We all know what app failure means. Perhaps the most telling statistic regarding app success points to its rarity. A recent study shows that 0.5% of consumer apps and 13% of business apps are successful.
So does this mean starting an app for your business is a futile exercise?
Apps are the primary medium through which people engage on smartphones. And since smartphones are ubiquitous now, it only makes sense for businesses to consider app development.
Studying how and why apps fail helps you understand what it takes to achieve success in the app market. Before we get into the reasons why apps fail, let’s first try to understand what app success looks like.
When is an app considered a ‘success’?
We earlier cited a report that suggests that one out of 10,000 apps actually succeeds in the market.
One good question to ask here is how an app is considered a ‘success’ or ‘failure’. Is it a simple case of ‘pass’ or ‘fail’ or are there other factors at play?
There are no defined criteria for calling an app-venture successful. Let’s say you start an app and it gets 500 downloads in the first two months. The average daily active and weekly active users are somewhere around 100 and 250 respectively.
Is this app succesful? You may consider it a failure based on the low number of downloads. However, the active user ratios appear quite solid. Additionally, if the app business doesn’t have a sizable acquisition budget, the download volume is understandable.
One could even argue that the active users’ data is very impressive and shows that the app is well-built and showing potential.
Many factors determine success. There are two ways you can measure your app success:
- Competitor comparison: Compare your app with other listings similar to your own. If you’re too far behind, there is something going wrong and you may need to consider a different way to improve and promote your app.
- Create benchmarks: Before launching your app, create benchmarks for crucial app KPIs like downloads, traffic, screen time, and so on. These benchmarks must be rooted in how you plan to promote your app and improve how it looks and works.
Why do apps fail?
So why do apps fail? Now that we know how success can be measured, what are the mistakes businesses make while running their app?
The list is long, but we’ve boiled it down to five broad reasons businesses see their apps fail on the app stores.
#1: Stuck in the wrong development cycle
App development is the most crucial part of an app’s life cycle. The core of your business is based on how your app is built in the first place.
To begin, it’s important to know that there are two ways you can get an app built for your business: custom and DIY app development.
Custom app development refers to the traditional process of creating a mobile app with coding. Businesses generally hire developers and development agencies to get an app built for their business.
DIY app development essentially means development without code. This is done via automated platforms that enable users to automatically create mobile apps without coding.
Custom vs no-code app development
Let’s take two scenarios to understand both these options well.
In case one, there’s a large company with an established technology team. Choosing custom development makes sense because the company has the resources to build a viable app from scratch.
More to the point, the presence of a technology team ensures that the company should be able to manage the app seamlessly after launch. Any improvements that are pressing can be made because there’s a team to do it.
In case two, we have a small startup with a limited tech team. For the sake of convenience, let’s assume the company has sufficient starting capital to get an app built from scratch.
Once the app is built, the challenge is improving it based on how your users and customers react. This is where the problems arise. It is difficult for a limited tech team to improve the app significantly.
Keep in mind, many small businesses and startups don’t even have a tech team to start with.
Why do DIY app builders make sense?
In case two, a bad development choice can make it difficult for a business to change the app based on user behavior and preferences.
In essence, the business cannot optimize the app because of the way it has been built.
A simple solution to this problem is to build apps with DIY mobile app creators and bypass the many issues associated with custom development.
If you’re a small business, this is a better choice for many reasons:
- It takes little to no time to build a mobile app with DIY mobile app builders.
- The process doesn’t involve any coding. This means an can be built without a team of developers or an outside agency.
- Instead of paying a huge investment to get an app built, you can pay a small recurring fee or a nominal one-time amount to use any given mobile app builder platform.
- It is easy to deploy app changes and updates once it’s live on the app stores. Most no-code platforms enable you to manage your app from a dedicated control panel.
Furthermore, DIY platforms are improving all the time with new features. It would soon make sense for big companies to choose no-code platforms to create apps as well.
#2: Wrong approach to app store optimization
App store optimization (ASO) is the practice of optimizing an app store listing to ensure its organic visibility increases.
How does it work? Let’s say you have an app that sells running shoes. It would make sense to add words and phrases to your app store listing that your audience would search for. This can mean words like running shoes, buy running shoes, and so on.
You can use a keyword research tool to find all the relevant keywords.
Bad ASO basically means your app listing is not optimized correctly for your target keywords.
