Why Do Smartphone Users Download Apps Only to Ignore Them?

Nielsen research finds that while most consumers download dozens of apps for smartphones and tablets, very few apps are actually being utilized across mobile devices.

Smartphone users are downloading record numbers of apps but are actually using very few of them, according to recent Nielsen research. With that in mind, how can marketers make their apps indispensable to consumers?

The average smartphone app downloader has around 42 apps on his or her device. However, of 3,743 smartphone and tablet users who had downloaded an application to their device in the past 30 days, 84 percent said they use less than 10 apps daily, and 55 percent said that they only use between one and four apps every day.

Consumers are also often unwilling to pay for apps. Forty percent of survey respondents said they won’t pay for social networking, discount/coupon, or payment apps.

Ben Leventhal, co-founder and chief executive (CEO) of Resy, a restaurant reservation app, says that apps need to be extraordinary to get users to pay or even to hold their interest. “The only apps I use are the ones that feel like magic, whether that means getting me a car or an impossible restaturant reservation in 30 seconds or allowing me to watch a news event halfway around the world in real time,” he says. “The apps that stay on my home screen are either profoundly useful or help me connect with the world.”

Leventhal also says that smartphone users are ignoring most of their apps because very few provide any real value. “Every app promises to do something amazing and show us the future, which sounds great,” says Leventhal. “But most are over-promising by a mile, so they disappoint us, and we forget about them.”

Some of those apps that end up banished to the third or fourth screen would have been better served as mobile sites, where they would remain easily accessible without using valuable storage on smartphones, according to Jason Levy, senior vice president of engagement strategy and innovation at Saatchi & Saatchi Wellness.

“People are just making bad apps that just aren’t necessary or apps that are better served as a mobile website,” Levy says.

For example, an app that provides a car’s instruction manual shouldn’t take up space on a smartphone, but could provide value as a mobile site, Levy says. “So rarely is that information needed that it’s just going to sit on a way back page if it doesn’t get deleted. Meanwhile if [the owner’s manual] is online for the very rare instance you need it, the information would make a lot of sense as a mobile website.”

Levy also warns brands against creating apps that simply serve as time-wasters. While Nielsen reports that 70 percent of people use apps when they’re alone and another 68 percent use apps when they’re bored or killing time, brands shouldn’t be in a rush to build the next Angry Birds. “If you’re a consumer packaged good, and you’re trying to come up with a time-killing app, you’re going up against people whose core business and the way they’ve monetized themselves is creating time-killers, and you’re going to get crushed,” says Levy.


A safer bet, according to Levy, is to stop trying to create apps that don’t provide a specific, brand-related value, and focus instead on perfecting mobile Web.

“I’d rather see brands focus on mobile first. Make sure your website is mobile-optimized especially if you’re in the transaction business where you need to get someone to buy something. Make it really easy to buy your product, use your service. Most of that can happen online.”

View the full report here

Homepage image via Shutterstock.

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