Only 1% of mobile apps created by consumer brands rack up 1 million downloads, according to a U.K. survey by international consulting firm Deloitte.
Only 20% even reached 1,000 downloads, indicating that brands are missing out on the opportunities presented by consumers' close engagement with their smartphones, and that many consumers regard most apps as spam.
Deloitte's report argues that as apps become increasingly popular, users are becoming more discerning. Brands need to up their game if they are to have any impact at all.
Toby Horry is managing partner of digital agency Dare, whose first app for popular U.K. credit card Barclaycard, called Waterslide Extreme, scored 12 million downloads. He said, "We created it because of the positive reaction to the TV ad [which showed an office worker stripping off and riding through a city on a waterslide]. People online were saying they wished they could do it for real, so we thought up the app. Barclaycard behaved flexibly and found a budget to make it happen."
Deloitte's report suggests that the use of camera and location-based services help a brand app stand out. It praises the Petcentric app from Nestle's Purina, which helps pet owners find nearby pet-related services, and the Pepsi Loot app, which rewarded consumers with music downloads when they visited places where Pepsi is sold.
Nevertheless, Mr. Horry said the best apps are usually functional and show an understanding of what consumers need. He praised the Sky Plus app that allows users to record TV shows remotely, and the online grocery store Ocado app that lets shoppers add items to their online shopping list, even when they are offline.
There is a big appetite for apps -- 45% of smartphone users download at least one a week, according to Deloitte's research -- which should be an incentive for brands to try harder.