If you're planning to launch a mobile app to generate revenue, you won't like the look of these figures. Research from Gartner estimates that fewer than 0.01% of apps will be considered a financial success through to 2018.

With an average investment of $270,000 to design, build and launch an app, it's not a small project by anyone's standards. But the reality is that most mobile apps fail. One study suggests that two thirds of apps will fail to reach 1,000 downloads in the first year. And even if you get the downloads, 23% of users will abandon an app after a single use.

Let's be honest - most apps suck. And for every Angry Birds style success story, there are hundreds of applications sitting unnoticed in the doldrums of the various app stores.

So if you're about to part company with hundreds of thousands of dollars to launch an app for your business, you need to make sure you've taken every step possible to avoid failure. Here are some critical ones.

1. Research, Research, Research

You wouldn't invest $270,000 in developing a product for your customers without doing market research, would you?

Yet too many businesses treat apps completely differently. Andrew Daniels, Managing Director at Development Agency, Degree 53, tells me:

"Apps will often fail because they're not meeting the needs of the target audience or because they've not researched simple things like the most used devices of the target audience. If your customers are predominantly Android users and your app is only on iOS or vice versa, you have an immediate problem.

We also sometimes have businesses come to us with an idea for an application concept, but no real data suggesting whether the market needs or wants it or whether anything like it is already available."

Before you invest, make sure you have data about:

  • The devices your target market uses
  • Whether an app like the one you want to build already exists
  • Whether the market needs or wants the app you're proposing to build
  • How you'll monetize the app if that is an objective of the project
  • Whether your business even really needs an app? Could your objectives be met another way?

You can carry out fairly cost effective research using platforms like Google Consumer Surveys, where you can put questions to people in your target location or demographic and have answers within days.

2. Marketing Plan

Treat an app as you'd treat any product - don't launch without a marketing plan. Understanding how you will make people aware of your mobile app and drive them to download it is the difference between hitting download targets and languishing amongst millions of lost apps.

You should know:

  • What channels you'll use
  • What investment is needed
  • Where you can reach your specific target audience.

Marketing options include app store optimization, PPC for app installations and paid social advertising through the likes of Facebook and Twitter.

3. Invest in UX

Getting downloads does not mean your app will be a success. With high abandonment rates, acquiring a user doesn't guarantee any sort of revenue or engagement.

Degree 53's Daniels believes this is one of the most important phases in the process:

"UX can make or break an app. Get it right and you maximize your chances of getting your users to carry out certain actions and to continue using your app. Get it wrong and you can end up investing heavily in acquiring downloads that never turn into genuine users.

UX is vital and it shouldn't be rushed. It's a key part of the design phase and should be thoroughly carried out before anyone even thinks about starting to code."

A positive user experience is also key to getting users leaving positive reviews - something that plays a huge role in where your app shows up in charts and searches on various app stores.


4. The App Store Listing Details

When you consider the amount of design, development and research that goes into an app, it's easy to see why some of the smaller listing details might be overlooked. But the title, description and thumbnail you give your app for its app store listing is critical to the success or failure. 

Invest time here. Research the approach your most successful competitors have taken and even consider split testing some options with a service like fivesecondtest.com.


5. Keep it Updated

An app isn't a one off job. Operating systems change rapidly and an update might mean your app no longer functions as it did or that there's a better way to do something your application does.

Devices change too. There are hundreds of devices running the Android operating system with loads of different technical features and specifications, while there are several different iPhones on the market with various specs and screen sizes. New devices come out with improved hardware or different screen sizes constantly and if you're not on top of your updates, your app can date quickly.

Regular updates also give you the opportunity to listen to user feedback and act on it.


Investing Wisely

With millions of apps out there all vying for the attention of smartphone users, making a success of a mobile app is not easy. But with great research, a solid plan and a genuinely great product, mobile applications can be a really effective way of reaching your audience and meeting certain business objectives.