Anyone who owns a smartphone or tablet PC has experienced the thrill of downloading apps. These handy little software programs help us navigate our world, play games, connect with friends, save money and unlock the little mysteries of everyday life.

But even though there are thousands of apps on the App Store and other app marketplaces, most people don’t use very many apps and end up deleting most of the apps that they downloaded.

As this article in USA Today points out, most apps quickly lose their “app-eal.” Of the 42% of Americans who have smartphones with apps, 68% of people only use five or fewer apps in the course of a given week. 80-90% of apps are eventually deleted. Clearly, only a few apps prove themselves to be useful enough and relevant enough to stay on people’s “must-use” list, day after day.

Two marketing lessons that your company can learn from America’s thousands of abandoned apps?

  • Don’t get caught up in “innovation” if it’s not relevant to your customers: I’ve seen this happen time and time again in dozens of situations and dozens of industries. Often companies get entranced with the idea of “innovation” or using technology for its own sake, but they forget to ask if the new technology is going to be relevant to customers and make customers want to buy it. It’s no good to create a new product with lots of bells and whistles if your customers don’t want the bells and whistles, or don’t know how to use them, or don’t know how to fit the new technology into their lives.  Do your homework first:  research customers perspectives.
  • Follow the right metrics: The app marketplace is a popularity contest. App developers pay close attention to how many people have downloaded their apps onto their smartphones. But according to the USA Today article, a better measure of an app’s success is not the number of downloads, but how many people are actually using it. An app that is retained by at least 30% of the people who downloaded it is considered “sticky;” all the other apps are just taking up space on people’s smartphone screens. In the same way, many companies measure marketing success by the wrong metrics. It doesn’t matter how many people watch your ad or watch your YouTube video if those marketing efforts don’t lead to actual sales. (Or worse, my own pet peeve, it doesn’t matter how many “creativity” awards your ad agency wins if the ads don’t help sell products.)

There are over 1 million apps waiting for people to download, but most will never become the next “Angry Birds” or “Words With Friends.” How can your company become more “sticky” with your customers? Is your company’s idea of “innovation” actually making something better and more efficient and more valuable in a way that is relevant to your customer’s buying decision, or is it just “technology in search of a home?”

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