Many Mobile Apps Fail. Why?

Frank Zinghini

Founder & CEO

Mobile app development is ubiquitous. That’s why it might surprise you that just 13 percent of B2B mobile apps are successful after they are released. And if you’re developing anything other than a business app, the outlook is even bleaker. Estimates vary, but most statistics show a miniscule 0.1 percent chance of success in the consumer app market.

What defines “success”? Success is measured by attaining a certain sustainable threshold in the categories of user downloads, user retention, positive reviews, revenue, and profit. Fall short in any of these crucial categories, and your app will be relegated to the vast and ever-expanding pile of unsuccessful apps in the marketplace. After all, it doesn’t really matter if you’ve built the most robust, magnificent application in the world if only a few people are using it.

So why do mobile apps fail at these alarming rates? It’s easy to understand how some poorly developed apps don’t make the cut. But why do apps fail when their developers have poured immense investments of time, effort, and money into development? What special sauce is missing from most app releases that makes the difference between an application being a total flop or becoming the next Angry Birds franchise app?

There are, it turns out, several things that could go wrong during mobile app development. As you develop your app, try to anticipate the following troublesome issues, listed in no particular order, before they happen. With careful planning, your app might just be one of the few successful ones.

Your mobile app is listed on the wrong platform.

If your app targets non-U.S. users but you chose to develop the Apple version before the Android version, you will miss out on a lot of Android users around the world who won’t be able to download your app. Likewise, apps on one store don’t necessarily translate well over into the other store. If you’ve planned a release on both major app stores, but your development has focused more on one marketplace than on the other, you may be leaving the door open for feature incompatibilities or other issues.

Your mobile app listing isn’t compelling. 

Every month,100,000 new apps go live on Google Play to join the several million apps already available on the platform. And the Apple Store isn’t far behind. What makes your mobile app listing stand out from the rest?

You need to use every weapon in your arsenal when you craft your marketplace listing. Upload relevant screenshots and in-app videos, hire a professional copywriter to write the app description, and list any testimonials or case studies that could persuade users to try your app. Make sure you focus on “what you can do with this,” starting bullet items with a verb, rather than using glowing (and easily ignored) marketing phrases such as “Best X on the market!” “Makes you more efficient!”

Your mobile app hasn’t been marketed.

You can build the most useful and interesting mobile app in the world, but if no one knows it exists, it will fail. Instead of marketing being an afterthought after the app is ready for release, build time and financial costs for marketing effort into your initial timeline and budget so you can get the word out in time for your app’s launch. Assume you will need to use multiple digital methods to get the word out.

Your mobile app doesn’t meet user expectations.

You know your mobile app must be functional, but it has to look and feel good, too. A clunky interface, unintuitive layout, or otherwise subpar user experience can mean users download your app, poke around for a few seconds, and then immediately uninstall it.

Your mobile app breaks marketplace rules.

If Google or Apple doesn’t like some of your mobile app’s content, or if you’ve built in monetization or review requests that violate marketplace guidelines, don’t be surprised when your app gets delisted. Before you start developing your app, check the rules of your desired marketplace to ensure your design doesn’t unintentionally break the rules. This will mean the difference between an app that can and can’t be released to your desired platform.

You don’t have enough money to build a successful mobile app.

Some large businesses have a hefty budget they can set aside for mobile app development. Smaller businesses or private individuals often don’t have that kind of budget. This leads to their developers cutting corners during the development process. When the app is finished, it can’t hold a candle to the apps of their major competitors.

Successful mobile apps require continuous investment.

The immediate costs of developing mobile apps are significant, but so are the investment costs to sustain and improve them. Mobile apps require regular updates, ongoing maintenance, and new feature releases to keep customers interested. Over the long term, this adds up to a lot of invested money, time, and effort.

Your reason for developing a mobile app is to build revenue.

As you may have deduced from the depressingly small rates of success, it’s very hard to generate enough revenue and profit to make mobile app development costs worthwhile. So, if you’re just building an app to make money, you are going to have to do a lot of things right, as you can tell by what we’ve talked about so far.

Many successful business mobile apps are more focused on making operations easier and less expensive for their own companies. Apps that provide or streamline user help and tutorials, troubleshooting functions, account management, and bill payment free up the company’s employees and phone lines for other revenue-generating tasks. If a company can develop an app to reduce its operational costs, it doesn’t matter so much that the app generates little to no revenue in itself.

There’s no real value behind your mobile app.

This is one pitfall of consumer apps that B2B and other business apps can usually avoid. While users may tire of performing mindless actions to receive imaginary coins in a consumer gaming app, the value provided by actual business apps is often enough to retain most users. If a customer wants to use a particular service that a business offers via an app, he or she has a reason to download and use that app.

Most of the time, the customer has already chosen the business or the service before they came across the app itself. Therefore, it’s not the app driving the download and usage, it’s the need or desire behind the app that makes the difference.

Problems in your mobile app weren’t caught during testing.

Ideally, rigorous testing will catch any bugs or broken features well before an app gets released. In reality, companies and individual developers have to contend with several outside influences—project timelines, budgets, pressure from supervisors, etc.—and testing isn’t always as thorough as it needs to be. This brings us to the next pitfall that can sink an app: bad ratings.

Bad mobile app ratings drive potential users away.

Your app should be completed and polished before you release it. If it’s not, it will be tough to recover from poor reviews you receive right out of the gate. It’s important to make as good of a first impression as possible when your app hits the digital shelves.

Mistakes happen, though, even with careful planning. Let’s say you release an app and then realize there’s something wrong. Perhaps the user experience is glitchy or too slow, an important function is broken, or users on a certain type of device can’t use the app as seamlessly as others.

You should be proactive about implementing immediate updates and bug fixes to right the ship, and to communicate those changes. New versions of Google’s marketplace often show potential downloaders the version and device type used by other reviewers. This means new users can see your poorer ratings were all associated with an early version, but subsequent users have mostly been happy with their experience.

There’s no product market fit for your mobile app.

Even high-budget, seamless mobile apps can fail if there’s no market for them. If your app solves a problem that doesn’t really need to be solved, or perhaps it almost solves a problem but doesn’t quite reach the bar to be truly useful to your customers, it’s unlikely that the app will become a resounding success.

To avoid this issue, carefully research your target demographic and establish a product market fit for your app, and definitely do some in-depth user testing before you develop the first line of production code.

Does planning for all of these mobile app issues seem like too much to handle?

If you’re reading this article, chances are you’ve got a business to run, a mobile app (or apps) to build, and possibly little, if any, prior experience with mobile app development and release. Avoiding the various pitfalls when you’ve never done anything like this before (and when you’ve devoted a significant portion of your budget to the project) can guarantee you some sleepless nights.

Rest easy when you book a strategy session with Applied Visions. Building successful business apps is what we do. Let us help you take your great idea from concept to reality and make sure all your bases are covered in the process.