The Secrets of App Success

What gives a new app staying power on the App Store's "Top 300."
The Secrets of App Success
THE MORE PEOPLE USE their mobile devices, the more they’re downloading mobile apps to help them do everything from organizing their lives to finding the perfect restaurant on the go. But of the more than 1,200 new apps released each day, is it possible to tell which ones will flourish and which ones will fail? A new study from the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University in Tempe tries to crack the code of the winning app.

Over 39 weeks, Raghu Santanam, a professor of information systems at ASU, and doctoral student Gun Woong Lee tracked the presence of individual apps on the “Top 300” charts in Apple’s App Store. After amassing a final dataset that included 7,600 apps by almost 4,000 sellers, the researchers found a number of factors that make an app more attractive to buyers.

For instance, each time a seller expanded into a new app category, that seller’s presence on the top-grossing charts was bumped up by about 15 percent. The researchers also discovered that free apps stay on the charts up to two times longer than paid apps. In addition, sellers who continuously update and improve the features of their apps can see their apps stay on the charts up to three times longer. High-ranking debuts and user ratings also play a role.

The researchers point out that the App Store, which launched in 2008 with only 500 apps, has grown to include 1.2 million different offerings. This study’s findings could help app developers and sellers implement more deliberate strategies proven to boost their product’s success on the market.

“Determinants of Mobile Apps’ Success: Evidence from the App Store Market” appeared in the November 2014 issue of the Journal of Management Information Systems. It can be downloaded at