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App developers urged to stay relevant in mature market

Mobile app adoption is maturing, and app providers need to focus on retention strategies to ensure relevance in the marketplace, says Gartner.

Brian Blau, Gartner research director, says after eight years users are maturing in their app usage behaviours.

Usage patterns have changed as users integrate apps into their use of personal technology and their interaction with brands online, says Gartner.

In the future, Gartner predicts users may not want or need more apps, and in turn app businesses may suffer from lack of engagement or slowing growth.

Gartner conducted a survey in mature markets, focusing on current app behaviours, how customers perceive their individual app usage by category, and how consumers intend to use their apps in the future.

Respondents were asked which apps they had used on their smartphone in the last three months and how frequently they had used them.

While it's clear app use is high across all categories, some categories of apps, such as social networking and video, have a high overall weekly usage.

Usage rates, some approaching daily use for most users, are consistent with other observations of the marketplace, such as how businesses brand and use apps as a main touch point.

Even for a less-used app category, such as fitness, there is high use within that group.

Fitness has only around 20% use among all smartphone users, but for those who use fitness apps more than seven out of 10 are using those apps weekly or more frequently.

According to the survey, smartphone users are content with their current level of interest in apps.

With such a strong indication of users keeping the status quo, Gartner expects to see a continued high level of interest in apps.

That interest, however, may not change dramatically over time and engagement with apps overall may be reaching a plateau, according to Gartner.

Although this may be good news for app engagement overall, app product managers will be challenged to create and monetise new opportunities because many users won't change their app consumption patterns.

"It's not that smartphone users have lost interest in apps, users remain excited about what apps can do for them in their daily lives, including for work and non-work app scenarios," says Blau.

"However, app users need to be convinced about the value of the app. Their willingness for new app experiences is open-ended, but their plan is to keep their same patterns of use.

“Users will try new apps, but they need to be convinced of an app's value before they adopt them and change use patterns over the long term," he says.