by Marcy Welk
Apple’s App Store opened in July 2008, and in less than a year over one billion apps had been downloaded. By 2010, 25 billion apps had been downloaded, and Gartner is predicting that more than 268 billion downloads will generate $77 billion revenue in 2017. (1)
If you think about it, mobile applications are available for nearly every task imaginable – from budget management to fitness tracking, personal journaling to photo sharing, encrypted messaging to vanishing videos. Apps have become one of the primary ways people communicate, shop, work, play, and organize their lives.
Mobile apps have also become a reflection of ourselves: the apps we use enhance our lives in tangible ways, like helping us optimize time or save money. They also share and/or express our values. For example, I am conscientious about my carbon footprint, and I use the Car2Go app because it often seems more environmentally friendly than other personal driver options (such as Uber). As apps strive to connect to our goals, their role continues to evolve and ultimately they become lifestyle choices we commit to rather than bundles of features in which we only have a passing interest.
From a marketing perspective, mobile apps enable brands to engage with consumers at any time in any place. And, if SERPs (Search Engine Results Page) begin to deliver apps, brands will have even more opportunities to connect. Now more than ever, apps are an avenue to build resonant, value-based relationships with consumers. How can brands accomplish that? Research out of Indiana University offers this guidance:
“Branded apps are successful when they provide users with information and personalization and, most importantly, a connection to a brand they know and trust.” (2)
This rings true, and as I thought about examples, the most obvious for me is the Starbucks app. Of course it provides practicalities like wayfinding or line-skipping, and that birthday drink each year makes it personal, but for me brand connection and trust comes from the sense of sharing this app delivers. It gives me music, holds my wallet, and sometimes offers to buy my latte. That two-way exchange via the app makes Starbucks a trusted friend I’m more likely to buy from and connect with.
When done well, apps serve as a window into a company’s customers and a brand’s consumers. People are willing to engage and share more when they feel they are receiving an equal benefit as the brand in the exchange. But, if a consumer feels the brand is getting a disproportionate benefit out of the exchange, they are less likely connect through the app.
Here’s an example Joseph Turow, author of “The Aisles Have Eyes: How Retailers Track Your Shopping, Strip Your Privacy, And Define Your Power,” shared with Terry Gross in a Fresh Air interview:
“…There’s a whole area of marketing now called geolocation marketing, where, for example, let’s say you’re a coffee shop. And you know that a person is going near a competitor coffee shop. You can actually purchase the ability to reach a person on her phone as that person moves toward the coffee shop and say, don’t go to this place. Go to another place because we’ll give you 15 percent off.”
I don’t know about you, but to me that tips the exchange from friend to stalker. Creepy!
In the end, apps offer a personalized experience for the user and present a tremendous opportunity for companies to learn in aggregate about behaviors and habits that can inform all manner of decisions (e.g., new product development, white space opportunities, messaging, etc.). This “passive listening” can help complete a picture of why people do what they do, and help Insights teams understand the consumer in deeper and more meaningful ways.
What brand apps do you connect with? Is it mutual? We’d love to hear your stories!
As a VP of Client Services at Burke, Marcy Welk thrives on helping clients create positive brand impressions and customer experiences.
- Powell, D. (2016, December 23). Four Tech Trends to Watch out for in 2017. Retrieved from http://www.smartcompany.com.au/technology/80808-four-tech-trends-watch-2017/.
- Essany, M. (2011, December 14). IU Research Shows Marketing Power of Branded Mobile Apps. Retrieved from https://mobilemarketingwatch.com/iu-research-shows-marketing-power-of-branded-mobile-apps-19998/.