What Gets People to Download an App? Let's Find Out

You might think it’s you or your boss who is the ultimate decision-maker when it comes to your app company and its success. But, ultimately, it’s your users! Each of your app’s users made the important decision to download your app out of the millions of other apps in the store, and they will decide whether or not to continue using it regularly.

App UsageEven once an app is downloaded, smartphone users open very few of their downloaded apps, spending a stunning
96 percent of their total app time in their personal top 10 apps.

In order for an app to be in its user’s top 10 list, it must be an integral part of their their daily lives. This is where you come in. Your primary job is to understand your users so well that your app fits seamlessly into their lives and seemingly sells itself.

So how do you make your app indispensable to consumers? In order to provide your users with real value, you have to find out what motivates them to download an app in the first place.

Why did you download your last app? Based on a TUNE report, which polled a population of 2,100 US Android and iPhone users, there are several different motivations for downloading an app. When it comes to the dominant motivations at the source of an app download, specific task and word-of-mouth (WOM) easily won out. Almost a quarter of users said the main motivator for downloading their last app was for the purpose of a specific task, meaning that the user had a specific problem to solve, and they downloaded the app to help them do so. A similar percentage marked their main motivator as WOM, meaning the app proved popular enough in their social crowd that they downloaded it themselves. Whether it was trending in their region, they received a personal recommendation from a friend, or they saw high engagement and usage of the app in their social circle, WOM and social influence is, as expected, a high motivator for app downloads.

Last App Downloads

Since both social (WOM) and utility (specific task) factors are the top 2 motivators for downloads, it’s important for app developers to understand which motivator impacts their ideal users the most, in order to target their app accordingly. The targeting campaign for someone who is motivated most by WOM differs greatly from someone who is motivated most by a specific task.

So, what are your users motivated by? It turns out age is a critical element to take account of when narrowing down which motivating factor specifically appealed to your standard users. As you can see below, data from TUNE’s report shows that among the younger generation, top charts and word-of-mouth hugely affect their motivation to download an app (top charts account for 22% of all downloads).

Practical accessibility, on the other hand, is more important than social influence for older users. The older generation is more inclined to download an app in order to complete a specific task or to expand on a product or service they’re already using in a non-mobile setting. Thus, if your target demographic is an older age group, consider tailoring your marketing or targeting initiatives appropriately.


As expected, younger users control the app market. As you can see below, comScore’s data on average monthly hours per visitor by age, shows that 18-24 year olds dominate the time spent on apps per month:

Average Hours on Apps

However, this is only if you’re looking at time spent in apps - discounting essential measuring parameters such as number of downloads, number of apps used, and ROI. If you’re looking for the users with the highest likelihood to download your app, you should not discount the older generation. On the contrary, it’s time to shift your targeting efforts based on the ideal age range you define for your app. Here’s why:

Mobile App Usage by Age

As evidenced in the data, older users ranging from 25-44 use more apps per month, as opposed to the younger age group. Despite spending less time on these apps, older users clearly found equal importance and functional value in the app market.

In conclusion, it’s important to maximize your targeting efforts based on the relative age group of your ideal users. If you’re going after younger users, then play to their reliance on social influence. The younger the audience, the more affected they are by word-of-mouth buzz, top charts and trendy apps. Make brand marketing a priority in order to use these motivations to capture your desired users.

Alternatively, if your target demographic is an older age group, they will be less inclined to download apps based strictly on product branding or app name buzz. Their openness to reading app reviews and descriptions shows they are more likely to engage with and explore within the app store to find the right app that fits their need, so take advantage of that. To do so, prioritize ASO marketing and maximize your online presence to aid in app discovery. Users have more choices than ever to utilize apps that meet their specific needs. To stand out from the crowd, your app must emerge in the places where your ideal users are looking for relevant apps.

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