Building an App For Millenials: What You Should Know Before Development

A recent article published on Research Live suggests that young people (aged 15-24) check their smartphones 387 times per day on average. This makes millennials a very attractive audience to target with a mobile app. But which apps do millennials prefer, and why? If that’s the question you’re curious about, then hang on and check out our analysis!  

Which apps do millennials prefer?

According to statistics, millennials’ most favored apps vary across the globe, but the categories of their most preferred apps are the same globally. Based on statistics from Statista and comScore, the app categories that were most popular among millennials in 2015 are the following:

  1. Entertainment (games, music and movie streaming services).   
  2. Social networks.
  3. Messenger / chat.
  4. Photo editors.
  5. Financial services.
  6. Health and fitness.
  7. Location-based services.
  8. Location-based dating apps.

A guide for which apps millennials like the most and why young people like particular apps

[source: Avira]

For me, these results were not surprising. Being a millennial myself – and with most of the people around me also being millennials – I assumed that other millennials were probably using the same kind of apps that I do. The apps I personally use the most are primarily social apps like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and other chat apps.

I also use financial apps, like an app for my bank. Being a young person, I have to keep a strict budget. Sometimes, when I fail at keeping it, I borrow money from my friends. As a person on a tight budget, it’s nice to be able to check my bank account when I need it. Also, it’s great to easily send borrowed money back to my friends.

It’s also important for me to stay healthy. There are a variety of apps that allow me to track everything from exercises and sleep to nutrition. These apps help me track my health and visualize my progress. They also motivate me to stick to my plans.

Why exactly are millennials so attracted to the types of apps I just mentioned? And what can you do to build an app that appeals to them? First, we need to understand young people.

The basic marketing persona portrait




When were they born? What is their age?

Born between 1980 and 2000. Aged 15 - 30.

Technology has always been part of their lives. This generation is accustomed to:

- instant gratification

- quick access to products and services

- additional sources of income created by the on-demand economy

Services that are too expensive, slow, and not rewarding become a source of frustration.

What concerns them?

1) dating

2) finding a career path

3) saving money for college

4) entertainment

5) education

6) health

7) charity

Mobile solutions that can educate young people, help them manage their budget, find fun things to do and cool people to spend time with have the potential to become successful.

What is their regular day like?

Since most millennials probably are students, a day for the majority might look like this: Wake up at 7 am, take public transport to school, take courses from 9 am to 3 pm, go home, do homework, relax and have fun.

Remind users to use your app at convenient times. Send them a push notification at about 8 am when they are taking the bus to school, or at 4 pm when they are going home. Event apps can send reminders on Friday, suggesting things to do on Friday night or over the weekend.

How do they spend their free time?

With friends at a café or bar, cycling, working a part time job or practicing a hobby.      

Loyalty apps with coupons and discounts, fitness tracking apps, and chat apps for group event planning can be great solutions for millennials.

What makes them anxious?

Sceptical about financial and governmental institutions.


User privacy is a very important factor to take into account during app development. Privacy concerns might also be the reason why services that delete messages, like Snapchat, have gained a lot of attention.

What do they need?

1) Attention, affirmation and community

2) Finding a higher meaning of life (typically through communities)

3) Self-expression

Young people can get their needs satisfied with social apps that address their interests, community-based health and fitness apps, photo editing apps that help young people express themselves, or charity apps that realize their social values.

5 things your app can do to appeal to millennials

1. An app should satisfy young people’s need to be heard.

Young people are sensitive to social changes, influences, circumstances, and moods. They are also the most active producers of new ideas, theories, and projects. If you are building an app for youth, it should respond to the desire to be listened to and supported.

Social apps that target specific communities give millennials an opportunity to reach out to larger audiences that share similar values and are interested in certain themes such as media, sports, and education. Through these communities, young people can get encouragement and advice from like-minded individuals.

You can build an app that raises and discusses personal issues and delivers training and advice to young people. The startup Oneset, for example, is a social media app that brings together people who need to stay motivated to exercise. The app created a community for gym-goers who post their progress at the gym and receive recommendations and support from other members.

An alternative approach to building a community within a social app is through anonymity. Anonymous social media apps like Yik Yak and Whisper allow people to share their thoughts as honestly as they want. This way people can express themselves without worrying about the social consequences.

The Yik Yak app, an anonymous social media app, very popular among millennials.

