Lessons Learned from 3 Million App Downloads & 250,000 Monthly Users in 2 Years

With millions of downloads and explosive growth over the past two years, we’ve learned a lot. Some of our secrets to success are common sense, but other lessons we had to learn the hard way.

Although 3 million downloads seems like an immense number, it didn’t happen overnight. Stories of new apps becoming an overnight sensation are few and far between, while many well-thought-out and skillfully coded apps fail shortly after being launched. 

If you are in the market to launch an app, or you have an existing app and you’re looking to give a serious boost to your downloads, we want to share with you our story. Our hope is that you are able to take some lessons from the slips and stumbles, as well as the gigantic successes, that we experienced along the way.

Take a look at 5 important lessons we learned along the path to 3 million app downloads.

Zutobi driver's ed app
Image: Zutobi driver’s ed app

Embrace Your Mistakes 

One of the most important aspects for the growth of an app isn’t avoiding mistakes (trust us, you’ll make plenty), but the way you handle those mistakes.

In order to succeed, you need to be able to not only learn from your mistakes, but be transparent with your active users, and respond to them with the solutions you’re implementing. Many times, if there is a bug or an app has a feature that’s difficult to use, you will see a sharp decline in user engagement.

Reaching out to your audience after fixing an issue will not only bring back a large portion of the customers you lost, it will also increase trust in your brand and build your reputation.

Often, you will only hear from a small percentage of the users who are actually experiencing the issue, so if you fail to reach out and let everyone know you’re on top of things, you are likely to lose tons of users.

The Launch is Just the Beginning 

The time leading up to your launch is nerve wracking, and building an app is an immense undertaking that can take thousands of hours. However, your launch date is just the start of making your app a success.

You will need to wear many hats, and one of the most important jobs you will take on is marketing your app and your brand so that you can show the world what you created (and cash in on its success). 

Before you even start to build your app, you need to have a pan to launch it into the market but also a way to reach your target audience and convince them to download your app. Try these tactics to help spread the word and create a buzz around the launch of your app.

  • Social media (organic and paid)
  • Press release (with strong media outreach)
  • Guest spots on podcasts
  • Website optimized for search that details the benefits of your app
  • Google Ads
  • Partner with other apps and technology partners

These are just a few of the things you can do to promote your app pre-launch. Then continue to do so once you launch to ensure you continue to give a boost to your downloads.

Take the Time to Understand Your Market

It is extremely difficult to create an app that has absolutely no competition. You need to understand your market inside and out so that you know exactly what they’re looking for, what they need, and what your opposition lacks.

By bridging those gaps, you will be able to create a loyal following that is going to appreciate the time and effort that was put in to listen to and recognize what they were lacking. 

A classic example I love to share is when we figured out our users wanted to learn more about hand signals. Hand signals are not typically used by most drivers on a day to day basis. However, when surveying and getting feedback from our users, many emphasized that they wanted to learn more about hand signals.

At first it was surprising, but then it was obvious. For the driving test, students have to show the basic hand signals! It clicked. So of course, we got to immediately working on a course, module and content that educated users on hand signals. 

So you see, when you take the time to get to know your audience, you will also become much better at marketing your app, which leads to fast growth and stronger user engagement. 

Make Sure Everything Has a Purpose 

Never add on features just so your app appears to have more bells and whistles than the competition. Bloated apps that only do one thing well (or even a few things) are not received well, and while you may be able to get a few extra downloads, you will see a decline in your monthly users, and over time it will cause your app to fail.

If your app only does one thing well, that’s great! Market what it does better than any other app on the market. That way, when you take the time to develop and add new features, your users will know that it’s for a reason, and they will appreciate the value that it adds to your product. 

Zutobi’s success has come from our understanding that we are a driver’s education app. We don’t get distracted or too greedy with how far we try to expand what we do. 

So, when you compare Zutobi to other driver’s ed apps in the google play store, you can see that our success comes from constantly upgrading, maintaining and committing to our one purpose – driver’s education. 

Scalability is Important from Day One 

If your app isn’t able to scale up, it’s not going to be successful. A lot of developers seem to forget that scalability is as important as a great design.

Make sure that if demand for your app skyrockets, you have a plan to be able to seize that opportunity. It is difficult to regain your footing once you’ve stumbled on your first chance at taking off. When you are creating and marketing your app, always keep scalability in mind. 

In the Beginning Push for Sustainability, Not Profit 

While much of what we’ve talked about will make your app more profitable, don’t focus on making money before you’ve become a necessity for your users.

The more sustainable your app is, the more successful you will become, and you can add multiple revenue streams without risking your reputation, or lowering your engagement rate. 

Wrapping it Up

While making your app a success isn’t an easy process, it can be done with the right plan, a positive mindset, and a profound understanding of your target market.

A successful app is more than just a great design; it’s a marketable brand that people connect with.

Tim Waldenback

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