App User Lifecycle

The secret habits of a mobile app user

It’s a truism that you have to know your market before you can make a successful pitch. If you want to sell someone a car, it’s no use talking to them about the 0-60 time and maximum speed if what they care about is the fuel economy and safety features.

The same applies to a mobile app. If you’re targeting a particular segment of the market, you want to know as much as possible about who they are and what they want. And while mobile app users will one day be ‘everyone,’ that isn’t yet the case.

What we’ve done in this blog piece is draw out some of the things you need to know about mobile app users: who they are, what they do and how they behave …

  1. Mobile app users are young

ComScore data shows that, unsurprisingly, mobile app usage is heavily slanted to younger users. Those age 18-24 spend the greatest number of hours per month using mobile apps, at 90.6 hours. That number ramps down in each age segment until it hits 40.7 hours for those aged 55+. So if you’re looking to maximise the appeal of an app, target younger users first.

Appealing to younger users is partly down to subject matter – like fashion, tech and travel – and partly about marketing messages. While you might target older users by talking features and benefits, younger users are more influenced by status and the cool factor. Counter-intuitively, you may grow the biggest audience over time by restricting access in the early days. Remember that Facebook might be ubiquitous today, but it grew in popularity in the early days by the exclusivity factor, limiting access to a small number of high-status colleges.

  1. Messaging and social media drives usage

Email may no longer be cool, but it still tops the charts when it comes to mobile app usage on a smartphone. In a Statista study, 91% of U.S. smartphone users accessed email, right up there with text messaging at 90%. If you can create the next great thing in email apps, there’s a huge market out there.

Searching the web is another obvious but sometimes overlooked category, at 76%. Social networking and messaging is next at 75%, and then news, games, music, reading, video and maps. If you want to be hitting the high numbers with a new app, these are the activities you need to target.

  1. Discovery goes way beyond app stores

Sure, many users find new apps by browsing app stores. But a Think with Google piece suggests that this only accounts for around 40% of it. Much of it happens through simple web searches – for information, not apps. Users search for cheap flights or hotels or train times or gadget reviews or … and find links to apps.

  1. Mobile app users can be loyal …

If you’re looking to persuade a decision-maker than they need to be investing in mobile apps rather than relying on mobile web usage, the numbers couldn’t be clearer. Mobile app users spend 18x more time on apps than using the mobile web. As ComScore notes, mobile web usage is “a mile wide and an inch deep.”

  1. … but easily distracted …

Getting someone to use an app once is much easier than getting them to keep coming back to it. Deals and value-added services available only through the app are two obvious routes here. Content needs to be regularly refreshed.

  1. … and also ruthless

Give someone a reason to delete your app after the first use, and they will. Any bug or glitch will result in immediate deletion, so testing across as many devices as possible is time well spent. Focus a lot of effort on minimizing the number of steps between opening the app and achieving the desired goal. And beware in-app purchases: another critical reason apps get zapped.

  1. Multitasking is common

It’s commonplace for millennials, in particular, to multitask when using the smartphones – using apps while chatting with friends or watching TV, for example. Usability is key, ensuring that even distracted users can successfully navigate the app. And if your app includes ads or promos, a Facebook study found video ads generate fives times the engagement delivered by static ones.

  1. Users love helpful alerts, hate spam

Timely, personalized communication can add value to an app. Intrusive, generic communication that feels like spam can kill it. Always think about communication from the user perspective first, the business perspective second.

  1. Privacy matters more on mobile

Finally, mobile app users is especially concerned about privacy, perhaps more conscious of being tracked by a device they carry everywhere with them. Only ask for the minimum amount of personal data you need from users, and be clear about the benefits of sharing it. Users are particularly wary of sharing location data, requiring you to give them an excellent reason to do so.


55 Billion

1 Billion

10 Billion