February 19, 2015

Want an App for That?

New Study Reveals the Formula for App Success

Americans love our smartphones, and we’re constantly downloading more apps to use on them. So, how do you know which apps are going to be the most worthwhile to get -- the ones that will ultimately be the best sellers? A new study from the W. P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University breaks down the formula for a winning app.

“More than 1,200 apps are released each day, and we found a number of ways to determine which ones would be the most successful,” explains Professor Raghu Santanam, one of the study’s authors, who teaches in the Information Systems Department at the W. P. Carey School of Business. “For example, simply providing updates for an existing app can really add to its popularity.”

Santanam and Ph.D. student Gun Woong Lee conducted the new research, recently published in the Journal of Management Information Systems. Since Apple doesn’t release sales figures to the public, the researchers tracked individual apps and their presence on the “Top 300” charts in Apple’s App Store over 39 weeks. The final dataset covered about 7,600 apps by almost 4,000 sellers, and the researchers found a number of factors that make an app more attractive to buyers. 

“Free app offers, high debut ranks, expanding into less popular categories, continuous quality updates and high user-review scores all have positive impacts on an app’s sustainability,” says Lee.

In fact, the study found that each time a seller just expands to a new app category, it bumps up that seller’s presence on the top-grossing charts by about 15 percent. The researchers also discovered that free apps generally stay on the charts up to two times longer than paid apps. In addition, when sellers keep updating and improving the features in an app, it can help the app stay on the charts up to three times longer.

“For app sellers, it is a great idea to implement some type of portfolio-management strategy to app markets that focuses on developing multiple apps with low production costs,” explains Lee. “Then, they can take advantage of a large network of different user groups by selling many apps in multiple categories and offering frequent updates to those apps.”

Santanam adds, “The App Store launched with only 500 apps back in summer 2008, and seven years later, users can now download about 1.2 million different apps from that store. Developers and sellers have the opportunity to change the features and characteristics of the apps based on user feedback, reviews and other factors listed in our research, even after those apps go on the market. We’re hopeful this new study will provide them with useful information about how to make adjustments to benefit both consumers and their own company bottom lines.”

More on the study is available at http://www.jmis-web.org/articles/1202 and http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2560677.

The W. P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University is one of the top-ranked and largest business schools in the United States. The school is internationally regarded for its research productivity and its distinguished faculty members, including a Nobel Prize winner. Students come from about 100 countries and include about 50 National Merit Scholars. For more information, please visit
wpcarey.asu.edu and research.wpcarey.asu.edu.