Google research on choice and use of mobile apps

For a customer facing company, there are many potential benefits of developing an app. It can provide valuable customer insight; it offers a vehicle for personalisation; and it can foster loyalty towards your brand, as discussed here.


However, with more than 1 million apps available in Apple’s app store, alone, you really need to understand what drives consumers to download and use mobile apps, if you are going to have a chance at succeeding in this market, at all.


Google has, this month, published the results of a survey done last autumn, to ‘uncover insights about mobile app user behavior[u]r, including app discovery, acquisition, usage, and abandonment’. You can see the report here and here.


Some of the findings are unsurprising. For instance:

  • The main source of awareness of new apps is word of mouth,
  • Price is an ubiquitously important factor when deciding to download an app (with ¾ of us expecting to get free apps), and
  • Approximately a quarter of the apps downloaded are never used.


Moreover, of the apps that are downloaded and used, around a third are quickly abandoned, because users loose interest.

This is quite understandable. Not only is there a lot of competition for each app (i.e., other products that promise to do more or less the same) in the app stores, but there is intense competition for space in the user’s small screen: apps that fail to show their value quickly, or to hold the user’s attention, will soon be replaced by another one, moving to the phone’s (or tablet’s) second or third screen and, soon, to oblivion.


Not an encouraging picture, right?!


So, how can you make your app ‘stick’?


According to the same Google study, the most frequently used apps are those that are useful and easy to use, which is very much in line with the adoption of other technologies (for more on this, check the Technology Acceptance Model, for instance).


However, when it comes to mobile apps, functionality is not everything. Rather, the look and feel of the app are extremely important, too, with more than 50% of respondents saying that they are most likely to use apps that are aesthetically appealing, and which offer a consistent experience across devices. Bad news, if you were planning to get something out quickly, and ‘get it’ right later on!



What are your top 2 or 3 favourite apps? How did you become aware of them, and what makes you use them over and over again?

7 thoughts on “Google research on choice and use of mobile apps

  1. I tend to use apps that help make my daily life easier such as my bank apps, the train line app for booking tickets, chat apps like bb and whatsapp. I also use LinkedIn and WordPress apps a lot. It’s part of my lifestyle. Anything that is too far away from my day to day interests I will not use often and I delete eventually. I hear about these apps from the companies themselves – like in the case of WordPress or LinkedIn. For chat apps, it’s WOM. My friends and family can be found there so I’m there.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Hmm, just got an app for that recently. Doesn’t currently fit in with my lifestyle as such i.e. I forget I have it so I don’t check it regularly after exercise etc. I need to make it part of my routine somehow for it to engage me long term. We’ll see.


  2. There are three main drivers for me to download and use apps. And then there’s a fourth ‘secondary’ driver that makes me explore apps. The first driver is ‘community’. That is, I use several apps for connecting with the people I care about and communicate regularly with. Examples are the apps for Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Yammer, but also Instagram, Swarm and Foursquare, Pocket, Buffer, WordPress and (unfortunately) Whatsapp.
    Second driver would be utility: apps that make life easier. Examples are Evernote (highly recommended), Wunderlist, and the app for the regional public transport. But also emerging EvoPark, which shows me in which parking houses I can park with the card, get charged for parking later, and in which retailers I can get discount vouchers, that help me pay for the parking.
    The third main driver is entertainment in the broadest sense. News, music (Spotify!), and the occasional game.
    The fourth driver, which is important for downloading apps, is curiosity. As an example, I have downloaded Meerkat to see what all the fuss is about.


    1. By the way: I find that the presentation of the research in the article on the Think With Google website (your first link) appears to be slanted towards convincing marketers to by the Google advertising products. I don’t think I have ever downloaded an app because of a search ad. I encourage mobile marketers to think about how they discover apps themselves, before they bet on search advertising. There undoubtedly is value in it, but it seems to be overstated in that article.


      1. Yes, you are very right, Arjan. They did emphasise the search element. Understandable, I suppose, as they sponsored the research. But certainly an odd bet if you are an app developer.


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