Unused Apps. The orphans of the App Store.

Over the last two years, I have been a heavy user of the Apple App store. Based on data, my usage is in line with average usage, but at about 4x the volume of average.

Part of this heavy usage is due to being product manager for an app, and the rest can be chalked up to curiosity and an addictive personality.

In discussions with businesses about a mobility strategy and how they can use mobility to communicate with their customers, their first impulse is to listen and discuss.

The second impulse is to think “Branded App!”

Why a branded app is almost always a bad idea

Just a little bit of research will show two points:

  • Most apps that get downloaded are never used within 3 days of being downloaded
  • Most apps are barely ever downloaded

Stats to back it up:

  • It is hard to get downloaded at all: AndroLib (fantastic live Android stats) as of 12/16/2009: of 20,164 apps, 30.5% have fewer than 50 downloads. Only 14% of all apps have more than 10,000 downloads, and less than 1% has more than 250,000 downloads.
  • Once downloaded, few applications are kept: Pinch Media has an excellent report. See slide 12/33. The day after a free app download, usage drops to 20% and continues a logarithmic decrease, hitting 5% after a month. If you’ve made it that far, congrats, you are only going to lose 50% of your users over the next month. “Long-term audiences are generally 1% of total downloads.” “Branded applications care deeply about engagement.”

So, some quick analysis of this. Say PicoPaint makes car paint, and they want to drive you to car painting places that use their paint, and sell you on why to use their paint. They start talking mobility and think “Let’s get an app!”

An app can cost as little as $5,000. That’s not much more than an ad in an industry magazine. Sold! Right? No.

To integrate location based recommendations for where to get your car painted once launched, that means a database of all vendors with your paint. It also means web services to populate that recommendation. You’re now at least $15,000 invested, and that’s just the outsourced time. PicoPaint’s marketing department has now been distracted from core marketing on this side project.

So PicoPaint goes ahead and spends $15,000 on the app, and four weeks of marketing time in planning (another $8,000).

What do they get:

  • An industry press release, and buzz at being cutting edge.
  • Employees take pride in being associated with something as cool as the App store.
  • 40 people who aren’t employees or competitors download the app.
  • After 24 hours, 4 people still have it on their phone.
  • Maybe one person is influenced to use PicoPaint rather than an alternative.

That looks like a horrible return on investment to me.

What would be better

Get listed in apps that are established and have dynamic content. Options:

  • Mobile ads. Pay to be part of a local newspaper app’s add content. $23,000 would go a long way at $0.10 per click.
  • Content in a location based content server.

InView Mobile Solves This Problem

Disclaimer: I product manage InView Mobile

This problem is solved using InView Mobile. InView Mobile is a directory of content that is nearby, and a player for mobile content, just like an app, but with many sets of content within the app.

The content in the directory may be an ad, or a coupon, or just information about a location. It has value for being dynamic content, which is more appealing to consumers. As they move around, the top content changes. That adds to the appeal of keeping it longer than one day. The PicoPaint app would always be the same.

Also, with InView Mobile, there is far less cost to update the app with new content. InView Mobile content can be created within hours, by anyone, and updated within minutes. App store approval lead time is 2-4 weeks. With 50,000+ apps needing updates, and apps every day, there is no telling what lead time would be required.

The big value here is that with many venues pushing InView Mobile as a source to see their content, it creates an ecosystem within one app to drive usage. The more venues that have InView Mobile content, the more nearby venues will also have their content viewed.

So, if PicoPaint went with InView Mobile, someone at TacoTaco who launched InView Mobile for a 2-for-1 special may see the PicoPaint listing and check that out. Almost nobody will search for, find and download a PicoPaint standalone app. And nobody would keep the PicoPaint app after a few days.

Search the Apple App store for InView Mobile for samples. Hit up @benguthrie @inviewmobile for feedback.

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