How to get business value by using mobile apps in your marketing

Mobile apps are the most personal and dominant ways in which people consume digital information. They can also work as marketing tools. The challenge is to develop apps that provide value to consumers and help them solve problems.

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Since time immemorial, or at least since the earliest businesses started selling their services and products, marketers have been vying for the consumer’s attention. In this age of all-pervasive technology, never have brands been so integrated into the lives of consumers. And marketers who understand technology and its implications are able to use it to connect their brands to their consumers.

Mobile trends and consumer data prove that mobile is getting bigger by the day and has already surpassed desktop as the preferred mode of internet access worldwide. In 2015, the time spent per adult user in the U.S. per day with digital media was 2.8 hours which was 51 percent of the total. 90 percent of the time spent by consumers on mobile is on apps. This clearly shows a path for marketers to design consumer-centric apps to market their brands.

Developing apps that provide real value

Developing the perfect app is a tightrope walk. Many brands treat their apps as advertisements — and that’s where the philosophy of a successful digital relation with your consumer is lost in the rush of marketing. A successful app is the perfect amalgamation of consumer need, business objectives and technological solutions. Consumers need to be entertained and have their lives made easier. If an app does not offer value, it is just another shoddy marketing gimmick that will be thrown off of the consumer’s mobile device faster than a babysitter’s boyfriend when the car pulls up!

An excellent example of an app that provides value while subtly marketing itself is the Brew Guru app from the American Homebrewers Association. For an app from a not-for-profit organization that has no tangible product or service to sell, the Brew Guru is a remarkable marketing effort.

The app brings all the goodness of the website and the Zymurgy magazine of the American Homebrewers Association in an easy-to-use app. Apart from providing advice, recipes and resources on home brewing, it also helps beer lovers and brewers save money at local taprooms, brewpubs and homebrew supply shops. It also gives association members an easy way to access member benefits.

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Using pre-existing apps for marketing

Providing value to the consumer through an app can have different meanings for different brands. It could be entertaining, helping save time and/or money, educate, reward, speed up delivery of services, and so on. Unless the app adds value to the lives of your consumers, it will be a huge waste of all your marketing efforts.

If you are a small business and your business revolves around you, as a leader, you can still use existing apps to build authority and credibility — aspects that are all the more important for a personal brand. Using social media apps to showcase yourself to the world is a good starting point. Sharing insights and thought leadership content can go a long way in building authority around yourself.

Askers, for instance, has a unique value proposition. Using this app, people can ask questions to influential people and get replies in their own voice. The more traction and popularity a question gets, the more money the “asker” stands to earn money. Now while the majority of the people might look at this app as a novel means of social interaction by asking questions to celebrities, a student, a developer or an entrepreneur can use this powerful feature to ask thought-provoking questions to industry leaders.

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The app also invites “experts” to answer questions. So it also gives a great opportunity to thought leaders to register as an expert and answer questions posed by other askers. This can enhance one’s credibility and establish authority as a subject matter expert and thought leader. 

Sharing the promotion

An app is an extremely personal mode of communication with your consumers. You can also encourage them to connect to your app through their favorite social platforms and also allow them to share their app activities on each of them. This will put your app in front of the hundreds of friends and followers within your consumers’ network. An innocuous “Share This App” button can help you gain immense virality.

An excellent example of a branded app that offers real value to people is Charmin SitOrSquat from Proctor and Gamble. This app helps users find public restrooms nearby or at the places they intend to travel to. Users can rate restrooms (“Sit” if you liked it and “Squat” if you think it could have been better) for the benefit of other users, and also add new restrooms to the database. The app also allows users to tag restrooms with specific attributes like handicap-accessibility, free/paid, ratings or baby changing table.

Through this app, P&G offers immense value to users. Its usability — helping people find restrooms — is the reason for its popularity, and users will definitely spread the good word-of-mouth to their friends and family. The app does not indulge in overt promotion and simply references P&G's brand of toilet paper, Charmin, so that there is brand recall. 

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An app is a highly personal way of getting in touch with your consumers. If an app offers real value, entertains, informs and makes lives easier, consumers even pay to be marketed to. Brands can collect priceless consumer data through apps, and target consumers better using this data.

Parting thoughts

Apps, if made useful and not too intrusive, can be great tools for building lasting consumer relationships. Multiple, favorable brand encounters combine toward creating “brand affinity” in the minds of the consumer. Be it a brand-owned app or a social media app, you can always find innovative and interesting ways to market your business or your brand.

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