There can be many reasons your app’s ASO is not working. Here are a few reasons why you may not be getting downloads via organic app store search and all you can do to fix these missteps:
- Bad keywords: Take a look at your keyword set. Do your keywords have enough volume? If yes, are they relevant to your particular niche? What are other apps doing to rank better on it? The easiest way to find good keywords is to see what better-performing apps are doing.
- Poor placement: Your app’s title, subtitle, and description need to be optimized for the keywords you’ve selected. If your app listing’s title doesn’t contain your target keyword, you’re not doing ASO properly. Use your high-volume keywords in the app title and rejig the rest in the app’s subtitle and description.
- Obscure app name: Your app name doesn’t have to be the exact industry you’re targeting. For example, Netflix doesn’t name its app ‘content streaming platform’. Nevertheless, the name should somehow be an amalgamation of what your app offers. Bad app names are generally incomprehensible and unrelatable.
- Poor design: An app listing is like your brand’s very own landing page in a busy app store. If it doesn’t look good, it won’t convert visitors. Low conversions are not a good signal and severely affect app store rankings. Your icons and screenshots should present the best possible version of your app.
- Unmanaged ratings and reviews: No online business needs a lesson in how reviews and ratings affect sales and traffic. If you don’t actively engage with customers who leave bad reviews, you will start seeing a slide in rankings. Engage with unsatisfied users and incentivize (or remind) happy ones to leave reviews.
In ASO, keywords are generally where the buck stops. The rest of the factors are still manageable but an incorrect selection of keywords can derail any positive ASO momentum you get.
#3: Lack of balance in features
Some apps are sparse when it comes to features. Do you ever come across an app that is obviously behind the competition?
You don’t want to build such an app. Your users and customers should never feel that the app is underbuilt and unfit to perform its core function.
At the same time, adding too many features to your app can make it seem overly engineered. Think of how you feel if an app has too many options as soon as it’s opened.
More features don’t necessarily mean that the app is better. You can lose customers and users by sacrificing experience for functionality.
So where is the line? How many features are too many?
The best way to know is to study your existing and potential users. In some market segments, the feature threshold would be higher if the audience comprises tech-savvy people. It is lower in cases where the audience requires a lot of technical guidance.
Do the needed market research and strike a balance for the features you add to your app. As your users grow, you can find creative ways to introduce powerful features without overwhelming your users.
#4: Insufficient resources to market or improve the app
Success doesn’t come cheap in the world of apps. Whether it’s marketing your app on different platforms or improving user experience, every small step requires capital.
If you’re dealing with a low app budget, it can be difficult to scale either downloads or user experience to a reasonable level.
This is a fairly simple reason to understand. Your app will fail if you run out of capital. The question is how can you avoid financial issues and grow your business sustainably.
Here are a few ways you can do this:
- Review monetization: If capital is the issue, your app can be the answer. Review different app monetization strategies and see which one can work well for you.
- Optimize organic channels: See if your existing organic marketing channels are performing as well as they should. Review your app listing and see if it meets classic ASO standards. You can even use organic web traffic to channel more traffic to your site.
- Plan marketing expenses: Check if your marketing expenses are actually leading to the best possible traffic and download numbers. You’re probably spending too much on certain channels that do not show promise and underspending on more promising activities.
#5: Not measuring essential app KPIs
Analytics is nine-tenths of success.
In order to improve your app, you need to know how your users are using it.
Which screens are popular? At what time do users open the app the most? What are the app screens that load slowly?
This information is crucial for improving your app. If you don’t look at this data and keep working on your app, you’re disconnected from customers who are bringing you business.
And this eventually leads to app failure. Users start abandoning your app simply because you can’t understand their basic preferences.
The solution lies in the problem itself. Look at your app data and try discerning how users are viewing your app. It is not necessary to have a data analyst or scientist to get the basic gist of what your users like.
Tools like Firebase make it easy for you to get all your app’s crucial data in one place. As you scale, you can get a more powerful analytics tool and build a separate analytics team.
When you’re starting a mobile app, it doesn’t feel right to think about failure.
This is absolutely normal. Success is always the aim. The best way you can strategize success though is knowing how apps generally fail in the market.
This piece covers five main reasons why apps fail. You can prepare your strategy by knowing the key mistakes businesses make while developing, launching, and managing your apps.