Almost everyday I see a church ask this question: “Should we build a church app?” Churches are beginning to realize that their websites don’t serve as good central hubs for their congregations.
Why? Nowadays, church websites best serve potential new visitors. They act as the digital front door to your church. But what about people who are already inside the house? What does your website do for them? Evidently, not much.
Giving, sign-ups, and content consumption happen on church websites, but these often get buried in the back pages. As well, your church’s website is likely primarily made for desktop, not mobile devices.
Most church websites are not user friendly for your existing congregation. A common solution? Inevitably someone will say, “Let’s build a church app. This app can have everything! Sermon videos, message notes, ministry signups, event registration, calendar, giving, etc. And, it will be built primarily for smartphones!”
2 Unique Platforms For 2 Unique Audiences
This makes a kind of sense. I’m fully on board with churches having two unique digital platforms to serve two unique audiences. Using your website to serve both new visitors and your existing congregation can be unwieldy.
But creating a church app isn’t cheap (especially if you want a quality app). I asked a handful of churches using mobile apps what they were paying, and the average cost was between $75-$200/month. Not a small investment.
Since the monthly fee for an app is considerable, let’s look at the metrics. Will your church app be successful? If you’re going to spend time and money to build this thing, will it work?
Let’s start with the most recent data on the subject.
Quick Tip: Convincing your church to download an app is hard. Even then, 80% of downloaders fail to become active users (Source: Quettra).
— Brady Shearer (@BradyShearer) March 8, 2017
We Use Mobile Apps More Than Every Other Form Of Digital Media Combined
- 52% of all time spent on digital media is spent on apps (Source: TechCrunch)
- 3 out of every 4 minutes spent on a mobile device is spent within apps (Source: comScore)
- Over 50% of smartphone users grab their smartphone immediately after waking up (Source: ExpressPigeon)
- 87% of people always have their smartphone by their side (Source: DeviceAtlas)
- Mobile app usage is increasing among every age group, especially Millennials (Source: comScore)
When you’re in the market for a church app, these are the type of statistics that are thrown at you. Admittedly, the data is convincing. The sheer weight of the numbers is staggering. Mobile apps clearly play a huge role in our lives — more than any other form of digital media. In fact, we’re using mobile apps more than every other form of digital media combined!
But let’s dig a little deeper into the data to tease out how people are actually using mobile apps.
90% Of Our Time Using Mobile Apps Is Spent In Our 5 Favorite Apps
- Smartphone users spend 45% of their time using their #1 favorite app (Source: comScore)
- 9 out of every 10 minutes of app usage on smartphones is spent on a user’s top 5 apps (Source: comScore)
- Tablet users spend 61% of app time in their #1 app (Source: comScore)
- Tablet users spend 87% of app time in their top 3 apps (Source: comScore)
- Push notifications are declining: 38% of users say they “never” or “rarely” agree to accept push notifications, up 31% from last year (Source: comScore)
Now that we’ve looked a little closer a clearer picture emerges. While we are using mobile apps at a staggering rate, the vast majority of our time is spent in our 5 favorites — apps like Facebook, Instagram, Email, iMessage, Snapchat, YouTube and Twitter.
Perhaps even more telling is the decline in push notifications. On the whole, we’re beginning to get tired of being pinged all the time. While one of the distinct strengths of a mobile app is its ability to send push notifications, as more and more people turn these off completely (close to 1 in 2), this advantage is lost.
60% Of Apps In The Google Play Store Have Been Downloaded Zero Times
- 60% of apps in the Google Play Store have been downloaded zero times (Source: Google)
- The average smartphone user downloads less than 2 new apps per month (Source: comScore)
- Half of U.S. smartphone users download zero new apps per month (Source: comScore)
- 80% of users who download an app will never become active users (Source: Quettra)
- 25% of apps that are installed are never used (Source: Fortune)
- The average Android app loses 77% of its daily active users within the first 3 days; 90% within the first 30 days (Source: Quettra)
Thus, while it’s undeniable that mobile apps play a huge role in our lives, it appears that 9/10ths of the ‘app pie’ is gobbled up by the big guys, leaving a single sliver left for everyone else to fight over. The result? 6 out of 10 apps in the Google Play Store have never been downloaded even one single time.
The numbers also point toward another important trend: mobile apps are beginning to decline. Ten years ago Apple announced the release of the iPhone and the App Store. Since that time, mobile apps have risen to be the status of being the most important source of digital media in our lives.
But that trend is beginning to curb. Web apps can now do anything a mobile app can do. We’re downloading fewer apps than ever. We’re using fewer apps than ever. You might say that all the gold has been already been discovered. The gold rush is over.
Another interesting trend is that, although apps are on the decline, something else is on a steep incline.
Too many church app providers will throw out stats demonstrating just how much we use mobile apps on a daily basis. And it’s true! Mobile apps are a huge part of our daily lives. The important thing to be aware of though is that you and I use just a small handful of apps on a frequent basis. You’ll spend 45% of ALL app time on your #1 favorite app – 9 out of every 10 minutes on your top 5. So yes, everyday we’re using apps more than any other form of digital media, but getting your church’s app to break through the clutter…is going to be near impossible.
