The Reports of App Death are an Exaggeration.
Well, Here's to a life Well Lived, and Well Loved 🎉.
Background to an Obit.
2017 is likely to be the last gasp in smartphone penetration growth, as the adoption of smart devices narrows-in on 100%, and the last 2G "feature phones" are forcibly phased out.
Nearly 75% of smart devices now have access to ubiquitous 4G, translating into a reality that now, your entire audience is accessible to you all the time, thanks both to a touch-device, and super-fast internet .
To this end, rich, bandwidth intense content is now being produced and delivered to customers across the globe with astonishing speed and negligible cost. Live video, news and 360-degree content is captured by anyone and delivered everywhere.
Mobile isn't just king, it's the Illuminati. It runs everything, influences people's behaviour and underpins every aspect of modern commerce: Promotion, Discovery, Payment, Post-Sale, the lot.
Considering just iOS, direct payments to developers collected through the App Store have this week hit USD $20 billion a year . This, as Horace Deidu points out, doesn't include any revenue generated or facilitated by the platform, including 'mostly-mobile' companies, such as:
FaceBook, Twitter, Linkedin, Tencent, YouTube, Yahoo, NetEase, Pandora Radio, Google Search, Baidu, Google Maps, Gmail, Instagram, Amazon, eBay, JD.com, Alibaba, Priceline, Expedia, Salesforce and Other Enterprise Software, Ride Sharing Apps, AirBnB and many other services which monetize independently of the App Store.
This App- and mobile-generated revenue reveal a behaviour amongst consumers: they use apps, and spend money in apps.
This is not a trend. This is the Status Quo.
An iPhone is unlocked 80 times a day. Working under a reasonable assumption of around 600 active iPhones in use globally right now, this works out to roughly 48 billion sessions each day.
Call it what you like, but it is technically indisputable that those sessions are spent in one app or another:
80% of time spent on a smartphone, is spent in apps.
Hype Cycle 101.
What we're seeing in the aforelinked premature write-off of the "App", is best described as The Trough of Disillusionment - 'Phase 3' of the 'Hype Cycle' - Gartner's (historically accurate) model for understanding adoption mechanics and indiviuduals' response to technologies.
It describes a time in a product or platform's lifecycle often prefaced by failed experiments in terms of app implementations that have failed to deliver: Vine, we're not singling you out on purpose.
Critical to note that during Phase 3:
Investments continue only if the surviving providers improve their products to the satisfaction of early adopters.
The table stakes for running a business are irrevocably changed. Customers expect a mobile-first experience from every brand they encounter. Immediacy, convenience and experience aren't buzzwords, they are concepts every successful brand understands. Don't forget that Banks -the perennial bastion of conservative business processes- nearly all have mobile apps.
An app experience is your price of entry into the service industry.
Mobile = Money.
To drive this point home, just note that Customers using apps are highly valuable customers, Techcrunch:
One study showed that banks generated 72 percent more revenue from their mobile users compared to branch-only customers.
Figures like these are making large enterprise IT departments sit up and take notice. And with Gartner estimating that 25 percent of enterprise IT budgets will be invested in mobile app development by 2017, expect a lot more apps that facilitate loyalty-building and other interactions with high-value customers — interactions that may not be measurable by in-app purchases or commerce alone.
Apps are no more on their way to an untimely death than physical retail or the Desktop PC, but there are real challenges.
Experience and usefulness govern everything, and "I've got an idea for an app" isn't directly equivalent to your own special place on Forbes' Rich List.
You Have to Work For Your Users.
You can't achieve the level of insight and connection to customers through the web that you can through mobile. It's easier to build an audience on the web, but mobile experiences -apps- are by far more meaningful, and valuable to your business. They spend more, they interact and converse more, and if the experience is right and the incentive is real, they'll stay loyal.
The concept that "apps are dead" is crap.
This has been the first in a (hopefully ongoing) series of longform insights into technology, app development, and business by What's On In's Senior Management.