First, the good news: Android and iOS users download an average of 10 apps per month. Add in Nielsen’s prediction that in some markets – such as the United States – the installed base of smartphones will outnumber feature phones by the end of this year, and it’s clear that the mobile channel has become one of the most powerful ways for companies to interact with consumers.

Now for the bad news: Many apps are quickly abandoned, especially free ones. For example, less than five percent of Smartphone owners are still using free apps 30 days after downloading them. Put bluntly, the vast majority of tablet and smartphone owners don’t see enough benefit from free apps to continue using them. Keep in mind that although the apps are free for users, companies spend between $20,000 and $150,000 to develop an app.  Frequently there are not clear measures for the return on that investment.

Understanding why the vast majority of apps are quickly abandoned is key for developing ones that are the exception to the rule. That process starts by recognizing the two main reasons why consumers love mobile devices: convenience and immediacy. For example, consumers frequently view smartphones and tablets as a faster, easier way to get information than using a PC. The ideal mobile app must meet those expectations in order for it to be an effective way for merchants and other companies to interact with consumers.

Help consumers find your app

While Smartphones and mobile apps are exciting and new, the data shows that they haven’t yet become incorporated into consumers’ daily lives.   Customers have been trained to call customer service as a first point of contact.  Companies can take advantage of that behavior by recognizing that a smartphone user is dialing customer service and offer a reminder that the mobile app is available.  Such an approach addresses one of the key challenges facing customers and companies today: app ‘discoverability’.  There’s the potential to increase app usage and on-device self-service, which mobile customers often prefer because they believe it’s faster and more convenient.  Coming back to the return on investment – the more customers use the mobile app to meet their needs, the less calls will hit the call center.

Make the app easy for them to use

Once customers remember that an app is available to use, the next challenge is to get them to keep using the application.   There are many creative ways to engage users in cool interactions – for example gaming approaches that make apps addictive and social.  However, not all apps – especially customer service apps – are going to engage users with entertaining gimmicks.  In the vast majority of cases, the app must simply be easy to use and avoid frustrating customers.  Check your app store reviews.  What are customers complaining about?  A top complaint: many users don’t enjoy typing on their smartphone’s or tablets virtual keyboard – it takes too long and it’s prone to mistakes.  By providing users with a speech input option to fill out a form, speak a product name or search for a local restaurant, companies can engage more users and improve the effectiveness of their app.  Check out apps like Price Check by Amazon, Siri the personal assistant and Dragon Go!.  They all engage users in a natural interaction and offer them options to speak inputs that would be difficult to type.  In the end, in order to stay relevant to the consumer and offer them the flexibility they crave, mobile apps need to offer natural interactions that account for speech, tap and touch inputs.

Make the mobile app a gateway

No matter how great your mobile app is, if it’s like the majority of apps, it is a siloed experience for the mobile consumer.  An app is accessed to accomplish a very specific task that has been pre-identified and designed.  However, we will soon be at a point where the smartphone will be the primary communication tool for consumers.  As more consumers rely on their Smartphones to ask questions, get answers and get things done, apps will need to evolve accordingly.  Mobile apps have the power to be a gateway – connecting consumers beyond the app to other touchpoints that may meet their specific need.  Companies should consider creative and user-friendly approaches to provide information that is not built into the app.  The results can have tremendous return on investment, driven by increased self-service on the device and shortening the length of calls that still need to be handled in the call center.

Regardless of whether the app is designed for sales or customer support or just plain fun, the bottom line is that an engaging experience increases the likelihood that long after 30 days, they’ll still be using that app for information and interaction.

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  • Faryal Hassan

    A good, agile UI and UX is central to an application’s success. Moreover, integrating mobile support has become crucial, especially when most customers engage with companies using mobile platforms. A lot of businesses have realized that having a mobile app for their product/brand or service can be extremely rewarding. I’d like to dwell a bit on the point related to customer support. I believe that having support built within the app can more convenient for both the developer and the app users. Both parties can interact without having to leave the app and issues can be resolved quickly. We have recently launched a support desk, devContact (,that performs these exact functions. The developers and companies that have integrated this solution to their apps have confirmed that they have witnessed a happier and more loyal app user base. The best part is, it is absolutely free! Great post! :)

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About Andrea Mocherman

This was a contributed post by Andrea Mocherman. To see more content like this, visit the Customer experience section of our blog.