So you're an entrepreneur who’s come up with a cool new idea for a consumer-facing mobile app. It’s no secret that launching a consumer app is not for the faint of heart. The combined market competition and oversaturation of the mobile app marketplace makes being a long-term success about as tough as having a hit pop song.
From gaming apps to education apps, to travel, photo & video apps, the torrid pace of new apps hitting the market has drowned reporters’ and consumers’ ability to keep up. Today, there are approximately 4.2 million mobile apps available — and that’s just in the iOS App Store and Google’s Play Store alone. Never mind all the dozens of other app stores from Microsoft, Amazon, Samsung, Tencent, and AppChina.
Unfortunately, the consumer mobile app road is littered with an untold number of truly wonderful apps that fell by the wayside, because they were unsuccessful in getting a critical mass of users hooked on their mobile app. Truth be told, most consumers are fickle. According to Localytics, 23% of users abandon an app after a single use.
When Apple’s App Store was launched in the summer of 2008, we witnessed a gold rush of mobile app developers creating and launching apps. Some apps were well received and brought in great revenue. But by 2011, the App Store had already become saturated with apps. Since then tech entrepreneurs, mobile app developers, and mobile app dev shops have all witnessed how exceedingly difficult it is to acquire, engage, and retain new mobile app users.
The bar is pretty high for grabbing consumers’ attention and getting them to download and use the app with the frequency of a Waze or a WhatsApp.
In a recent ProductHunt Live Chat, Josh Constine, editor-at-large over at TechCrunch, commented on entertainment/social networking apps and what they need to have to succeed. “They can't do something ‘a little better’ than what already exists,” Constine said. “They must provide some fundamentally new value that dictates a whole new behavior pattern.”
He went on to provide some great examples:
• Facebook brought authenticated identity.
• Twitter condensed big thoughts into digestible nuggets.
• Instagram made every camera phone owner feel like they could share something beautiful.
• Snapchat used ephemerality to mimic the transient nature of our lives + let you pull your favorite stories from friends rather than having them pushing into your feed, so they can post endlessly.
Recently, Pokémon Go is proving to be the mother of all consumer mobile apps in the gaming category. The app successfully demonstrates how it has propelled new behavior patterns. The power of the app is that it gets millions of users out of the comforts of their home or office to go on a mad hunt for rare Pokémon. Are you one of the millions who now drive to the gym or grocery store on a new route so you can catch a rare Pokémon or hit a new Poke Stop? (We might have done that a few times. ;-) Pokémon Go demonstrates the power of dictating new behavior patterns. So it’s no surprise to us that Pokémon Go has generated massive media attention. Anybody can literally see users traipsing through the streets at all hours of the day or night, flicking their fingers up their phone in a brand new ways to hunt and battle. In one of its first big sponsorships, the app has driven millions of users to MacDonald’s Japan, where each restaurant hosts a virtual gym so users can battle Pokémon. The fast food chains’ sales have increased by 27% in July.
Josh also underscored 3 key ingredients that a tech startup must bring to the table to make an impression with the media.
1. Does your app solve a problem or add value in a significantly new way? Unfortunately, “just being a little better than something that already exists” will not be enough to compel media to write about your app or company. This applies even more so if your app is competing directly with any 800-lb. gorillas or with one or more formidable competitors (double-digit funding or with 1-2 years head start). In this highly saturated market where uber fickle consumers reached app fatigue a long time ago, you have too much riding on this to make such a noob mistake.
2. Does your app have strong initial user retention? You’re going to need more than a burst of new users to prematurely claim that you have a promising app destined for success. Can you point to metrics that demonstrate new users opening, using, returning and continuing to rely on your app? If not, you need to focus on making the app a must-have. Survey your users and do your research to find out what it will take, in terms of time and money, to build short and long-term traction with your target customers.
3. Lastly, does your app have visionary founders who can adapt the app to a rapidly-changing landscape of existing competitors? You’re going to face formidable obstacles on your quest for market dominance. Media however is likely to take into account an entrepreneur with a stellar track record or a proven team behind the app/company. Having either or both of these can help give you a leg-up to at least get some media to consider taking a closer look at your company and app, especially early on if your app is pre-launch or in beta/private beta, when your metrics are likely to be anemic.
The crux around a promising mobile app is that it needs to go well beyond a few new whiz-bang features than what already exists in the market. Your focus needs to be on making sure that the mobile app you are introducing successfully addresses these important criteria. Users will find and adopt any great mobile app. With adoption comes word of mouth and traction and then you’ll start to see stronger metrics build. This is where you need to demonstrate success first before expecting to attract the media’s attention and subsequent news coverage, let alone expecting them to beat down your door.