Home The Mobile App Dilemma: to Build or Not to Build, That is the Question

The Mobile App Dilemma: to Build or Not to Build, That is the Question

Currently, over 1.96 million mobile apps are available on Apple’s App Store. Google Play Store users have even more choices, with millions of applications downloaded. However, there is a more impressive statistic. According to some estimates, a staggering 99.5% of consumer apps and 87% of business apps fail.

There are two main reasons why the flop rate is so high. Understanding these is key for individuals and businesses alike to maximize their chances of success in such a crowded marketplace.

The first cause of the demise of a mobile app is simple: nobody needs it. The product-market fit is inexistent.

In the second case, there is a problem that the application solves. However, if the business behind it does not have a solid user acquisition strategy, the app will disappear without ever getting enough traction.

Launching an application can only generate real impact if you are clear on the value you bring to users and the strategy you will follow to get to those users.

And, to accomplish that, these three pieces of advice can help.

#1: Study the existing solutions in the market

Consider the premise that if a problem needs an application to solve it, somebody already tried to develop that application. Therefore, an easier starting point for you is to look for the existing solutions in the market. Once you find them, use services like SensorTower to find information on how successful those apps already are, including metrics like revenue. One of the advantages of mobile apps is that data is quite open. Even when browsing the App Store or Google Play Store, you can get valuable information, like how many times an app has been downloaded. Also, you can check the number of reviews, which gives you an idea of how many people use it.

Once you do the research, you will likely face one of these three scenarios:

  • There are existing successful applications trying to solve the same problem, and you have the capabilities to build something better. If this is the case, you have a winning idea and an open market.
  • Such applications already exist. All the innovative features you can think about are already embedded into the app in the market. While this might feel discouraging, it doesn’t mean everything is lost. You can beat the current application by leveraging alternative or improved customer acquisition channels.
  • In a third scenario, no existing application is working on your perceived issue. Look at this as a red flag. If the problem is so pressing, why is nobody else trying to solve it? This can mean that the road ahead is even more challenging. So, you need to be convinced to continue on this path. If, despite it all, you have enough conviction, talk to experts and potential customers before you start building anything. For example, if your application intends to serve a segment of brick-and-mortar businesses, like hairdressers, connect with some of them and find out if they would derive any value from your platform. Then, run a local test and see how many of those people who express interest paid for your tool. This gives you an idea of whether you have a viable market.

In any of the three scenarios, conducting market research is paramount, as the lack of it is behind the failure of 42% of mobile applications.


#2: Analyze the market: Is there an effective strategy for your mobile app to be discoverable?

How the market for mobile applications is structured is such that approximately 2% of developers generate around 95 percent of the revenue. Therefore, the chances that your product will make money are slim. However, you need to have a solid customer acquisition strategy to maximize the odds.

In this plan, you need to factor in that acquiring mobile traffic is considerably more expensive. There is a misconception that apps attract more visitors or customers than websites. In reality, this is not the case. It is estimated that the cost of web click-through rates is 50% lower than app click-through rates.

Mobile users also tend to look for fast answers. That is why there are considerably fewer mobile queries than web searches. If someone is browsing online on a computer, they have more time to iterate if they don’t find what they’re looking for. But, on mobile, if your app is not already at the top of the list, it is tough for new users to discover it. It happens simply because they don’t take the time to browse.

#3: Save money, make it cheap

Frank Robinson, co-founder of SyncDev, and Eric Ries, author of The Lean Startup, popularized MVP, which stands for Minimum Viable Product. This means that, when developing an app, it is recommended to first design an inexpensive, fast prototype that can validate the idea in the market.

Once you have that, launch a test version for two weeks.  If you notice there is enough demand, then you can decide to invest in further development.

When building, don’t worry about using a specific tech stack. Please optimize the resources available and leverage what you or your technical team already know. Sticking to what is familiar will boost the pace of your product development process. Additionally,  it will get you faster to the validation stage.

Having an MVP will save you time and money and increase your odds of success. However, you must be open to feedback and know what to do with it. Once the market responds to what you’ve built, you must make decisions–especially adjusting the product based on the market’s needs. It is easier said than done since 90% of startups fail because they don’t know how to leverage their MVP and the learnings from its launch.

Final Thoughts

As discussed, it can be easy to get caught by the mobile application development craze. However, to build a product without a clear vision will most likely result in failure. The field is very competitive and extremely crowded. To maximize your chances, you must ensure your app solves a problem. Also, you must have a compelling strategy to get to users and convince them of what you can do for them.

Featured Image Credit: Photo by Screen Post; Pexels; Thank you!

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I am a serial entrepreneur with over 15 years of experience. I have founded five startups, with two of them generating $20 million annually in revenue each. I am an expert in web development, software engineering and can talk about product development, product management and startups. Now, as the founder & CEO of Tofu, a fintech startup that offers an all-in-one, back-office management platform to assist self-employed individuals with invoicing, expense management and tax calculation.

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