Why Even the Most Successful Apps Fail

Gilad Bechar

Think You Don’t Stand a Chance with the Big Players in the Arena? Even the Most Successful Apps Crash & Burn, Here’s Why.

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The natural assumption about big brands doing mobile is that nothing can phase them, as they have unlimited budget and resources. However, real cases go to show that this is not entirely true. The mobile playing field today is one where users are very particular about the apps they “allow” on their device, which presents a very unique marketing challenge.   

Whether it is the product itself that’s bad, or the marketing campaign that fails to succeed – brands around the world are struggling to generate downloads and retain users for the long term. This post discusses major fails of large, global brands, examines why it is that they failed and explains what it is that other brands can learn from their experience.

Mobile is High Maintenance

Let’s take a look at 2014 – throughout the year, no consumer packaged goods app was featured in top 200 apps in the app stores. Even huge brands like Unilever and Kraft didn’t make it to the most successful apps lists. This points a blaming finger at the one thing every single brand on mobile has been neglecting – discoverability. The general opinion is that developing an app and launching it is everything that can be done, and if the app doesn’t succeed at that point, then it’s a huge failure. The truth is that launching an app and expecting it to be exposed immediately is just unrealistic, as there’s a lot of maintenance work that should take place to ensure the app is exposed to its target audience.

Professionals that aren’t necessarily mobile oriented are completely unaware of terms like app store optimization (ASO), link building, and deep linking. Frankly, the majority of big brands have the luxury of working with top advertising and creative agencies, but completely neglect benefits offered by mobile that can enhance their marketing results for a fraction of the cost.

So some mobile tactics that can boost your app’s discoverability first and foremost include ASO. The app’s app store page should be optimized, and A/B tested regularly to feature keywords for it to be ranked higher in relevant categories and searches. Additionally, the app’s title, description, logo, and screenshots should all be as visually appealing as possible to turn visits and into installs. And finally, link building also helps boost your app’s discoverability within the app store and is therefore worth investing in.

Media campaigns are also very instrumental in boosting app discoverability. Remarketing across different platforms, building campaigns that attract loyal users and not just downloads, and deep linking to bring newcomers straight into the heart of your app to experience it immediately, are all tactics worth investing in as well.

“Apple Maps is So Bad it Will Tell You to Drive Across an Airport Runway”

Between instructing users to drive across an airport runway, completely risking their lives, replacing a florida hospital with a supermarket, and not associating the city of Jerusalem with any country – Apple maps was one of the company’s most epic fails. Apple’s comment? Bad planning and project management, internal politics, and developers leaving the company mid-project.

One would most likely think that a company as rich in resources and as hi-tech as Apple would never release such a buggy app, which was part of the reason people loved teasing the brand for it. This is one major lesson – if you are a high profile brand, your app will get a lot of downloads the moment it reaches the app store. If, however, that app is buggy, it’s going to attract negative backlash and criticism immediately. Another important lesson that can be learned from Apple’s fail, is that sometimes, launching a bad app is worse than not launching an app at all – do it right, or don’t do it.

What’s the Point?

Overwhelmed by the mobile revolution, many brands rushed to developing and launching apps in order to also have a mobile presence. Unfortunately what most brands did was simply duplicate the content of their website and mobile site, and insert it into a mobile app template. The problem with that, is that since the app offers the same functionality as the brand’s sites, users will have no incentive to install it. Such brands can take a lesson from brands like Nike and Starbucks for example, do a good job when it comes to providing mobile users extra value – Nike’s Nike+ app let’s users track their runs, and Starbuck’s app enables users to cut long waiting times with in-app ordering.

So brands, no matter how big, strong, and successful you are, remember that mobile isn’t just a piece of cake. Consulting with mobile experts, designing products with your consumers’ needs in mind, and constantly working on maintenance are key to mobile success.

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