App Fatigue is Real
How many apps do you have on your phone? I have 35 non-native apps (yes, I counted). I’m not alone: a recent Nielsen study revealed that U.S. smartphone users accessed an average of 26.7 apps per month. But, of those 26.7 apps, ComScore reports that users are only frequently using 3. Only 12% of apps are actively used – the other 88% linger in our ever-growing app wasteland. That’s a lot of clutter. If your smartphone was your closet, you’d be packing up boxes to bring to Goodwill.
It’s not that the average smartphone user is lazy or forgetful. It’s that the concept of apps hasn’t evolved to match how users expect to engage with technology. Having to download a new app every time you want to interact with a brand is tedious. Having to toggle between multiple apps to perform different actions is inefficient. With the novelty of the app store wearing thin, where will users turn?
The Power of a Universal App
Enter Facebook Messenger. The new platform, announced at Facebook’s annual F8 developers conference in April, allows users to interact with multiple brands in one place. Beyond communicating, Messenger enables businesses to provide automated customer service, e-commerce and content experiences through the use of chat bots.
Brands are free to build their own unique bots, but all will be powered by Facebook’s Bot Engine. With time, the Bot Engine, and all bots powered by the Bot Engine, will get collectively smarter and more nuanced in understanding human interactions. Not only will Messenger solve the dilemma of app overload, but it will leverage artificial intelligence (A.I.) to create more personalized experiences for users. The vision is that Messenger will serve as a universal app that is customized to each user. It will be a single app that is able to do everything your 26.7 apps do now.
Centralized Commerce and Communication
While the current iteration of the new Messenger Platform is far from perfect, it should give apps a reason to quake in their boots. It points to the direction that the internet is moving – centralized commerce and communication.
This evolution, at its essence, isn’t a new one either. Think of the MP3 player. Why have 30 CDs, when you can have them all in one device? The question is essentially the same. Why bounce between multiple apps, when you can do everything in one?
I predict that the end is near for the app store as we know it, whether that end takes the form of Facebook Messenger or another yet-to-be-created A.I. and bot powered tool.
Adoption of it will not be immediate. Until users are convinced that a universal app can be more convenient, intuitive and secure than their current arsenal of apps, the app store will continue to exist. But with time app stores will be shuttered. Users will no longer want to make an effort to connect with brands through their apps. Brands will have to start connecting with users on their own turf, likely through a powerful, yet-to-be-named universal app. The new Facebook Messenger Platform is just the first of many dominos to fall in the death of apps as we know them.