Consumer app downloads to mobile devices are expected to reach more than 66-billion per annum by 2016, more than double the 31-billion that occurred in 2011.

The A new report from Juniper Research found that the overwhelming majority of apps – 87% – will be downloaded free of charge throughout the forecast period, but publisher revenues will increasingly be derived from post-download opportunities such as content subscriptions and virtual item sales. Growth will continue to be driven primarily by smartphones, although by 2016 nearly one in four downloads will occur on a tablet.

The report, “Mobile Apps Stores: Future Business Models & Ecosystem Analysis 2012-2016”, also emphasised the role that apps are playing as part of a brand customer acquisition and retention strategy.

“Consumers are now demanding 24/7 access to services –  retail, financial, information, entertainment – wherever they are,” says report author Dr Windsor Holden. “As a result, brands that wish to remain competitive have turned to apps as part of a integrated multichannel distribution system: they have become a critical mechanism to increase engagement and reduce churn.”

However, the report also noted that within an increasingly congested app space, content publishers need to derive far more information about consumer usage patterns from their delivery partners, thereby enabling them to optimise billing on current and future propositions. With this in mind, the report called for publishers to partner with players in the payments space that can offer realtime reporting and analysis of user behaviour patterns prior to – and post – the point of billing.

Other findings from the report include:

  • Games will continue to be the most popular consumer app category throughout the forecast period, followed by Multimedia.
  • Operators should consider establishing a “shelf-in-store” presence on third-party storefronts to boost app sales.
  • Browser-based apps are likely to predominate in the longer term.