Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Why Some Branded Mobile Apps Limit Engagement

This afternoon as I was making my way through my inbox, I came across a story in Media Post's Out to Launch email that struck me as something worth thinking about.

Here's a screenshot from the email:

For a long time I have worked on campaigns where "doing something mobile" is requested. Why does "doing something mobile" equate to creating a branded mobile app that has to be downloaded from an app store? Yes, app usage has soared. But if you look at the data, it's very specific app use. Comscore's US Mobile App Report from 2014 showed that total mobile app usage has surged 52 percent since 2013. Other interesting stats from the report include the facts that "the total number of app downloads is highly concentrated within a small segment of the smartphone population. The top 7 percent of owners account for nearly half of all app download activity in a given month. A staggering 42 percent of all app time spent on smartphones occurs on the individual’s single most used app. Nearly three out of every four minutes of app usage occurs on one of the individual’s top four apps." And as this Forrester article "Your Customers Will Not Download Your App states, "Most apps simply aren't compelling or convenient enough to outweigh the inhibitors of discovering, downloading, installing, and customizing them."

The idea of the campaign is fun. But making it an app to be downloaded from an app store automatically limits the number of people who will engage with it. Would the people who created it or signed off on it download it if they were the target. Doubtful. So why should Oscar Mayer's customers do it?

Unless your mobile app provides utility tied to your brand (like if you're a bank and you have a mobile banking app or your app is tied to payment and loyalty, like Starbucks), you won't see swarms of customers rushing to download your app. Just because mobile activity is up, doesn't mean that it requires an app to connect with the customer.

Mobile experiences can happen via web pages which will increase your viewability (and shareability) and if you build the experience to be responsive, well then you've just increased it even further. Building apps in silos like this is one of the many ways money is wasted on an idea that could have lived in a more dynamic environment that lead to greater sharing (or viral) potential. It's unfortunate.

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