Alpha Software Blog

Why Mobile Apps Fail & How to Make Them Successful

Build Apps Users Love - Make sure your apps don't get abandoned by usersFailure is a way of life for app developers. An astonishing percentage of people abandon mobile apps soon after they download them. But Andrew Chen, general partner at the Silicon Valley venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, and the man behind many successful startups including Uber and others, says it needn’t be that way.

His blog post, “New data shows losing 80% of mobile users is normal, and why the best apps do better,” is a must-read for any mobile app developer looking to succeed.

Chen worked with mobile intelligence startup Quettra to get data about app usage and retention rates from more than 125 million mobile phones.

What he found may sink the hopes of countless app developers. The average app, he says, loses an astonishing 77 percent of users after three days. Within 30 days, 90 percent leave. Within three months, 95 percent are gone.

The average app loses 77% of users after three days. Within 30 days, 90% leave. Within three months, 95% are gone.
- Andrew Chen, Andreessen Horowitz

Andrew Chen discusses high mobile app abandonment rates.

He notes, “The other way to say this is that the average app mostly loses its entire user base within a few months, which is why of the [more than] 1.5 million apps in the Google Play store, only a few thousand sustain meaningful traffic.”

Of more than 1.5 million apps in the Google Play store, only a few thousand sustain meaningful traffic.
- Andrew Chen, Andreessen Horowitz

Ankit Jain, who collaborated with Chen on the blog post, explains, “Users try out a lot of apps but decide which ones they want to ‘stop using’ within the first 3-7 days. For ‘decent’ apps, the majority of users retained for 7 days stick around much longer. The key to success is to get the users hooked during that critical first 3-7 day period.”

Chen adds, “This maps to my own experience, where I see that most of the leverage in improving these retention curves happen in how the product is described, the onboarding flow, and what triggers you set up to drive ongoing retention.”

The retention rate research shows that the most successful apps get used repeatedly in the first week. Unsuccessful apps don’t.

Here’s Chen’s conclusion about how you can help make sure your app succeeds: “Target the first few days of usage, and in particular the first visit.” That means contacting those who have downloaded it with useful information about how to use the app, and how it can help them. He suggests different messages for different types of apps:

  • “For a social service, you might want users to import their address book and connect to a few friends, to give them a strong feed experience and opt them into friend notifications.
  • “For an SaaS analytics product, you might want users to put their JS tag on their site, so that you can start collecting data for them and sending digest emails.
  • “For an enterprise collaboration product, you might want users to start up a new project and add a couple coworkers to get them started.”

Alpha-Software-logo-250pxHow to Make a Successful Mobile App From the Start

It's much easier to build a mobile application that's great from the start, rather than trying to fix it and reinvigorate it after it's been abandoned by users. Read how to build a mobile application and get free software to build mobile apps from Alpha Software.

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About Author

Amy Groden-Morrison
Amy Groden-Morrison

Amy Groden-Morrison has served more than 15 years in marketing communications leadership roles at companies such as TIBCO Software, RSA Security and Ziff-Davis. Most recently she was responsible for developing marketing programs that helped achieve 30%+ annual growth rate for analytics products at a $1Bil, NASDAQ-listed business integration Software Company. Her past accomplishments include establishing the first co-branded technology program with CNN, launching an events company on the NYSE, rebranding a NASDAQ-listed company amid a crisis, and positioning and marketing a Boston-area startup for successful acquisition. Amy currently serves as a Healthbox Accelerator Program Mentor, Marketing Committee Lead for the MIT Enterprise Forum of Cambridge Launch Smart Clinics, and on the organizing team for Boston TechJam. She holds an MBA from Northeastern University.

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The Alpha platform is the only unified mobile and web app development and deployment environment with distinct “no-code” and “low-code” components. Using the Alpha TransForm no-code product, business users and developers can take full advantage of all the capabilities of the smartphone to turn any form into a mobile app in minutes, and power users can add advanced app functionality with Alpha TransForm's built-in programming language. IT developers can use the Alpha Anywhere low-code environment to develop complex web or mobile business apps from scratch, integrate data with existing systems of record and workflows (including data collected via Alpha TransForm), and add additional security or authentication requirements to protect corporate data.