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6 common reasons apps fail, and how to make yours successful

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Andrew Fry

VP Asia

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Oct 4, 2018
6 min read
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Like most brands, you’ve probably developed, or are planning to develop a mobile app to promote your business and improve your customer experience. You’re probably also wondering how to make your app stand out in a crowded marketplace when we know that users drop as many as 24% of apps after just one use, and a typical Android app can lose 75% of its users within three days. Let’s take a closer look at why your app might not be getting the cut-through you need, and practical solutions for building a successful mobile engagement strategy.

As a communications platform, we'll keep things simple by using communication apps as our go-to example. But keep in mind, this article doesn't rule out any specific app types, so whether you're a gaming app, a communication app, a banking app, a messaging app, or otherwise, we think you'll find the information below quite useful. 

Six common reasons apps fail

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Developing an app is a sizeable investment of company time and resources - learning from the mistakes of others can be paramount to success. The reasons apps fail are numerous, but these six key causes tend to be the most common:

No Unique Selling Point (USP)

In a crowded market, an app must stand out and be exemplary in some way. If it isn’t, then it’s the same as dozens of others. Customers often download and try many, only to delete them until they find one they like. This is why advanced features are key to distinguishing your app from the rest.

Poor User Experience (UX)

Hard-to-use menus, poor app onboarding, slow load times, and irrelevant registration questions are a few of the UX problems that people complain about constantly yet manage to crop up time and again. If you don't mitigate these, you'll find your audience looking to alternative communication apps in no time.

Technical Flaws

Too often, chat apps are poorly tested before release, with over 44 percent of errors reported by active users, instead of the development team. And those users blame the brand for shoddy work.

Battery Drain

A third of users dropped an app because of excess battery drain. And the last thing a communication tool needs is to be deemed unreliable. While additional features - such as the ability to send audio messages, start video chats, or even share files - are always welcome if helpful, you shouldn't add in too many extras if it comes at the cost of slowing down someone's phone.

Too Many Messages

52 percent of users complain that in-app messages are annoying. And 32 percent said they would delete the app if they received more than six notifications in a week. This means instant messaging features need to be carefully thought out. Paradoxically, the correct use of push notifications is heavily linked to user retention. Messaging can be a great asset or a serious risk if used unwisely.

Privacy and Security Concerns

This is an increasingly sore subject and poorly addressed by too many apps. When users are asked to share their locations or unnecessary social media details, they will often delete the app without even trying it. With many scammers ruining perfectly good app experiences, you'll want to do everything you can to mitigate security risks.

These pain points are a big part of the app fatigue that many smartphone users are suffering from today.

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Why continue to invest in app development?

After failing to see a return on their marketing dollars, many organizations have simply abandoned their app strategies, with Gartner predicting that 20 percent of brands will abandon their apps by 2019. There are compelling reasons to continue to build out a build-focused strategy. As more relevant information becomes available, we've seen time and time again that mobile is used more than desktop to view the web, and it’s forecasted there’ll be more than 6 billion smartphone users by 2020, more than 75% of the world’s population. Apps will continue to grow in popularity, and the successful ones will generate substantial revenue. The goals of brand loyalty and monetization will draw many (from small businesses to large organizations) to continue to pour money into app development.

What makes an application successful?

Despite its vast size, just a few brands dominate the app market. These giants in social media, entertainment, and communication include Facebook (including Facebook Messenger), YouTube, and Google. In a recent survey of mobile users, most were found to have spent 85 percent of their time using only five apps. Uber has become a household name even to those who don’t use it. The speed of its success is based on its well-designed and simple-to-use app, which now sits on an estimated 20 percent of all US Android phones.

Demonstrating that a well-built app can succeed even in a narrow interest group, Guitar Tuna has been downloaded over 20 million times. It has become the most popular guitar-tuning app available. It’s easy to use, has exciting visuals, and does what it claims, without fuss or errors. United Airlines has developed an app that users like for its practical value. Passengers are notified of any changes to flight times or departure gates. Simple but effective. If your app doesn’t constantly engage (e.g. Facebook, Instagram), deliver useful content (e.g. YouTube, Netflix), or provide constant utility (e.g. Uber, Online banking apps), chances are that users may download it out of curiosity but use it only once.

Outwardly, designing a successful app or fixing an existing one might appear straightforward. Unfortunately, a lot more is involved than avoiding common pitfalls. Marketing, ongoing research, and product evolution are just a few of the essential ingredients. You also need to be completely user-focused and understand the broader value your app can deliver.

An easy way to gather this information is via SMS surveys and dynamic web forms that are sent to team members and outside stakeholders alike.

Does an alternative exist?

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Mobile apps as an endpoint are a great channel for business development and improved customer service. As a standalone tool, though, it’s difficult to justify the development cost of an enterprise mobile application without taking a broader view of the communication ecosystem they’re enabling. The real value of a mobile app is the seamless connection it can create between your internal systems of record (ERP, CRM, accounting, etc) and your target audience – customers, staff, and other stakeholders.

Start your app research with Whispir

To ensure you're putting your best foot forward when it comes to app development, our omnichannel platform gives you the communication tools needed to gather, implement, and learn from your audience before committing to tactics - and budgets.

  • Whispir allows you to use real-time data analytics to see how users engage with messages, including which platforms they actually prefer

  • Whispir utilizes webhooks so you can send SMS recipients to a web form where you can gather important feedback

  • Whispir alleviates many stresses associated with project management by providing workspaces that keep teams connected but also in clearly defined channels

  • Whispir assists with newer approaches to communication, including text-to-voice, video calls, video conferencing, social media integration, and more

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