With rapid technology growth, the trend of creating mobile apps has reached a level where organizations tend to focus on developing mobile apps instead of solving a real problem or pain point for the end user.

"99.99 percent of mobile apps will be considered a complete failure by their creators at the end of 2018 "
— Gartner Inc.

Since the advent of the app store, apps have flooded phones with a use for everything. But not all apps remain on the user’s mobile device for long. And as mobile phones become increasingly personal and tend to behave as a natural extension of oneself, the challenge to stay relevant to the user continues to get harder.

Here are a few of the reasons we think the ROI on mobile app engagement is questionable for alumni relations.

1) The need might just not be there.

For the app creator, the need is almost obvious. But is it really?

A lot of businesses can’t wait to jump on the app bandwagon. But the craze for apps has been in continuous decline.  Many users prefer using limited apps; because most of them remain unused and build up on precious storage unnecessarily.  A recent survey from Nielsen lists the most popular smartphone apps of the year. The results indicate that Google and Facebook dominate the mobile app space. In the entire app universe, about 200 apps (out of 1.6million) take up most of the eyeball time of the world’s population. That is just about 0.01%.

screenshot-time.com 2016-08-05 17-47-59

In the fourth quarter of 2015, iPhone and Android smartphone users in the U.S. used an average of 27.1 apps per month, spending more than 40 hours with them. Interestingly, the amount of time people spend with apps continues to increase, whereas the number of apps they use pretty much stopped growing three years ago. Apparently, there’s a limit to how many apps people actually use, regardless of how many apps are available and how much time they spend using them.

To put it differently: there’s an app for every need, but there’s no need for every app.

As people continue to consume content on their mobile devices, providing a stream of relevant content to engage your alumni on a daily or weekly basis can get very challenging.

Which begs us to ask the question – does the app provide relief or gain to the user frequently? Or will it turn out to be just another a channel for you to push notifications to your user base?

2) Without a clear need, adoption is questionable.

"80-90% of all downloaded apps are used once and then eventually deleted by the users. "
— Compuware

The average number of apps that apps users have on their phones is just about 27. And everyone is competing for that space. Your school’s app competing with Youtube, Google, Email, Facebook, Uber, and others to stay relevant on the user, every day.

According to Swrve, the world’s leading mobile marketing automation platform, More than 1/3rd of mobile app engagement last less than a minute. And unless it is your objective to be time saving, like the ability to order food or hail a cab in less than a minute, that is not a good sign.

Only 13.3 percent of sessions last longer than 10 minutes. 13.13 percent is not a lot considering the fact that you are going to compete with platforms like Youtube, Facebook, Instagram and other places, where people are likely to stick on for more than 10 minutes in every session.

Let us also take a look at the effort required by the user to use the app. As opposed to a mobile responsive website, where the information is accessible at any time – a user will have to wait for download and installation before they can access the information they need from your alumni network. It would be justified if the alumni would ‘need’ to use it regularly to access information, but that tends to not be the case in most apps.

Sure, an alumni app is great to download at first and take a quick glance around when you are curious about what has happened to your old buddies, but what happens next?

Is there a clear reason for the user to keep the app on the phone 2 weeks later? a month later?

If the user’s phone starts to run out of storage space, is your app going to be one that they are ok with deleting?

And when it comes to mobile apps, you kinda only have one shot at it.

"79 percent report that they would only retry an app once or twice if it failed to work the first time. Only 16 percent said they would give it more than two attempts."
— Compuware

3) Apps were the future.

Web and mobile technologies are advancing at an unprecedented pace even in 2016. 5 years ago, Apps looked like they were the only way forward, and the bridge between websites and mobile apps were so far off, that a lot of companies were forced into taking sides with one of the two formats. But fortunately, that is no longer the case.

As hybrid architectures evolve, the divide between web and mobile technologies are closing in.

Browsers are growing more capable of creating lighter versions of apps that don’t require a download or an install, but come with a lot of the benefits of native mobile apps.

Push notifications, for example, was a luxury only apps could boast of 2 years ago. But with popular browsers like Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox embracing push notifications, users can simply subscribe to notifications from your website to receive updates even while they are not on your website.


Clearing the air.

At Almabase, we are by no means opposed to mobile platforms and app development. We do however strongly believe that there is a lot more to an app than just being able to download an install an icon on your phone. Before you decide that you need to start development on a mobile app or hire developers to build your app. Here are a few questions we think you should ask yourself:

  • Is there enough daily/weekly engagement on all current channels that can just be extended to the mobile platform?
  • Is there a clear value proposition for alumni to keep the app on their phone over the next year or more?
  • What are the key takeaways with a mobile app? Can they be achieved them over a single integrated web platform, instead of having to build a parallel platform?

On the almabase platform, as an integrated system, we will continue to embrace technology that helps alumni relations professionals reach the users at their point of need across different channels and platforms. You can read more about the work we are doing on communication channels on our blog post on Centralising Alumni Communication.

Let us know what you think in the comments section down below. Do you agree with our list? What are your thoughts on the mobile app space for alumni affairs? Have you seen it work for your school or a school you know of?

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