plan a product roadmap and releases that keep them coming back for more.

What is your content, and are people coming back for that content on a regular basis? If not, you need to start thinking about ways to make content king. If they are coming back again and again, you need to understand why they are coming back and how you can optimize and plan to bring them more of what they love.

Every industry evolves, and with millions and likely billions of apps on the horizon, finding your niche and your customer and harnessing the power of the channel is going to be key in the coming year.

You’ve got the data, the content and the brains to think about how to move forward. Now get out there and figure out what your channel looks like and how your users will consume your brand of content–daily.

Alex Betancur is the co-founder of mobile app publisher Lucktastic.


Image courtesy of Shutterstock.