Digital Dead End

In an Endless Sea of Software, Most Apps Reportedly Go Unsold, Unused and Unnoticed

Apple still leads the app market worldwide. Source: AFP
Apple still leads the app market worldwide. Here, CEO Tim Cook at a presentation.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    The debate over traditional advertising versus new digital channels is heating up, but unless companies offer games or utility, they often expect too much from apps in reaching customers.

  • Facts

    Facts

    • Apple said it sells or gives away 60,000 new apps each month for its devices.
    • An estimated 889 million people worldwide have downloaded the Facebook app.
    • In contrast, Evonik, a German chemical company, has had only 8,000 downloads for its app.
  • Audio

    Audio

  • Pdf

The U.S. technology giant Apple regularly sends out reports celebrating its incredible number of digital offerings — 1.2 million apps, 60,000 new ones each month, 75 billion downloads. But according to a new study, 80 percent of all applications are completely ignored by Internet users. Almost no one actually downloads them.

Among these “zombie apps” are many from German firms. In recent years, there has been a veritable “app-phoria” in the business community – a mix of elation and lack of knowledge about the potential for digital communications. It seems important to get involved, and a lot of money is spent on a lot of apps. Many are well-made pieces of software. But unfortunately, most don’t make it to the iPads or iPhones of targeted customers.

Up to now, technology companies and their service providers have treated the number of downloads for apps as a business secret. Apple is equally tight-lipped.

The U.S. technology giant Apple regularly sends out reports celebrating its incredible number of digital offerings -- 1.2 million apps, 60,000 new ones each month, 75 billion downloads. But according to a new study, 80 percent of all applications are completely disregarded by users. Almost no one actually downloads them.

But with the help from Internet services, the secret figures can be estimated with relative accuracy.

For instance, the app search engine Xyo finds a grand total of 2,600 downloads for the magazine app of the German pharmaceutical company Bayer. For Evonik, a German chemical company, there are 8,000 downloads around the globe. Even award-winning Volkswagen magazine “The Auto” only has had an estimated 14,000 downloads – and the number of active users is no doubt much less.

In the global Apple Store, purveyors of information have a hard time. Even established media publications compete desperately for attention. As a rule, only game and utility apps get many downloads. Clash of Clans, a relatively simply video game, boasts 40 million downloads. Facebook and Google Maps also have hundreds of millions of users.

The huge number of offerings makes it almost impossible for smaller software developers to get the attention of consumers with their own apps. Unless they spend millions on advertising – or offer users what they’re looking for, namely fun games or help in everyday life.

In many companies, a debate is raging about content marketing: Can target groups be reached more effectively and less expensively through digital channels rather than traditional advertising?

Many agencies have gotten wind of business opportunities in this field and are herding their business customers into new digital projects. But what often is lacking is concrete proof that digital marketing actually works and pays off.

And worse: Many companies that want to march with Apple at the front of progressive communication end up quickly at a digital dead-end.

Bernd Ziesemer is the former editor-in-chief of Handelsblatt. He can be reached at gastautor@handelsblatt.com

 

 

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