January 31, 2017

Mobile Marketing Chart: Why customers delete your app


Many brands find that customers who download their apps have a higher lifetime value and are, simply put, more loyal and better customers. So getting a customer to download an app is a key conversion objective for their marketing.

However, once customers have downloaded your app, you can’t take them for granted. After all, they can delete you at any time. Why would they delete your app? Read on to see what 2,400 consumers told us.

by Daniel Burstein, Senior Director, Content & Marketing, MarketingSherpa and MECLABS Institute

In our October 2016 consumer survey, we asked consumers, “Why do you delete the app of the companies with which you are [satisfied/unsatisfied]? Select all that apply.”

The question was worded that way because we split the survey into two groups — satisfied and unsatisfied customers. In previous Chart of the Week articles, we focused on how satisfied and unsatisfied customers behaved differently. Today, let’s look at the aggregate for an understanding of why customers delete apps in general.

To see 27 more charts from the study, download the free report

Utility is the most important characteristic of an app

The top reason customers deleted an app was because “the app is not useful.”

While this was the number one reason, it was still only selected by 18% of respondents — not even close to a majority. In fact, as you can see in the chart above, 12 of the 15 options were within 10% of the top response, an unusually tight grouping. So there are many disparate reasons people delete apps, perhaps because apps are new.

A few other reasons that fell in the category of what I would call utility were also in that grouping, including “the app doesn’t perform well, or has bugs” (13%) and “I get the same deals and promotions in the app that I get in the mail (direct mail, print magazines, newspapers, etc.)” (12%).

This point may seem overly obvious — i.e., the app should provide a value proposition to the customer and function properly. However, based on what consumers have told us, many companies are overlooking this important point.

Why? Perhaps because some brands are focused more on their objectives (create more stickiness with a customer by getting them to download an app) than on the utility and value they can provide their customers with an app.

And along those lines, perhaps many companies just create an app to have an app, and they don’t put enough thinking and resources into why that app needs to exist when there are 2.2 million apps for Android users and 2 million options in Apple’s App Store (according to June 2016 data from Statista).

As a writer, I’m using marketing industry terminology when I use words like “utility” and “value proposition” to describe this customer pain point. That’s why I like to bring the voice of the customer into these articles as well, so you can see not just the quantitative data of responses, but also hear people’s emotions as they talk about these underlying challenges.

So here’s how one survey respondent expressed his or her approach to apps: “Duh! I'm dissatisfied, so why would I keep their app? When I'm done, I'm done. Good riddance... out of my life.”

More so than other marketing channels, an app is a product

I always think of email marketing, social media and other marketing as a product on some level. It is, essentially, an information product. And your continued ability to get people to pay attention and react to this marketing requires you to make sure your marketing itself is a value-rich information product in addition to the value-rich product or service that you’re actually selling.

But in the case of apps, they actually have physical characteristics of a product as well. The second most frequent response for why people delete apps was a tie between “The app takes up too much space on my cellphone/tablet hard drive” and “The app uses a lot of data” — both 17%.

For digital marketers, this is an easy challenge to overlook. Many digital marketers I know have the latest and greatest phones with plenty of space and cell plans with “unlimited” data.

But, depending on the socioeconomic level of your customers, they could have a very different experience. Some budget Android phones just have two gigabytes of storage and the undeletable Google apps that come with Android can take up a fair amount of it. Budget cell plans can come with as little as 10 megabytes of data per month, or your customers might pay per megabyte for their data.

And if you have a global customer base, these smartphone limitations are even more acute in many developing nations.

So keep these physical limitations in mind because they can really irritate your customers. As one respondent said (originally in all caps which really shows the rage, but I edited for legibility): “Because of those stinking apps, I will not have data for my phone for 3 months because the apps drained the data, the apps cost me way too much in data costs!”

And as another respondent more calmly remarked, “I want any space/memory the app uses available to do other, more productive things.”       

Don’t sell, serve

As with any channel, if people perceive they are being overly sold to, you will alienate and lose them. “I don’t like the ads in the app” was tied for third most frequent response (13%).

As one respondent said, “I delete mobile apps when they spam me with notifications.”

And I’ll leave you with this last consumer quote. As with all of this direct consumer feedback, please note not just the content of their message, but how they express themselves. This consumer could have said “Don’t use.” But instead, this customer chose to use a word with the heavy connotation of being attacked: “bombard.”

“Don't bombard every angle possible to market products. Find out which route has the best return and utilize that. Sometimes too many ads are too much and could possibly make the consumer block emails or delete apps.”

Related resources

Is an iPhone App Right for Your Business? 6 Questions to Consider

Social Media Marketing: Over 120% increase in daily activity for app due to visual social media campaign

Learn how to improve the value proposition for your marketing and products in the Communicating Value and Web Conversion graduate certificate program from MECLABS Institute (parent research organization of MarketingSherpa) and the University of Florida.

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