What is the worst failure you’ve had in terms of a mobile product?

Viewed 745 times Updated on November 28, 2016 in General
Mobile Growth Community — Product Manager
3 745 on May 16, 2016

What failed, and what did you learn from that?  Additional advice on things you’d recommend never doing?

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Stealth — Product Manager
1 on May 17, 2016

Believe it or not, our problem was too many users in first few days and especially users we didn’t want. 

I think for most B2C apps, its very important who your initial users are if they have any impact on the apps experience for others, in short, if their usage affects the product for others – its critical. 

We launched it and were hoping to seed 2000 users in first week, but couple of people picked up on our referral bonus scheme, blogged about it, and brought in tons of users 10,000 in 2 days to be precise – which we were not ready for, our tickets were rising, experience was compromised for every user and the nature of users it attracted wasn’t the ones we were looking at 🙁 

indi — Developer
on October 7, 2016

Aha, that’s certainly unexpected….How does it doing now?

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Loot Crate — Product Manager
0 on November 28, 2016

Too many to count!

There are the bugs – shipping a product that points to staging. Signing off on the wrong build and shipping something that crashes 100% of the time before sign up.

  • Lesson learned: Check all the boxes with QA before you ship


There’s also shipping the wrong features at the wrong scale: sometimes a feature might be great in theory and might even survey well but may have unintended consequences of hurting the business. Either it’s not well-received by a significant portion of your audience or it helps in the short-term, but is not conducive to long-term usage (happens in mobile gaming a lot).

  • Lesson learned: Fail at scale. Product-market fit is key for products and features. Validate your market and always roll out product features incrementally.


Pre-mature scaling is also a problem. Every mobile app dev dreams of getting featured on the app store. But what if you haven’t refined your core loops? Then you can get a ton of traffic you can’t retain or monetize. And when you lose them, it’s hard to get them back. Getting featured at the wrong point in your product lifeline can be as much of a nightmare as a dream.

  • Lesson learned: Prepare for a push. Refine your product before it gets in the hands of the masses.


Cannibalization can also occur for many reasons, but the big problem is that it turns you into your biggest enemy. Sometimes running constant sales can undercut your own margins. Also, if you offer similar product offerings and only market internally without growing your base, you might be shuffling users around your own ecosystem while maintaining product/development support for multiple offerings (hidden cost). Or sometimes you could be sacrificing long-term goals for short term gains (say you focus on first-time-purchase conversions instead of repeat sales. What if your optimization has led to a bunch of small transactions while neglecting your long-time users?)

  • Lesson learned: Don’t sacrifice long-term goals for short-term gains. Focus on your forecasts and the inputs to your business/LTV models.


Excessive marketing spend. Back before Kochava, Tune, AppsFlyer, Branch, and all the attribution partners, people paid on a per-install basis without being able to track the spend. Ad partners charged by the click. Or tap. Which means that if your users already had an app installed and they tapped on two ads for the same app, you got charged twice for an install. And with CPIs of over $3/install, you’re effectively paying $6 for one install! It bloated our marketing costs by 40%! Now, with Branch and other attribution partners, you can ensure that you’re only getting charged for one user. You can also see your performance by channel to validate the quality of your traffic. You can define your own metrics of a quality audience with the actions they take in your app.

  • Lesson learned: Attribution is king! With all the data you can capture, you should follow your users through every part of the funnel to optimize your marketing and ensure positive ROAS. 


My failure résumé includes much, much more than this, but these are the first to come to mind.

Of note, I am not a paid affiliate for Branch. I am, however, an avid fan of their offerings 🙂

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