Apps continue download success but high retention rates still limited to chosen few

Apps are now fully ingrained in the psyche of the average marketer, so much so that it’s guaranteed apps will feature in a variety of campaign suggestions made by agencies and brands across the globe today.

Since the introduction of the app as we know it today, alongside the launch of the iPhone in 2007, there have been many good examples of useful and valuable apps, and many more poor examples.

As of June 2012, 30 billion apps have been downloaded from the (Apple) App Store and currently more than 650,000 apps are available. Furthermore, in May of this year, Google Play, which sells Android apps, achieved 15 billion downloads from its selection of 500,000 apps.

Therefore, it’s safe to say the app is still a huge success and a vital tool for relevant communications campaigns, but what is the reality of app retention?

To find out, Localytics a mobile analytics firm based in a Cambridge, Massachusetts, has just completed research on the behaviour of consumers on 60 million mobile devices in the U.S., including phones and tablets, across roughly 10,000 apps, as covered in the Wall Street Journal earlier this week.

The research considered all major mobile platforms, including iOS, Android, BlackBerry, Windows Phone and HTML5 and didn’t distinguish between paid and free apps. It chose the metric of opening an app 11 times or more as the high-end metric because that it is the rate at which app publishers consider a user to be loyal or retained, according to Raj Aggarwal, chief executive of Localytics who headed up the research. Although this number seems a little low to me.

The company analysed users who downloaded an app in July 2011 and then counted how many times they opened up the app over a nine-month period ending in March 2012. They discovered around 31% of mobile users opened up their apps at least 11 times or more over a nine-month period, up from 26% a year ago.

However, 69% of users open an app 10 times or less, and over a quarter use the app just once after downloading it, which shows that high usage is the preserve of only the chosen few.

For example, recently Brian Cox’s Wonders of the Universe iPad book-app sold 20,000 copies in its first three days at £4.99 each, which covered its costs straight away. However retention is yet to be measured.

In terms of platforms, around 35% of Apple device users opened their apps 11 times or more, compared to just 23% of Android users.

Unsurprisingly, news apps like The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal enjoy the highest retention rate, with 44% of users. Next in line are Gaming (e.g., Angry Birds), Entertainment (e.g., Netflix) and Sports, all of which had retention rates between 33% and 36%. Lifestyle apps, which include both e-commerce and life event planning tools, had the worst user retention with just 15% opening an app 11 times or more and 30% opening an app just once.

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