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How Can You Tell If Your App Is Successful?

While sheer downloads are great that is not the only benchmark for success which leads to the question of how can you tell if your app is successful?

Yes, total downloads are a great metric as are in-app purchases and total revenue generated, but even without huge numbers in these categories your app can be considered successful. There are a handful of other metrics that you can and should look at using analytics to determine the overall quality of your app which is a useful exercise that can be applied to future projects.

So without further adieu…

It all starts with questions

Understanding success goes beyond dollars and downloads. You need to understand exactly what has happened at various stages with your app which means gathering the typical information along the lines of who, what, where, when, why and how.

Those questions are critical to really get down to brass tacks on what is working, or not working, in regards to your success.

  • Who downloaded your app?
  • When did they download it?
  • After download did they use it immediately?
  • How often did they use it after the initial download?
  • How much time does a user spend on your app each session?
  • How many sessions does a user have per week or month?
  • Did they remove it?
  • If they did remove it how long after download was this and why?
  • Are customers talking about your app in the store or on social media?
  • Is this talk spurring referrals or negativity?

Understanding the answers to these questions is an important part of discovering how successful your app truly is. From there you will have a better understanding of if your app is then a good candidate for revenue models such as in-app purchases or mobile advertising.

So how do you find answers?

The key to finding answers in this case is through the use of analytics tools. Let’s look at a few of the top choices available:

  • Google Mobile App Analytics –The Google/Android relationship is enough reason alone to use them if you have an Android OS app. It has excellent features for seeing all user actions, provides demographic information and can measure in-app purchase activity, which are all key factors to be aware of. One of the only downsides is that it is only available for Android and iOS.
  • Flurry Analytics – Flurry is one of the best app analytic toolkits on the market. It has an extensive list of metrics it uses and works with the iOS, Android, Windows phone, mobile web and even Blackberries. Flurry is extremely customizable which allows you to spend time measuring the metrics that are specific to your app rather than reading through unnecessary data. Using the various information allows you to understand more about users which ultimately leads to more sales. It is free so really there is no reason not to try it out.
  • Appsee – A bit different than the others in the group, Appsee records user app usage which provides the unique perspective of seeing firsthand exactly how a user interacts with the app. This can provide vital information such as seeing which features are the most used, when or where users drop the app or even if there is something that causes them to drop out during registration. Appsee is available free of charge and is an excellent complimentary system to either Flurry or Google.

Using analytics to determine success

So now what? You know what you want to find out and you have a few great options for analytics but how do you put it all together? Here are some key areas you want to look along with what that will tell you:

  • Acquisition Stage – You should be tracking the total number of installs and the cost per install (CPI) for when you are paying to acquire new users. In a perfect world your CPI is always going to be below your user’s lifetime value (LTV) which means you are running a profitable acquisition campaign. You also need to see where downloads are coming from so you know which networks are giving you the biggest volume of users. Finally you want to learn the quality of user you are getting which relates to the value of those users beyond just the initial install.
  • Engagement Stage – After the install things get more interesting as you look to see how engaged a user really is. You want to look at session length first, but you need to be sure to understand what an analytic considers a session as the definition varies. Next there is the Time in App (TIA) which has to do with the total amount of time in an app over a given period such as a week. Then there are Pages and Events which helps narrow down what content or aspect is the most valuable to users. You can also use this to see where or when people drop out and what areas they avoid.
  • Retention Stage – High retention is often the difference between large scale successes versus moderate or low success. This can be the case even with low engagement depending on the nature of the app. Retention rate is the first statistic to look at which is typically based on the rolling retention method. Next you have Daily and Monthly Active Users which shows how ‘needed’ your app is by users. Typically this statistic is tied to engagement. Finally you have the Churn rate which is the measure of how many users stop using your app over a month.
  • Monetization Stage – Ah the mighty dollar! Here you look at the Average Revenue Per User (ARPU) which is the revenue generated by each user of the application which is monthly revenue divided by total users. There is also LTV which is a bit more complex of a calculation and is factored by taking the ARPU x 1/Churn rate. This is probably the most valuable metric in app marketing.

The bottom line is that there are a lot of important metrics you should be tracking and evaluating to see how they affect each other. Having millions of active users in not a sure fire way to tell if your app is successful as many apps that have high retention and engagement are very successful even if the revenue generated isn’t quite where you want it yet.

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