The end of the app rush

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iPhone SE. Image: Apple

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Billy

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23 March 2017 | 0

Billy MacInnesHere’s an intriguing story that illustrates how quickly attention wanders and how fickle is fame (for want of a better word) in the world today.

As we’ve been told many times, mobility and the huge growth in the smartphone market has created a landscape where it’s all about apps. Apple’s App Store is often held up as one of the big drivers for the success of its smartphone ecosystem. And Apple is not shy of making a big song and dance over the success of the App Store and how much money developers make from it.

When it announced results for 2016, Apple revealed that developers had earned $20 billion from app sales, an increase of 40% from 2015. If we extrapolate the figures, adding Apple’s 30% share from the App Store suggests that, in the eight years since its launch in July 2008, Apple has created a market worth at least $28 billion a year.

Happy days, you might think, but there are other factors at work that suggest many developers may not exactly be awash with cash from their sales on the App Store. First off, there are 2.2 million apps in the store. That’s a lot of apps to split the spoils between.

Then there’s the fact that few apps manage to stay in the top 25, which is probably the best way to gain prominence and earn serious cash, for very long. According to research from Sensor Tower, revealed in a blog by Mobile Insights Strategist Ruika Lin, 74% of apps fell out of the top 25 within a month and only 8% were still there after three months.

Which suggests the timeframe for earning big returns from the App Store is very short for most app developers. And it’s not easy to dislodge hardy perennials such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Messenger. As Lin notes: “With their strong brand recognition and inexhaustible marketing budgets, they consistently lead the download chart while most other apps don’t come close.”

The data also suggests that “the resources needed to reach No. 1 through traditional user acquisition strategies don’t appear to produce a lasting return on investment for most apps”. So what should app developers do?

Lin says they need to target users by appearing prominently in search results “and working with Apple to earn featured promotion on the App Store… In the current era of the App Store, it is crucial for developers to form a well thought-out strategy that focuses on long-term visibility and success.”

One problem, however, could be the short attention span people have for apps as today’s attraction (or distraction, perhaps) is swiftly replaced by next week’s fleeting obsession. Against that backdrop, maintaining any kind of long-term visibility is quite a challenge for any app developer. The only way to get that type of success is to ensure people use their short range vision to look at their phone and use your app.

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