Millennial App Usage

This article was originally published on Tech.pinions, a website dedicated to informed opinions, insight, and perspective on the tech industry.


There’s been a lot of talk recently about Millennials leaving Facebook for Snapchat. We at Creative Strategies recently surveyed over 500 college students across the US about the apps they use, how often they download new apps, and more. It turns out, there’s some truth to the “Facebook is losing millennials to Snapchat” narrative, but that argument misses the larger point.

22 percent of millennials say Snapchat is their favorite app, compared to 10 percent for the Facebook app. However, 33 percent of millennials say a Facebook-owned app is their favorite. When you factor in Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp, Facebook (the company) dominates.

The same dynamic applies to the apps millennials use most. 58 percent of millennials say Snapchat is among their top three most used apps, compared to 51 percent who say the same thing about the Facebook app. But once again, when you factor in Messenger, Instagram, and WhatsApp, Facebook dominates. 84 percent of millennials say a Facebook-owned app is one of their top three most used, compared to 58 percent for Snapchat.

We also learned the Facebook app is the largest digital driver of new app installs. 47 percent of millennials say they learn about the new apps they download from Facebook, double the percentage of those who learn about them from Twitter. The only thing millennials rely on more to discover new apps is direct advice from their friends. Facebook has definitely not lost its hold on millennials.

Our survey also taught us how much millennials pay for apps and in-app purchases. 90 percent of millennials usually download free apps. 99 percent — yes, 99 percent — usually download apps that cost $1.99 or less. One percent usually downloads apps that cost $2 or more. The story is the same for in-app purchases. The vast majority of the in-app purchases millennials make cost $1.99 or less.

A final thing our survey taught us is how frequently millennials download new apps. Only 17 percent of millennials download new apps more frequently than once per month; 12 percent downloaded a bunch of apps when they got their phone but haven’t downloaded any since.

We asked millennials what app they’ve downloaded recently that they really like. Interestingly, except for Pokémon Go, an outlier of outliers, almost none of the apps millennials have downloaded recently are among their most used.

Put it all together and the picture is clear: Millennials already have and use the apps they need and they aren’t actively seeking out new apps anymore, certainly not “expensive” ones. Gone are the days when millennials downloaded new apps for the fun of it. The app craze is over. Apps aren’t the exciting new thing anymore.

This isn’t to say all millennials have stopped downloading apps. That’s ridiculous and not true. It’s just that millennials download apps far less often than they used to and, for the most part, they no longer actively seek out new ones. The apps they’ve already downloaded satisfy their needs.

This bodes poorly for companies trying to get millennials to download and use new apps. Millennials have decided their needs are already met. It will take a very special company to convince millennials they have a need they don’t yet know about.