Why App Download Numbers Don’t Matter

It's time to stop thinking of users as just an app download

It’s easy to view apps as a simple commodity in which one app download equals one unit of success. Most app creators approach the process with stars in their eyes, that their app will be the next million download hit. Sorry to say, but there’s a 99% chance that’s not going to happen. It’s important to let this mindset go when building your app or creating strategy, as it allows you to focus on what really matters, user engagement.

App download numbers fall off

The first two weeks your app is in the store is a critical time for acquiring users. This is when most app creators will realistically get a majority of their downloads. If you play your marketing strategy right, you can carry this upswing another month or even two. According to a 2010 Localytics study, one out of every four apps downloaded is never opened. While these numbers may be a bit dated, it’s safe to assume this percentage hasn’t deviated wildly. HTML5 app adoption can be even more difficult if not properly marketed, as you don’t have the power of the traditional channels for users to find your experience.

Simply put, if you attribute success to download counts you’ll end up disappointed in the long run. This is where many app creators decide their app is a failure.

Don’t give up, abandon your investment and call it a day unless you’ve utilized every avenue to engage the user base you’ve built up until this point. There is a point where sustaining and engaging the users who’ve been kind enough to try your app out becomes the key to your app’s success. There is hope, and it’s now time to shift your focus.

Leading by example

Being a part of your own experience is a key strategy to building a bond with your users. If you have social features, be a part of user discussions or start your own and invite others to contribute. Showing faith in your own product by using it actively reflects positively on the experience you’re providing. Use the power of your app’s niche to discover what is truly relevant to your user and find ways to expand on that value. Have you created an app just to have an app, or to solve a problem/provide a solution? If it’s the former, you’re not doing anyone any favors. Your user isn’t just one download, they’re a real person who happens to need, or at bare minimum have a curiosity for what you’re providing them.

If you’re not 100% sure that your users know how to utilize your app or why it’s advantageous to use it, it’s up to you as the creator to offer resources explaining these points. Users truly appreciate guiding materials such as a video walk-through of your app, self-hosted support/FAQ or a prominent email address for questions. This shouldn’t take you more than a day, considering you know your app inside and out. You may learn a thing or two about your app’s user behavior this way, and be able to adjust to needs accordingly.

Utilizing incentive

The most successful apps consistently offer added value to the daily lives of their users. Apps with large built-in networks, such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, have inherent return they base on your personal social ties. An app with a smaller user-base needs to find ways to keep users not just in the app, but connecting with its purpose and utilizing the incentive you’ll provide.

There are a multitude of apps that don’t utilize push notification functions for any number of reasons. Given the proven engagement boost this offers app owners, this is a huge mistake. If you are at all reserved that your push notification campaign would be viewed as spam or a nuisance to the user, you don’t have a true campaign in place. We’ve touched on this topic in our previous piece on push.

Although this doesn’t apply to all app-types, Deals and loyalty programs are another proven way to provide a lasting incentive for users. Taking a local tourism, or chamber of commerce-type app as an example, there are endless opportunities to connect local businesses with app owners to benefit the community and keep that business local. If you’re providing your community enough incentive, with minimal effort to discover that incentive, they’re more apt to appreciate the value you’re offering to their daily lives.

Changing your outlook

This type of thinking: the user as a person rather than a single digit, the user as a part of your community (whether it be geographically or tied through common interest), the user as your partner in this venture, makes all the difference going forward.

Sure, you can give up on numbers, but don’t give up on the people who are helping you make your mark.

Josh Wolff