The app revolution is not over but the easy money has goneNews / Distribution | Technology | OnlineBy Nick Vivion | March 13, 2017Share This article was originally published on The ‘End of Apps’ has been overblown. The rise of chatbots has encouraged articles about the demise of apps from the likes of The Telegraph, Recode, and The Independent.Taken at face value, it’s easy to conclude that apps are losing favor among consumers: per Nielsen, the average number of apps used is holding steady at 27 apps per month. And 49 percent of smartphone users download zero new apps per month.But dig a little deeper, and there’s more nuance. The app celebrated its 10th year of existence in 2016, so this medium is just now moving into adolescence.As Flurry Analytics shares in its excellent article on this milestone, mobile app sessions grew 11 percent in the past year. That’s a good place to be in a world where the average smartphone user checks their phone 85 times per day! This level of intense engagement is reflected in ComScore’s latest mobile app report. The findings show a 50 percent growth in time spent on digital - 90 percent of which is attributable to apps.Cody Willard, writing on SeekingAlpha, uses this graph to demonstrate that the continued growth in app downloads. The much-sought-after hockey stick shape emphasizes how impressive the app ecosystem is:On the aggregate, apps continue to be growing in usage. Certain segments, such as news, games and personalization, are vulnerable to the network effects of larger platforms. While usage in those apps might have dropped, this doesn’t mean that users aren’t interested in those activities. There are just certain things that network apps do better than standalone apps.For example, the social aspects of messaging apps makes it much harder for new apps to break in. People want to communicate with their existing networks. In today’s hectic digital world, it’s a lot to ask consumers to try out a new, untested social app that requires building a new community. And that’s ok, because that creates the opportunity for apps to leverage the existing network effects to expand their own reach. But it’s not enough to call for the Death of the App just because people are spending more time in fewer apps. Dig deeper and there’s a lot more to understand about why people use which apps and under what circumstances. Bots don’t mean that people will stop using appsThe view that consumers will stop using apps in favor of chatbots is tenuous. AI-driven bots are in their infancy. It’s not necessarily a given that everyone will just use branded bots within Facebook Messenger rather than apps. Willard, in the same article on SeekingAlpha, sees the app as the essential backbone to the bot infrastructure -- not the other way around. He points out that:"Apps become ever more important in a smartphone-centric wearables/robotics/voice-controlled/artificial intelligence-dominated world. You'll still interface with those wearables/robotics and features using apps, after all."Share this quoteThis is not to say that there’s no place for bots within other people’s apps. As I myself have written, the importance of Other People’s Platforms cannot be understated. There is a very real imperative for almost every brand to actively participate and invest in the power of other people’s platforms. Brands must go where the eyeballs are, regardless of who owns the medium. Of course, this should be part of a comprehensive strategy. For those brands who have compelling customer-driven reasons, a part of this strategy could very well be investing in apps.It’s harder to break into a consumer’s app flowThis is without a doubt true. Competition for attention gets more intense with each new app uploaded to the app stores. As a general rule of thumb, consumers turn to what is familiar to them. So yes, of course it’s much harder to get your app downloaded, not to mention into a consumer’s regular digital diet. But that shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone paying attention to the evolution of the digital ecosystem over the past 5 years! It’s harder than ever to get attention, period. And it’s never going to get any easier. The good old days of lazy growth are long gone. It’s not enough to just show up. You’ve got to show up with a strategy that trumps other strategies. You’ve got to show up with a product that’s better than other products. You’ve got to show up with a value proposition that is clear and well-articulated. You’ve got to show up with some dollars to spend - whether on content or paid promotions, you’re not going to just get attention by being in the app store. Or by being on the Internet. Or by existing in the real world. Brand matters more than ever In a world of apps starving for attention of a fickle consumer, brands matter most. It’s no longer enough to just upload an app and hope for a feature. There has to be a concerted effort to build an app as part of a larger brand positioning strategy. App developers must also be marketers. A strategy should include the typical components of a modern marketing effort: media outreach, paid advertising, content marketing and influencer engagement. An app is no longer both the means and the end. If the app exists as part of a broader brand strategy, that’s ideal. If the app is the whole point of the business model, then there has to be a full strategic push behind it. Consumers are inundated with apps (among many other digital distractions). So it’s not that the App Revolution is over - it’s that the easy money is gone. The market has both saturated and matured. App developers, marketers and owners must evolve to reflect this next phase of the app marketplace. This evolution is a good thing, because the app is not going to disappear anytime soon.