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What Motivates Users to Download Apps?

What Motivates Users to Download Apps?

Look at the question in the title. Very simple, very straightforward, you’d even say – superficial. A simple question, right? ‘They (users) have a problem, and they’re looking to an app to solve it.’ Simple question – simple answer.

Then again, scratching the surface, we can see that it’s not really that simple, and it requires a bigger, more thorough answer. There are countless apps for everything we’re doing nowadays. Numerous communications apps, a sea of productivity apps, a whole universe of entertainment and education apps. So, if they already have all that, what motivates users to *still* download new apps?

Again, you’d go for a simple answer – the new ones are better. That might be partially true, but we’ve been living in the era of the mobile app for long enough, competition is fierce and (pretty much) everyone knows what it takes to make a good app – so it can’t be just freshness/quality, can it?

It’s not just that users have a problem an app can solve. It’s also not just that a particular app is better. But it is both of those things, and then some. One download – one single action – is driven by a number of different factors, including the fact that an app helps someone get something out of their way, does it better than others. Also, they do it because someone told them to – either a friend or an advertisement, or simply because they have nothing else to do at the moment.

All of a sudden – ‘What motivates users to download apps?’ no longer has a simple answer.

The success of your mobile app is no longer defined *just* by the quality of your app. It is also defined by your target audience’s thought process, their needs and desires, problems in their life, their friends and family, and your marketing efforts. If you want to make a great app – just building one will not suffice.

The Little Things

Thanks to a comprehensive new study by Yahoo, the motivation behind users downloading new apps can be split into a couple of categories:

  • They have a problem and they think an app can solve it
  • They’re bored and looking for something new (mostly games)
  • An app was recommended by a friend
  • Their current app is lacking.

Contrary to popular belief, problem solving is not the number one motivator behind app downloads. Also, according to the Yahoo study, the number one driver for new downloads is boredom. Yes, boredom. Eight out of ten people are simply bored and are looking for something new, which leads them to the app store.

The second main driver behind downloads is personal recommendation. Sure, users can be motivated to download an app by need or through advertising, but a friend’s recommendation is (at least statistically) a bigger driver, according to Google. Word of mouth has a particular weight to it – Yahoo’s study says poor reviews are the number one reason why people decide to stay away from your app. Think about this the next time you decide to ignore a review on an app store, slamming some of your features. Interestingly enough, even though everyone seems to be attempting to get rid of ads, advertising is also a strong motivator.

“Among app users who were influenced by ads on a smartphone when downloading an app, 50 percent were prompted to download through search ads,” Google’s report states.

Advertising seems to be a strong driver and should definitely not be neglected. It is possible to significantly increase the number of app downloads through proper targeting (with respect to demographics, devices in use and other metrics) and a well-crafted ad.

Apps are Problem Solvers

Only after these drivers (boredom, word of mouth, etc.) are depleted, others get their turn, at least statistically. Yahoo’s study says that while boredom and word of mouth are the primary motivators in 80 and 74 percent of cases, respectively, a poor app (one currently in use, which does not solve the user’s problem properly, or creates more in the process), or a lacking browser experience, are the main drivers in 65 and 68 percent of cases.

Also, many apps are downloaded on the go, when people encounter a unique problem. In a blog post here, the CMO of Appsee, John Sela, calls this group ‘hungry audiences’ – hungry for something the market isn’t currently offering. That could be anything, from a problem that needs solving, to a biological urge. These apps might not be used all the time – they might even get deleted soon after use (or after the problem is solved?) – but problem solving is one of the reasons why people turn to the app stores in the first place.

Understanding the Reasons

Building user loyalty, increasing conversions, and boosting engagement are all necessary and daunting tasks – but if you can’t grasp the reasons why people come to your app in the first place, everything else is irrelevant.

Apps are an irreplaceable part of our days – on average we spend 30 hours every month using them, according to Nielsen. Every sentence that starts with ‘I want to,’ can end with the user opening an app and getting that thing they want. It is up to us to understand what it is that they want and the thought process behind it. If we want to have successful mobile apps, we need to know why people choose to download them in the first place.

Hannah Levenson

Hannah is the Content Marketing Manager at Appsee. A UX and content strategy enthusiast, she has a great affinity for discovering and sharing unique insights and resources with the mobile tech community. Hannah also loves photojournalism, classic rock, and pretending that she's the only one with a "foodie" Instagram account.

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