[The Yik Yak app. Source: 36kr]

2. An app should help young people save money or earn money.

Since young people often don’t have a stable income yet, they are willing to save money by finding great deals and participating in loyalty programs. They want to enjoy life, but need options that don’t break the bank.

If there is anything you sell in your app, you should make sure to offer discounts, hot deals, coupons and other loyalty rewards to attract young people. A travel app can sell cheap tours. A cafe where young people spend a lot of time should build a loyalty app.   

Airbnb and Couchsurfing are great examples of services that appeal to millennials. With Airbnb, young people can even earn money by renting out a room to a traveler.   

The on-demand economy has exploded in popularity, and this also means great opportunities for young people to earn money. Local delivery jobs offer flexible schedules, which means that people can decide when and how much they want to work. This fits exceptionally well in a student’s life.  

Apps that can help millennials save or earn money are highly popular

[The Airbnb app. Source: Google Play]

Check out: How much does it cost to make an on-demand delivery app?

3. An app should motivate young people to pursue their purpose.

Young people sometimes struggle with a sense of purpose. They struggle to find deeper meaning and fulfillment in their lives. According to a study out of Stanford University, many are motivated by family purposes (raising a family, caring for an extended family); others by vocational purposes (becoming a doctor, teacher, app developer); others by religious and political beliefs (yoga, meditation and social equality); and others by the arts, sports or civic duty.

Young people are most likely to find meaning in concrete and action-oriented goals. Concrete and action-oriented are exactly what mobile apps can do well. People will use your app if they have a mission to accomplish. For example, you may challenge your customers to do fitness activities and earn charity donations. This is exactly what FitRaise and Charity Miles do.

Or you can challenge users to be a thoughtful citizens by helping them fix problems in their city. For example, Yalantis teamed up with our local city council to build an app for citizens that helps them communicate problems that need to be addressed by the city government. We are currently in the beta testing phase, but you can check out what the app looks like on our Dribbble page.

Whatever motivation you use to help young people pursue their goals, your users should be able to share their achievements with others. This includes a visual proof of completing a challenge and sharing possibilities such as sharing buttons, news feeds, or a leaderboard. Besides, rewarding users for their activities with digital trophies can motivate them to talk about your app on social media. And after all, achievements are a fun way to engage users.

4. An app should help young people express themselves and look remarkable to others.

You might have noticed that people aren’t slow to post their progress at the gym or pictures of a healthy smoothie on social media.

We always want others to think the best of us. Now, as we constantly are in touch with other people on social media, we have become concerned about our image on a larger stage.

Millennials, going through a process of shaping their identities, are especially concerned about how others perceive them – and their online persona.

That can explain why apps like InstaSize, PicsArt and Photo Grid are most popular among millennials. These apps are photo or video editing programs for sharing content on social media.  

With these apps you can shape your own image for other people to see. This can be retouching unwanted flaws in a selfie, or making a landscape photo seem more professional by adding a filter on it. People use photo tools as a way of self-promotion. The goal is to collect more ‘likes’ on social media or matches on a dating app, in order to gain more attention and affirmation.

Picsart, Instasize and other photo editing apps are especially popular among millennials because they serve as a tool for self promotion

[The Picsart app: Source: DB and R marketing] 

Check out: How much to build Tinder?

5. An app should be fun and entertaining.

According to various studies, increased exposure to technology has got us addicted to constant entertainment. Millennials use technology the most. Therefore, it’s no wonder that apps aimed at entertainment and distraction, such as gaming and music apps, are among the most used apps by the young generation. The PlayWith app, for example, helps young people reach out to their peers to play their favorite game or sport outside.

But games and music are not the only way to entertain millennials. In general, any app that offers entertaining features is likely to gain more popularity than a purely practical app. Even seemingly less enticing apps like banking apps can become entertaining if they have funny designs: think an animated piggy that dances for joy every time you transfer money into your savings account.   

Chat apps can offer funny smileys or filters for video-chat features. Basically, anything that can make the interaction more fun is a win for an app that targets millennials.    

Also check out: How to design an app for Android


To sum up, if you’re thinking about developing an app that appeals to millennials, consider your app’s answers to the following questions:

  1. Does it provide people with attention, affirmation or a community?  
  2. Does it have anonymity or privacy features?
  3. Does it satisfy millennials’ needs in fitness, education, job seeking, going out, and dating?
  4. Does it provide constant entertainment?
  5. Does it offer an easier, cheaper or quicker solution to make their lives better?
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