Discoverability: How To Get Noticed In A Market Overflowing With Apps

Discoverability White PaperThis is an excerpt of a white paper I wrote for The Application Developers Alliance.

If an app drops in the store and no one is around to see it, does it make a profit? The answer is no, and therein lies one of the major challenges facing application developers today.

Developers can make the most innovative app of the year or perhaps the decade, but if consumers cannot find it because of marketing obstacles, all of the engineering prowess will be for naught. What good is an angry bird without gamers to fling it from a slingshot or an Instagram without amateur photographers to capture nostalgic memories and share them?

Discoverability matters. It is as central to successful app ventures as the creative genius behind great apps. This paper identifies the challenges that developers and companies face in getting their apps before the right audiences, explores the current options available to do so and proposes solutions for optimizing discoverability.

The discoverability challenge
The app marketplace is immense. The virtual shelves in the major app stores are flush with about 1.5 million products, with more on the way every day. The download data is even more intimidating to developers hoping to be discovered. Consumers downloaded more than 40 billion apps between 2008 and mid-2012, but experts estimate that half of the business goes to only 0.1 percent of the available apps.

When the analytics provider Distimo released new data about apps in December, it rightly concluded that the exploding growth in the marketplace makes it more difficult for new developers to have their work discovered. Last July, the new Apptrace tool found that 400,000 of the then-650,000 iOS apps were “zombies” that had not been downloaded even once.

But even overcoming the download hurdle does not ensure success. While nearly 1 billion apps get added to devices every month, one in four of them are never used again.

The challenge also is daunting because consumers head primarily to overstocked app stores to shop. David Gill, vice president of emerging media at Nielsen, said his firm’s research found that 53 percent of app shoppers learn about products in app stores, which favor existing apps that have been installed often and recently over new apps.Add to that reality the short attention span of app consumers — they typically spend just three to 10 minutes shopping for each product — and it’s clear that guiding consumers to any given app can be like drawing them a map to a needle in a haystack.

“Consumers have a hard time finding good apps,” Appsfire co-founder Ouriel Ohayon wrote last year at GigaOm. “But, paradoxically, they don’t care enough to read reviews, compare apps or even search for apps. On mobile people are lazy.”

Read the full paper in PDF format.