Mobile Business Apps in 2017: 5 Trends & Why They Matter

Here at FranFunnel, we've been thinking a lot about mobile business apps. 

Why mobile business apps?

Well, in case you haven't heard, we’ve been developing an app that helps businesses connect with interested clients. The whole business world has gone mobile, and we want to make sure you're not left behind.

As we've embarked on this journey, we've learned A LOT about how people use apps for business. (Short answer: other than email and calendar, they really don't.) 

Here are five trends that we found when digging through the research on business apps. And if you find yourself asking "So What?" then make sure you stay tuned until the end.

 Key Trends

1. There are a lot of business apps

Business apps make up 9.83% of all apps on the Apple App Store, or roughly 220,000 apps total (see chart).

The only category with more apps is Games, with about 25% of all apps on the Apple App Store, or about 550,000 apps total.

Most popular Apple App Store Categories in July 2017, by share of available apps:

2. That being said, business apps are downloaded less than other types of apps

Despite being the category with the second most apps in the App Store, business apps don’t rank in the top five categories with the most downloads (see chart).

Moreover, research suggests that 72 hours after installing an app, 77% of users will never use that app again. 

So not only are business apps infrequently downloaded, but it is likely that even those apps that are downloaded are not used much.

Most popular Apple App Store categories in 1st quarter 2016 and 2017, by number of downloads (in millions):

3. Business Apps Have a (Comparatively) Low Market Reach

As the chart below depicts, business apps have a (roughly) 22% market reach, putting the business category in the bottom quarter of categories. (Do you have a business app?)

Our hypothesis is that the market reach within business apps is dominated by a few very popular apps such as LinkedIn, Evernote, and Slack. The odds that a user would have an app tailored for their specific business is almost certainly low.

Market reach of the most popular mobile app categories in the United States as of May 2017:

4. Business Apps Have Low Revenue Per Download

Whereas entertainment apps earn an average of $0.60-0.70 per download, and games earn $0.85-$1.15 per download, business apps earn only $0.20-$0.25 per download.

The below two charts compare average revenue per download for all apps (top) and average revenue per download for business apps (bottom).

5. We Spend Relatively Little Time Using Business Apps

Various studies provide substantially different estimates about how much time users spend in different app categories.

But all studies agree that we don't spend much time using business apps.

One study from 2014, suggests that we spend about 3% of our time on business apps, as the chart below shows.

Share of US Minutes Spent on App Categories:

A 2015 study, meanwhile, suggests that we spend 2% or less of our time on business apps. As this chart below shows, business apps are lumped into "All Others."

Distribution of time spent on mobile apps in the United States in November 2016, by category:

So What?


Given that business apps are so infrequently downloaded despite there being so many of them, we should ask why people--especially small business owners--don't use mobile business apps to manage and execute their work?

One plausible explanation is that most business owners can get by using the standard email, calendar, and file sharing apps.

Our tendency to fall back on familiar but unspecialized apps also probably explains why the most popular business apps are simple enough to be used for both personal and business purposes. Evernote works much like any normal notepad app, BlueJeans recalls Skype, Slack functions like a sleek iMessage, and so on.

This suggests what might be the key challenge for business app developers: to design effective, mobile tools that are specialized enough to be useful while simple enough to be accessible.

If apps don't strike this balance, business owners and managers will continue to coordinate their projects and communicate with colleagues through Gmail, Google Calendar, and Google Drive. 

If apps do strike this balance, though, they will be both powerful and intuitive, improving their market reach and download rates.

Easier said than done, of course.

Moreover, even if we can improve market reach and download rates, business apps will always be used far less than entertainment and gaming apps. In fact, the better business apps are, the more quickly they will allow their users to execute their tasks.

How has FranFunnel learned from these lessons?

First, the basics: FranFunnel helps businesses communicate with leads who are interested in opening a franchise. By drawing on a range of research, FranFunnel optimally and automatically contacts leads with personalized emails, text messages, and phone calls.

It's crucial that our app is mobile. Only through a mobile platform can we connect businesses and leads at all times of the day.

Much of our design effort has been aimed at developing an interface that's intuitive and recognizable by capitalizing on users' previous familiarity with other types of messaging apps.

We've also designed our app specifically for long-term business subscribers; we're not aiming to straddle the personal and business markets. Our goal is not for millions of people to download FranFunnel, only to use it for a day or two. We're looking to continually deliver value to a select group of clients for years and years. So if we only have a few hundred downloads, we're perfectly ok with that.

FranFunnel is a great example (and, for that matter, a pretty great product) because our success has come from the power of our features, the simplicity of our interface, and the tailoring of our revenue model for our clients.

Sources & Resources

Most popular Apple App Store categories in July 2017, by share of available apps

Most popular Apple App Store categories in 1st quarter 2016 and 2017, by number of downloads (in millions)

Distribution of time spent on mobile apps in the United States in November 2016, by category

Market reach of the most popular mobile app categories in the United States as of May 2017

77 percent of users never use an app again 72 hours after installing

Consumers Spend 85% Of Time On Smartphones In Apps, But Only 5 Apps See Heavy Use

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