British mobile phone owners will spend more than £747 million this year on apps they never use according to a report published earlier this week by MyVoucherCodes. The study of 1,476 UK phone owners showed 79 per cent of smartphone owners were “highly unlikely” to use a paid-for phone application or game more than once.
Although it is likely that several of these applications were low cost and impulse buys where the novelty soon wore off, it nevertheless could be indicative of the challenges I see around how we promote, sell and support mobile applications today.
As highlighted in a recent blog by Google’s Tim Bray, he wrote when it comes to both Apple’s App Store and Google’s Android Market, “just as with the Internet itself, Sturgeon’s Law applies: almost everything is crap”. The problem is that consumers are forced to filter through thousands of applications and base their decision to buy on a short description, peer reviews which can often be dubious and a few static screenshots which loosely represent game play.
It is also important to acknowledge that the customer experience doesn’t simply end at discovery, a major gripe amongst developers, but also encompasses the download and use of the selected application itself. As applications and smartphones themselves become increasingly complex, whilst also breaking into more mainstream audiences, the level of support needs to evolve to meet the needs of those end-users beyond simply a couple lines of text in the application itself (a chicken and egg tale when referring to download and installation problems).
These challenges will ultimately have a financial impact on both developer and app store owners who are currently enjoying the golden era of mobile application stores. Developers will lose revenue from In-App Purchases and cross sold applications where frustrated users simply uninstall the application, whilst app store owners themselves will lose customers and face rising and expensive customer support costs.
Someone who is leading the way in terms of addressing these specific challenges is the team over at the Nokia Ovi Blog. Not only are they helping Ovi Store users to locate the best content by providing in-depth reviews of the best Ovi applications based on a variety of factors, but they are also providing interactive tutorials to show users how to get the best out of these applications.
This is really exciting and I fully recommend other application store owners to take note.