It’s almost hard to believe that little over a decade ago, the Apple app store first launched. It was something brand new and completely revolutionary to the market. The figures backed that up, with 10 million apps downloaded in the first weekend alone.
Fast-forward to 2018 and apps are still performing strong. Despite some grumblings over storage space or saturated markets, the number of Apple apps downloaded in 2017 topped 197 billion. However, many businesses still haven’t fully embraced the mobile app. But there’s a great many benefits to be had by integrating a mobile app with your marketing plan.
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An untapped customer base
For a start, businesses that don’t include an app as part of their marketing plan are missing out on a whole heap of potential customers. Over 3.5 billion of us use the internet on our phones and half of our time spent browsing the internet is via a mobile app.
Apps have high engagement
Apps have also been shown to have higher engagement than a mobile site or other digital marketing channels. People spend a lot more time on native apps than on mobile websites. It makes sense when you think about it: a native app offers a quicker way for a customer to access your business’ materials. An app sits on a user’s phone, ready to be accessed whenever they need. They don’t have to input a lengthy URL or wait for a web page to load. Putting your business at your customer’s fingertips means that they can interact with your company on-the-go, whether doing their daily commute or during a lunch break.
Because the app is installed on your customer’s phone, you can also send push notifications and little reminders to use the app. Loyalty schemes can also be promoted via an app – a good example of this being Starbucks’ app scheme which rewards points that can be redeemed for free coffee. Information provided via an app can also be personalized for each user. As any marketer worth their salt knows, personalization underpins all effective marketing campaigns.
Apps are easy-to-use
Apps allow your customers to access the information they need, at a time when they need it. It makes your business far more accessible, even more so than on social media. When you Tweet a company, it can take a while for their customer service team to respond. With an app, you can have an in-built chat function that allows your customers to communicate at the touch of a button. Alternatively, your customers might find the answers to their queries within the app itself, doing away with the need for them to contact you in the first place.
Apps can build your brand
Of course, not all apps need to directly promote your business’ products or services. Apps can work well when part of a wider content marketing campaign. Whether you wish to position your business as an industry leader, yourself as a thought leader, or market your brand as particularly innovative and groundbreaking, an app can definitely help. KPMG used an app to deliver thought-leadership content to a Canadian audience, for instance.
Businesses don’t need to rely on just one app either. Some publishers, like the BBC, have apps for many different branches of its organization. There’s BBC Weather, BBC News, BBC Bitesize and regional variations. Each of these serve different purposes and target different audiences. If your company is particularly large, and if it serves different markets, it’s worth considering developing several different apps.
Your app needs to be specific
It’s this specificity that makes apps so useful to a customer. A person won’t use an app that works as a Jack of all trades but doesn’t specialize in any one of them. We’re used to using one app for navigation, another for photo editing, and others for socializing or discovering new places to visit and eat. The key to developing an effective app is to know your audience. What would your customers benefit from? For some, an online catalogue which allows them to customize outfits based on body-shape could be useful, for others, they might need a real-time update on specific stock market sectors.
Some customers may also only use an app at specific times in their lives. Businesses face an ongoing battle to stay on individuals’ phones at a time when storage space is limited. Making your app hyper-relevant and hyper-personal can keep customers engaged. Providing regular updates and reasons to visit the app is a good strategy as well.
However, sometimes you’re going to lose some users. Sometimes the loss can be seasonal. For instance, an app that sits alongside an event is useful for the duration of the event, but as soon as it is over, it will likely be uninstalled. But for some businesses, that’s okay. Sometimes it can make more sense to have a seasonal app surrounding an event, that is maintained during the event and then promoted in the run-up to each occasion.
Remember to promote your app
Speaking of promotion, an app won’t really take off unless your customers know about it. Therefore, it’s worth discussing some good ways for businesses to promote a new app. Firstly, there’s always paid promotion via the app stores. However, if your app is mostly targeted towards current customers and not attracting new ones, then making use of existing marketing channels is a must. Promote the app on social media and via your email marketing. Let anyone visiting your website know that there’s an app available. To further encourage uptake, you can offer promotions and exclusive offers that can only be found via the app (and tell your customers about those app-only deals).
There is a plethora of apps available on the market, which is testament to just how popular the channel is. In a relatively short space of time, apps and smartphones have completely altered the way businesses communicate with customers. Businesses that don’t consider using an app as part of a marketing strategy, therefore, are very much living in the past. No matter your business or marketing goals, we can guarantee that there’s an app for you.
Izaak Crook is a Digital Marketing Executive for AppInstitute, a SaaS App Maker platform that allows anyone to create their own mobile app without writing a single line of code.