Before you fulfill your dream of developing a mobile application, consider this: A staggering 42 percent of apps fail because they were launched without prior market research.

7 Tips for Building a Successful App

  1. Make sure the problem you want to solve needs an app.
  2. Research apps like it that are already on the market.
  3. Price the app optimally.
  4. Consider how you will monetize the app — for instance, with in-app purchases or memberships.
  5. Craft a compelling and flexible marketing plan.
  6. Devise ways to keep users and reduce churn. 
  7. Keep it simple. Avoid unnecessary features.

And, in more disheartening statistics, it is estimated that 80 to 90 percent of mobile applications are deleted or never used again after one single use. On top of that, tens of thousands of new apps come on the market every month.

Still interested in building an application?  If so, here are five principles that can increase your odds of success. 

The Future of Mobile Technology6G: What Is It? When Can We Expect It?


Make Sure the Problem You’re Solving Needs an App

For starters, don’t automatically assume that the problem that you are looking at requires an application to solve it when data indicates otherwise. Studies have found that 91 percent of people have a disdain for companies that force them to download apps, and that this practice of developing unnecessary mobile applications has cost brands billions of dollars

But, assuming that the complication you’re solving requires an application, start from the premise that there’s already an application in the market that is doing exactly what you want your app to do. The best option is to look at the top apps lists for the categories that you're interested in. External services like SensorTower can also provide lists of top grossing apps for each category.

Once you find the apps, study them. Use services like SensorTower to see how successful those apps already are. Check App Store metrics for conversion rates for the specific search items that you are studying. Apps lose 77 percent of their daily active users within the first three days, so even if an app has millions of downloads, it doesn’t mean that people are using it.

The revenue metric in services like SensorTower is a better indicator of an app’s real value than the number of downloads. However, the service only shows revenue through in-app purchases and subscriptions. If the revenue is zero or small, the app could still be making money through other means, for example the advertising model.

Another tool that you can use to gauge market interest is the App Store’s keyword search volume data. For instance, AsoDesk will help you determine if there are enough queries for an app that solves the problem that you are aiming to address. The more you learn, the further you get ahead of the curve. 


Find the Right Price Point and Optimization Model 

Once you are certain that the market for your application exists, and you are clear on the value that you are bringing to the table, it is time to think about the pricing and monetization strategy. 

A hot tip: Analyze the pricing of your cost competitors. Then, instead of starting with a low price and then gradually increasing it, start out with the maximum possible price, one that is higher than that of your competitors, and periodically lower it until you reach the optimal pricing point. Psychologically, it is easier to lower prices than to have to raise them multiple times.

The primary long-term indicator to consider is revenue per user. In the initial stages, rely on simple estimations. As your business matures, you can harness advanced AI predictions to enhance your decision-making process. However, compare the results obtained with each pricing model for more certainty. 

Also, remember that apps can be monetized in several ways, so ensure you have the right monetization model. For example, games like Angry Birds and Logo Quiz are monetized through in-app purchases, while applications like Pandora and Headspace operate on a subscription model. 

Other apps make money through in-app third-party advertising. And, more often than not, developers combine different models to make their pricing more viable and appeal to a wider demographic. For example, Business Insider combines in-app advertising with memberships, with members paying a fee to access ad-free content. 


Have a Compelling and Flexible Marketing Plan 

If you only promote your app through one channel, the effectiveness of your user acquisition game plan will wane over time, leading to a decline in usage and a subsequent slump in your app’s profitability. 

Hence, a compelling strategy is needed so that you can pivot from one marketing channel to another based on the feedback you receive from the market. How is your app reaching more users? Even though there are many channels that you can use to kickstart your app, like public relations, paid advertising, ASO (App Store optimization), event marketing, community engagement, content marketing and email marketing, to name a few, you need to be aware that there is a limited number of scalable channels. Of the aforementioned, it is likely that paid advertising, viral mechanics and ASO will be your best sources for long-term, sustainable growth.

It’s likely that paid advertising, viral mechanics and ASO will be your best sources for long-term, sustainable growth.

When experimenting with this, remember Pareto’s principle, in which 20 percent of the actions yield 80 percent of results, so you must know what to focus on. For example, HotelTonight, an app that marketed unsold hotel nights (usually for the same day) at a discount, implemented a referral campaign that incentivized users with $25 every time a friend became a user of HotelTonight. They then had a great storytelling outline explaining to new customers how the app could help them. HotelTonight eventually reached 15 million users, and it was sold to Airbnb for $450 million cash. 


Focus on Keeping Users and Reducing Churn

Even if millions of people download your application, that doesn’t mean that they will keep using it over time. Therefore, relying on a single transaction is not the right strategy to build a sustainable mobile application. Instead, focus on increasing your retention and reducing your churn rate.

Usually, retention depends on the type of mobile application, so you should make a comparison with similar applications on the market and not look only at absolute numbers.

One of the most effective ways to improve retention is a four-step process (a virtuous circle that includes a trigger, an action, a variable reward and ongoing investment) that subtly encourages customer behavior and brings users back without the need for costly advertising or aggressive messaging. The idea is described in the book Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Productsby Nir Eyal.

Successfully retaining your users increases their customer lifetime value, a vital metric that you need to evaluate if you’d like your app to survive in today’s competitive marketplace. 

App Building 101What Is App Development?


Aim for Simplicity

When sports betting entered the United States market, many companies, eager to join the market, launched their applications. Until now, the apps that have been the most successful are those that offer an easy-to-use, completely intuitive user interface. 

Even though other applications have more features, customers have preferred a company that focused on developing a top-notch user interface and offers a streamlined user experience. The lesson here is that there is no reason to overload your interface with unnecessary features.

Ideally, a well-designed product minimizes reliance on customer support and is totally intuitive to navigate. Studies indicate that a good interface raises conversion rates by up to 200 percent, and a good user experience boosts the same by up to 400 percent. If you’ve overcome the challenge of getting people to download your app and use it, these critical factors can keep them there and make sure that your app withstands the test of time. Following the five principles detailed above will help, too.

Expert Contributors

Built In’s expert contributor network publishes thoughtful, solutions-oriented stories written by innovative tech professionals. It is the tech industry’s definitive destination for sharing compelling, first-person accounts of problem-solving on the road to innovation.

Learn More

Great Companies Need Great People. That's Where We Come In.

Recruit With Us