This article was published on March 1, 2015

What stops your apps from becoming financially successful?

What stops your apps from becoming financially successful?
Rahul Varshneya
Story by

Rahul Varshneya

Rahul Varshneya is the co-founder of Arkenea LLC, America's premier mobile app consultancy helping startups in mobile product strategy and d Rahul Varshneya is the co-founder of Arkenea LLC, America's premier mobile app consultancy helping startups in mobile product strategy and development. Subscribe to his free email series on actionable mobile app growth hacking tactics.

Rahul Varshneya is the co-founder of mobile app growth marketing agency Apprise, focusing on building distribution for startups and enterprises. Subscribe to his free email series on mobile app growth hacking.

Less than 1 percent of consumer mobile apps are financially successful, according to a report by Gartner. Do you see this as disheartening news or as an opportunity?

If I were you, I’d surely see this as an opportunity. The reason being, I know that very thing which makes that 1 percent financially successful.

In my four years of experience building over 100 apps, of which many failed and a few were spectacular successes, I’ve come to realize there sure is a formula that helps build successful mobile apps.


And it begins with distribution.

99.99 percent of apps don’t succeed because they fail to get in front of their audience. Most assume building and launching an app on the app store is enough and that just because the app exists on the app store, people will discover and download it.

Now, there are over 2 million apps across app stores. What are the chances that someone will come across yours? There is of course that 0.01 percent chance that you get to a million downloads without spending any time or effort on distribution or marketing.

But what are the odds?

When you’re building a business, you have to have this crucial element under your control. Planning and execution of marketing should begin much before you launch your mobile app, if you want it to be effective.

Martin Bryant, Editor-in-Chief of The Next Web is quoted saying:

“If your app is aimed at the public, press coverage can be key for getting early traction. Make sure you get in touch with journalists who write about apps similar to yours, or who you think may be interested. Ideally, contact them ahead of launch and invite them into late-stage beta testing. That way, you may get coverage on day one of availability.”

Press is one of the most important distribution channels for a mobile app. The other is content marketing.

However, you can’t expect to get results the day you create your first blog post or guest article. You need to build this one up as well so that by the time you launch, you have a sizeable audience that is interested in your app.

Start building your distribution even before your app hits the app stores.

Feedback loop

The feedback loop is the next most important factor in the success of any application. Of course, it doesn’t work unless you have a good enough distribution with a growing user base.

Once you start to generate decent traction for your mobile app, the next step is to start paying attention to engagement and retention rates. How many people of whom have downloaded the app, are using it on a regular basis?

Not only that, but you must also look at data (through Flurry analytics) that points to what parts of your app are being used the most. Are the users behaving the way you’d expected them to while using your app? Or are newer use cases emerging from the usage.

This data will give you enough insight into what customers want and prefer so that you can continue to iterate and keep building towards a successful app that your audience can resonate with.

Through this exercise, your current version of the mobile app will look very different from your first version, and that’s normal. Every successful app that you see on the app store today looked very different when they first launched. In fact, Instagram was a completely different product and so was WhatsApp.

They’ve all gone through the journey of iterating on the product through customer feedback and constantly striving to offer a better experience to their users.

When you’re just launching your mobile app though, a Feedback Loop isn’t as important as getting Distribution. Feedback Look kicks in only when you have a sizeable base of customers that want to use your app.

Get your priorities right from day one (as distribution is all that matters) and there’s no reason why you cannot be a part of that 1 percent of financially successful mobile apps.

Read next: 7 reasons why your startup will fail (and how to soften the blow)

Get the TNW newsletter

Get the most important tech news in your inbox each week.