According to Google, 87% of users say that – even if they are loyal to a brand – they don’t feel the need to have its app on their phone. Similarly, 53% say they have never downloaded their favourite brand’s app.

So, why is this the case, and what does it mean for brands? Here’s a bit more on Google’s research, plus some tips and advice on what to do to drive app downloads.

Awareness & consideration

comScore says that US consumers download zero new apps each month, despite the fact that 57% of their time using digital media is spent using the existing apps on their phone. This is an interesting dichotomy, but there might be a simple explanation.

First, it appears one of the main reasons people fail to download new apps is that they do not know they exist – Google says that 25% of users are unaware that their favourite brand even has an app. Meanwhile, low consideration is another big problem, with brands failing to promote an app or its benefits (and instead just assuming existing customers will be happy to download).

In order to combat this, brands should focus on making apps as visible as possible. This can be achieved through ASO (app store optimisation), which involves optimising various features such as title, meta data, and images to include keywords or search terms. Just as SEO can improve a website’s Google ranking, ASO helps apps to do the same in the app or play store.

Another factor that has an impact on visibility is ratings and reviews, with apps that are more positively rated typically ranking higher. Consequently, it’s beneficial to ask existing users to rate and review apps, either via push notifications or on other digital channels such as social.

Like most marketing strategies, there should be a balance, of course. Constantly asking users to rate apps (especially in the middle of usage) can be annoying, so it should be done subtly and at the right time.

Value & incentive

Another reason for so-called ‘app apathy’ is the belief that apps do not hold intrinsic value, with mobile sites fulfilling the customer’s needs in just the same way, or even to a greater extent. 

This, coupled with the fact that storage space and data-use can be limited on mobile phones, means that it makes sense for users to be less inclined to use them.

In this case, it is up to brands to inform and educate users on an app’s benefits, as well as provide additional incentive. One way to achieve the latter could be through offers and discounts.

Online retailer Missguided focuses heavily on this, using a 20% off first order discount as an incentive for people to download it. This offer is promoted on the site’s homepage, ensuring that it is highly visible to new customers, as well as a helpful reminder for existing users to re-visit the app.

This strategy can be risky, too, as 63% of people say that they will typically delete an app if they are only downloading it to access a deal. As a result, it is up to brands to provide additional value on top of such offers. 

Again, Missguided is another good example here, as its fun and easy-to-use app involves features that are likely to engage and hold the user’s attention after the initial download.

missguided app incentive

Alignment with other brand experiences

Discounts don’t have to be the only incentive for app downloads. Google suggests that, as 40% of transactions now take place on mobile, a seamless experience across apps and mobile sites can provide greater value for customers – and even increase long-term loyalty. 

This is due to the increasingly fragmented way that consumers now shop, with many browsing on mobile before buying on other channels, or vice versa. 

As a result, apps should not be thought of as an isolated channel, but rather, one that can be used to complement mobile shopping or other brand experiences.

Take this example from beer brand Adnams, which encourages customers to rate their in-store tasting experience via its app. Not only does this prompt usage (giving the brand a chance to promote its other features) but it also allows Adnams to access data that can be used for retargeting in future.


Lastly, with an increasing number of brands fighting for user attention, apps that personalise the customer experience tend to have the edge – keeping users active and engaged long after they’ve been convinced to download. 

As beauty brands like Sephora and L’Oréal have shown, AR in apps can offer real value for users. In both cases, the technology helps to solve a real issue, i.e. finding products to suit individual features such as skin tone and face shape. 

Similarly, location-based apps and targeted recommendations can also drive usage. Nike+ Run Club is a good example, with the app tailoring workouts based on what the user wants to achieve as well as how they are progressing. Home Depot is another, with the app displaying product inventory and navigation help for in-store shopping.

So why might users assign precious home-screen space to these apps? Quite simply, because they offer something that solves a problem, or that users cannot find elsewhere. And ultimately, this should be the real question brands vying for app attention should consider. Without a tangible USP, it’s always going to be a hard sell.

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