Mobile Web Audiences Average 3X Larger Than Apps
- Mobile app usage grew 52% in 2014, 25% in 2015, and just 11% in 2016 (Source: comScore)
- Despite app dominance in usage time, mobile web audiences dwarf mobile app audiences. Mobile web audiences are growing 2X faster (Source: comScore)
- Mobile web audiences average 3X larger than than mobile app audiences (Source: comScore)
- Mobile web audiences have grown 82% since 2014, while mobile app audiences have grown just 45% (Source: comScore)
- Apps’ walled-garden environment makes reaching large audiences more difficult than the more linkable desktop and mobile web — the mobile web has 4.5X more sites with 5+ million unique visitors than apps (Source: comScore)
Bottom line? Mobile apps are being replaced by web apps. What does this mean? Ten years ago the apps on your smartphone could do things websites couldn’t (ie. location tracking, dynamic motion, interactive elements, push notifications). But with the rise of HTML5 and the maturing of the internet’s coding languages, your website can do essentially everything an app can.
Moreover, your website can do it without requiring someone to download an app, set permissions, and use up space on their phone. A website doesn’t need to be updated every time a new operating system gets released. It’s considerably cheaper than a mobile app. And your website can be accessed by any device at any time, not just by a smartphone.
Of course, if you’re a social juggernaut like Facebook or Snapchat, you’ve won with a mobile app. And that makes perfect sense.
But the data points against a template-based church app jumping into the fray and being successful (especially considering the cost). Can it still happen? Sure. There are always anomalies. But when you’re working with limited resources like our churches are, banking on anomalies isn’t a sign of good stewardship.
Don’t Get Nostalgic
If you’re already in the process of developing or delivering a church app, you may look at the data and remain unconvinced. But I encourage you not to be nostalgic about the methods you’re currently using. Do your best to look at the data objectively.
You might argue, “Yeah, but our app got X amount of downloads this month.” Okay. Is that number good? What do you have to compare it to? What about the fact that 80% of people that download your app will never become active users. Sure, they downloaded it, but the vast majority will never use it. Is that really a win? For the amount it costs?
You might argue, “Yeah, but people in our church have told us how much they love our app.” I believe it. But using anecdotal evidence to make digital decisions is a flawed approach. You will always be able to ignore macro data and cherry-pick individual feedback to create a narrative of your choosing.
You might argue, “Yeah, but if we’re not using a mobile app, what else can we use? You said we need two platforms.” Correct. So let’s revisit that for a moment. The reason most churches begin down the path to developing an app is because they know their website can’t serve two unique audiences equally well. You do need two unique platforms to serve two unique audiences.
Nucleus is the all-in-one central hub for your church. It functions like a mobile app, but it’s accessible through a single URL online. Remember when I said that the internet has caught up to apps? Nucleus is the realization of that.
Nucleus is 100% customizable. You can brand it and build it however you see fit. And it’s meant to house every single next step for your existing congregation: message notes, connect card, giving, prayer requests, calendar, ministry sign-up, event registration, etc. All in one convenient spot. No downloading it to your phone, no searching for it in the App Store, no permissions that need to be set.
Nucleus is accessible from every device, but it’s built mobile first. It feels just like an app without the barriers and restrictions of an app.
Imagine, every time you announce something at church, every time you post a promo on social media, every time someone asks you in person about an upcoming event, you can send them to a single URL every time (i.e.: mychurch.info).
Question: “Where can I signup for baptism?”
Question: “What time is the Women’s Brunch again?”
Question: “Where can I give online?”
When you remove the barriers of connecting with your church through an app, more people will take next steps because there are no hurdles they have to jump over. And when you simplify every next step to a single location, more people will take next steps because they always know where to go.
Nucleus.Church — Launching April 25th
Nucleus is launching on April 25th. If you want to be the first notified of this launch and get an exclusive lifetime discount, click the link below and you can join the launch list.
Summary Of The Data
- Apps are incredibly dominant. We use apps more than any other form of digital media combined. 52% of all time spent on digital media is spent on apps.
- All of this time is spent on just a small handful of apps. 9 out of every 10 minutes spent on apps is spent in a user’s top 5.
App fatigue is becoming a Thing. Push notifications are being turned off more frequently. Half of U.S. smartphone users download zero new apps per month.
- If the app world were a giant strawberry-rhubarb pie (my favorite), 9 out of 10 slices have already been eaten by the app giants — like Facebook and Youtube — leaving just 1 piece for everybody else. No wonder 60% of apps in the Google Play store have never been downloaded.
- Interestingly, while mobile apps are on the decline, mobile web is on the rise. Mobile web audiences average 3X larger than app audiences.
- Knowing that mobile apps won’t solve our two-audience issues, we need a solution that serves our existing congregation.
- Enter: Nucleus. The all-in-one central hub for your church. The power, mobility, and flexibility of an app, without the barriers and hurdles.
- More reading: The mobile app gold rush is over by TechCrunch.
- More reading: Why native apps are really doomed by Eric Elliot.
Learn more about Nucleus and join the launch list at Nucleus.Church.