According to Statista, as of January 2017, 2.2 million mobile apps were available to download for various iOS devices. Smartphones opened a new world for apps with the average smartphone user getting lost in their favorite apps for around 40-hours per month. That's not even the most surprising part. Even more than the amount of apps available is who owns those apps that gain the most notoriety. If you're developing an app, keep in mind that you will be competing with tech and social giants currently dominating the space like Facebook or Google. And here's another interesting tidbit for you: while the amount of time users spend with their apps continues to increase, the actual number of apps they are using has stayed the same for the past 3 years.
What Does This Mean For App Developers?
We are existing in an age of app overload making it increasingly difficult for app developers to get attention due to the proliferation of apps. It's challenging to be found and even more challenging to get ranked. In fact, the CEO of Branch Metrics reported that less than 1% of free apps ever get to the top charts. App developers have had to get wise with design, marketing, and developing a near-perfect user interface. According to Chino Lex, a highly successful app developer, app building is a business not a hobby and must be approached as such if you hope to find success.
Chino began developing apps at night, while cleaning carpets during the day and it was his grit to continue moving forward that helped him find success. He figured out how to post his apps and position them to get traffic through trial and error, saying that his first 30 apps (at least) were rejected, until he struck gold; kind of. He really had to dig in to the organic data to find niche gaps because there isn't some database where you can go see which areas have great apps, and which don't. So analyzing the app store, searching for those gaps, and reading the app reviews swallowed a lot of Chino's time. Customer reviews are incredibly revealing because they are essentially the largest collection of free market feedback that exists. If a user loves it they will tell you, and if they hate it, likewise.
Together, Chino and I came up with a list of 5 things you can do to help your app(s) succeed.
- Have a great product. Everything matters. "Design is really important, especially when you try to reach out to press for attention. The benchmark is an app that is really sleek with a great user-interface, it's what people expect," says Paul Kemp, host of The App Guy Podcast.
- Make it long-lasting. The current life-cycle of an app is 4-6 months. As you develop, make sure you are thinking about life-cycle and what you can do to evolve your app and continue giving it a purpose in the rapidly changing marketplace.
- Do your research. Take a look at the success stories, like Loomai,an app focused on supporting the very new and uncrowded sector of 3D Augmented Reality. They have achieved a user base of 30 million players on Facebook. What are they doing right? Search the searches, look at the reviews, and figure out where the gaps are.
- Hold onto your audience. Given the short lifecycle and even shorter spike time, find ways to connect with your audience that go beyond the app, and take them with you on your journey. How can you continue serving their needs for retention?
- Sort out your budget. Be prepared to spend at least $5,000- $10,000 to get off the ground. That's on the low end and for a smaller market. Remember, the larger the market (think Social Media) the larger the budget you'll need. Plan in advance so you aren't forced to stop halfway through your process.
With more avenues to connect with your potential audience than ever before, the opportunities are there but be prepared to work for every single download on your journey to the top of the App charts.