American Marketer


The dirty little secret about mobile apps

June 3, 2011

Daniel Odio is founder/CEO of Socialize Inc.


By Daniel Odio

The mobile industry is hot: everyone counts down to the day that they can nab the hottest smartphone and buy the latest applications.

On average, the number of apps downloaded to an iPhone or iPad is around 60, and in early January, the Apple App Store alone hit 10 billion downloads in just 31 months – a benchmark that took over twice as long for song downloads.

While these stats on mobile app adoption look great on paper, app creators face a harsh and disappointing realization.

After the first session, mobile app usage goes way down, becoming almost non-existent by day 90.

That drop, obviously, adversely affects ad monetization and, more importantly, sustainable fan bases and brand enthusiasts.

Down on loads

Before anyone looks to monetize and boost brand visibility through the mobile medium, they should know the nitty-gritty.

First, paid app usage is highest on day one at just under 30 percent, but then takes a sharp decline, reaching 5 percent usage by day 21 and barely 1 percent by day 90.

Next, free apps actually get higher usage rates for longer – 20 percent usability when the app is first downloaded, but then a nosedive to 5 percent usage by day 25 and another drop to barely 1 percent by day 90.

For free apps, that may make sense because users do not have to invest anything.

But why would users stop using paid apps?

Sure, most apps only cost 99 cents, but a purchase should act as a vote of confidence in the app itself.

Mobile app creators cannot afford to churn out apps that fizzle in users’ hands, and every day new apps clutter and overwhelm the marketplace. So what is the solution?

App creators need to combine mobile apps with technology’s other established industry: social networks.

Social meatier

These social mobile apps come with a social layer that allows app users to communicate, comment and share within the apps themselves.

According to a Nielsen study, mobile social networking usage has increased by 240 percent in a year, and 60 percent of all mobile Internet usage is spent on social media networks, whether it is a personal blog, Facebook or Twitter.

In the Apple iTunes store, the No. 1 most popular – and most used – app is, unsurprisingly, Facebook. But the top game is currently Words With Friends. Why is that significant?

Because Words with Friends connects players with each other using Facebook and Twitter, allowing players to invite their Facebook friends or send out a tweet to start a game.

It is no coincidence that the No. 1 game in the world so far in 2011 has multiple social features within the app.

App engagement and usability increases considerably when users can connect with each other over shared interest.

With social features embedded into mobile apps, users want to use them more. The social app gets hot: Downloads can rise up to 45 percent with the benefit of a social component.

WITH THE APPLE and Android app markets rapidly growing to an overwhelming total of about 500,000 free and paid apps, the competition to engage users in the app for more than the first few days is very difficult.

By embedding interest-based social platforms that allow users to connect, communicate and collaborate, usage longevity will increase. Why?

The power to socialize makes the app experience dynamic and new each time that a user opens the app again.

With social mobile apps, marketers and app creators can take advantage of better ad monetization and a stronger brand.

Daniel Odio is founder/CEO of Socialize Inc., San Francisco. Reach him at