If you’re anything like us, you’ve recently upgraded to the new iPhone7 and have gone about transferring all of your applications to your shiny new handset. Despite the sleek design and extended colour range of the 7, the app store is still lagging behind.

The app store navigation points you to a handful of curated lists or recommendations – Editor’s Choice and Featured Apps – where you will find the most popular charts filled by the major players. In order to find an app that isn’t recommended, or trending in the charts, searching for it by name is your only option – which is not only an inconvenience for users, but a big problem for app developers.

Highlighting this point is the fact that in May of this year, according to Sensor Tower data, Facebook owned four of the five most downloaded apps that month. To take that further, 80% of app usage for any single person is spent in only three apps, which ComScore reports are also typically owned by Facebook.

App tracking company Adjust has described the monopolisation of app stores as resulting in “Zombie Apps”. These zombies sit on the store and are often difficult – or even impossible – to navigate to, without searching for the name directly. In Adjust’s most recent study, undertaken in June this year, it was estimated that a full 90% of apps on the UK iOS App Store were zombies.

Zombies aren’t just problematic in horror movies – they are a warning to brands about doing it right. In the US, for example, the percentage of time spent in-app versus browser is 72%; eBay is even higher at 83%, according to comScore. With app usage only increasing, brands need to capitalise on the increased technological features of handsets to give the user an engaging experience, different to their website.

Retail apps in particular are, arguably, more important at Christmas than at any other time throughout the year. In a study by Apadmi, it was estimated that the 85% of smartphone users in the UK use retail apps; whereas 71% believe there’s a gap in the market for ‘more improved retail apps’. During the festive season it’s imperative that users can engage easily with retailers, whilst on-the-go or relaxing at home there should be an opportunity to browse products and research gifting ideas away from the high street.

However not all apps are managing to do this right – yet. Apadmi reports that only 17% of Brits think that mobile apps offer a better user experience than a website, and 61% of users declare that they would stop using an app if it was slow and unresponsive.

Whilst a bad experience will never get you recommended; a great experience may just unlock you a new audience. It may be true that retail apps will never be as satisfying as getting a high score on Candy Crush, but it should certainly be as fun as visiting the high street, and just as simple.

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