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Mobile-Only: why is the app store the grandmother of all apps??

Vito MargiottaVito Margiotta

The last few months have been extremely exciting at Snapp, with thousands and thousands of businesses building their first online presence thanks to us, and with the emergence of beautiful success stories as this one and this one.

As part of democratizing mobile creation and giving every mobile-only SMBs an online presence, we have been interacting quite a lot with app stores, from the 'official ones' as the Google Play and the Apple Store, to rising stars secondary stores as Aptoide and Amazon AppStore.
And in the thriving ecosystem of app stores (topic that I will cover more in detail in one of the next articles and Snapp white papers) one may think that app stores are improving and becoming better and better everyday. Well, no.. In fact the app store is most likely the dumbest application your mobile has to offer.

“The App Store is most likely the dumbest application your mobile has to offer”

Surprisingly enough, even the biggest of the app stores (see the Google Play or the Apple Store) takes little to none advantage of the sensor capabilities of your device, it does not know you and adapt to you and to your work and personal life, and it is essentially the grandmother of all applications: extremely good at cooking and serving you the 'classical choices' but not really the person you would go to for discovering the new cool things around in town...

I believe the app store to be one if not the most important app on your phone. Especially for first time mobile user, it is the gateway to an enhanced mobile experience, and the one application able to make you 'feel and live' the power of mobile at the fullest, by enabling at best the reason of its existence in the first place: content discovery.

Here is where I believe app stores have the biggest margin of improvement:

Discovery is not always the same

Lately stores have been evolving from serving only applications to also books and movies and any other form of content. This is highly appreciated by hungry mobile users, but in the process I believe too many compromises have been done on discovering patterns.
The way in which I choose a song or a movie is extremely different than the way in which I choose a tool or applications to perform a certain specific action. As well, both the utility function of use of these families of goods and the corresponding user's purchasing behavior changes drastically.

I am not the same user of yesterday

While for some users their mobile life is just starting (and for 2 billion more people will start by 2020!!), for others their mobile life is now already several years old.
And while as human being we evolve, the app store perception of us seems not to. The Google Play Store, just to give an example, still believes that I like playing and frequently recommends me fishing-simulator games.... Do I still like them? Yes. When was the last time I played a game on my phone? Conservatively 3 years ago....
People change fast (especially at a young age) and I believe that machine learning should take it into consideration.

Work vs personal life

During the day we change context many many times: we work, we play, we relax, we spend time with friends, etc
Yet the experience in the app store is always the same and not contextual, and I believe that knowing that "two different Vitos are in front of the device screen in two different moment of the day" would definitely help improve the experience and the recommendations provided, big time. :)
At a first implementation I would ask the user what action he is performing in a certain specific moment, and then adjust the experience accordingly. At a later phase I would infer the user's context based on factors as geolocation, proximity of the main players in the social graph, time of the day (we still have habits, despite at a micro level it can vary hugely, as for instance I can do breaks while I am at work), etc. At a third phase I would use the data from your browser or other devices (if any) to understand what the user is up to and accordingly serve relevant recommendations on new tools or new content to use and enjoy. Sky is the limit here and even a basic implementation can improve user experience drastically.

Geolocation and sensors

Discovery is becoming not only highly contextual (see point above) but also highly localized.
With more and more new content being uploaded every day into the app stores, and with not every piece of content being contextually relevant for every demographic and every location, enhancing the discovery experience by leveraging on relevant data as geolocation and other sensors data becomes key.
Imagine a store that knows where you are and that you can refer to as so to discover what is happening around you on a content level. A place where you can find the niche but extremely contextually relevant app/content you are looking for without scrolling twenty times.

The objective is DISCOVERY and the user is changing

I believe every app store should keep very clear in mind that the objective of a store is to enhance discovery and never compromise on the quality of the discovery experience.
I would also rethink the current app store experience by taking into consideration that the user is changing a lot. Users are now fully mobile, becoming more local aware, with very different behaviors and needs based on location (think about offline use in emerging economies), change context many many times a day, and most importantly expect both a beautiful and a useful user experience.

App stores have a bright future ahead: a future full of opportunities for a better enhanced user experience. Yet, as one of the main gatekeepers of content discovery, app stores need to realize the gigantic impact they have on users' perception (and especially first time mobile users) of the mobile experience. A beautiful and useful discovery experience can change the future of a mobile user life forever and it is incredibly exciting to see how, with only few improvements, this experience can drastically improve and change for the better.

How does the perfect app stores' content discovery looks like? I would love your comments :):)

The Snapp Team