Designing, deploying and maintaining a mobile application for your prospects or customers continues to be a significant investment for companies. The question is whether or not the strategy actually works. In the 7 years, we’ve consulted on and built one mobile application for a client. Why? It’s a busy marketplace and expensive to get traction in.

The mobile application we built is a conversion calculator for engineers and it’s been widely adopted within the target audience. Why did our mobile app perform well? It’s not a unique user interface, it doesn’t have dazzling effects, it’s not even that pretty. Here’s exactly why:

  • Original – we didn’t copy anyone. We looked for an opportunity to produce a mobile app that the industry needed, but hadn’t been developed yet.
  • Targeted – we identified the market and targeted them with an application like no other in the marketplace.
  • Free – the tool is absolutely free and was used to attract engineers within the industry to help them do their job much easier.
  • Supported – we implemented a click-to-call and contact functionality so that an engineer could move directly from the calculated result to a phone call with a service representative, increasing direct sales.
  • Inexpensive – we knew the strategy was solid, but the company couldn’t risk the bank on it. So, we found a great development resource that developed it on a platform that could output native apps for iOS and Android rather than having to get each developed independent of each another.

It’s just my opinion, but I don’t believe you should pay too much attention to these benchmarks on retention… other than you absolutely have to beat them. These are based on thousands and thousands of crap mobile applications getting mass produced on a daily basis. With that in mind, I think there are three key keys to building a successful mobile application where you’re able to retain your users:

  1. Developer Experience – Stop shopping on budget and start shopping for a mobile app partner based on the success of the apps they’ve built for other clients. There are plenty of tools that will show you how their apps rank and what kind of reviews they’re getting. Trying to shave a few bucks off your mobile app budget is going to get you buried with the majority of other unused mobile apps.
  2. User Experience – Without the massive landscape of a desktop, you have to have some incredible user experience experts putting your platform together. Take a look, for example, at the Google Analytics Mobile app. It’s a powerful app with a ton of capabilities… but it’s both unique and intuitive at its ease of use and ability to display information on the small screen.
  3. Value to User – The GA app is a great example of value. The fact that I can easily access our clients’ data from anywhere and do some research is awesome. It’s now positioned on my iPhone’s dock. Why would anyone use your application more than once? Is there ongoing value? New content? I’m amazed at the number of apps that I ramp up that never give me a reason to open them again.

In summary, I’d honestly move in one direction or the other with a mobile app. I might spend a few thousand dollars, or look to spend more than a hundred thousand dollars… without too much room in between. It’s obvious from these benchmark reports that the return on investment just isn’t there for the vast majority of mobile apps put in the marketplace. You’re either going to succeed by not breaking the bank… or by heavily investing in the best mobile app designers in the industry. In between is a wasteland.

mobile app retention

This article is by Douglas Karr from