The App Lifecycle of User Engagement

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MediaPost recently reported on a MTV Networks study that looked at how consumers discover and engage with entertainment apps on their iPhones and Android devices. The study determined that an app’s lifecycle with users goes through four stages: discovery, adoption, trial, and abandonment or long-term usage.

For app developers and marketers, these stages and the specific findings of this study are vital; they provide insight into what is important to consumers and how to best reach them, so that the apps they design and market can become popular favorites.

Discovery

According to the study, the most important factor when it comes to discovering apps is a recommendation from a friend. Another factor that is just as important is user reviews and recommendations. Respondents also discovered apps by seeing their friends or acquaintances using them.

It is clear from these findings that consumers often rely on others’ experiences in their own discovery of apps. However, respondents also reported that they discover apps through simply browsing the App Store and Android Market on their own, though they are likely to come into contact with others’ reviews in doing so.

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Adoption

Once a consumer discovers an app, what drives him or her to actually start using it? The findings vary for free and paid apps.

For free apps, consumers consider user ratings—and specifically look for high ratings—and recommendations from friends. Additionally, they consider whether the app sounds entertaining and useful based on its description and whether the app fills a specific need.

Although these findings also apply for paid apps, other factors become more important when consumers actually have to shell out cash. For paid apps, the most important factors that users consider are price and whether a free trial is available. Ultimately, money—and whether an app is worth that money—is key.

Trial

After consumers have downloaded and begun using an app, they move into the trial stage. The trial stage ultimately determines whether the final stage of that particular app’s lifecycle will be abandonment or long-term usage.

The MTV study found that people love apps for a few key reasons. Ease of use trumped all of the other factors as the most important during the trial period. However, consistently fresh content and clean looks also influenced respondents’ liking of apps. Another important factor was whether apps are fun and entertaining. But if an app’s content, looks, and entertainment value are not supported by an easy to use interface, the app eventually fails in the eyes of consumers.

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Abandonment vs. Long-Term Usage

An app doesn’t have a exact or long window to make an impact on consumers. Specifically, The study found that if respondents deleted an app, 38% did so within the first 3 weeks after downloading it. Although deletion of an app can come from loss of interest, 55% said they deleted because they found a better alternative.

Some consumers don’t actually delete apps, but abandon them nonetheless. 74% of respondents indicated that they keep old apps on their phones even when they no longer use them. And 78% were able to replace these old apps with new ones that better fit their needs, even though they kept the old apps without using them.

However, if an app makes it through the trial period and becomes a favorite, it can become an important part of a user’s daily life. 44% of respondents reported using a favorite TV or movie app several times a day. And the majority would rather give up their favorite reality TV show, news source, or coffee before giving up their favorite apps.

When consumers find an app they love, they really love it and even identify it. The majority of respondents said the apps they use are a reflection of themselves. Additionally, respondents said that apps are gifts they give themselves. And 91% of respondents agreed that apps expose them to and help them discover new things.

Such positive attitudes toward apps indicate their ability to become a part of people’s lives and spread virally as users recommend and share their favorites with others. What are your favorite apps? Which do you consider vital, and which do you recommend to your friends?

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