Businesses Buying into Apps - App Week

ADDITIONAL CONTRIBUTORS Courtney Garcia

Photo courtesy of Robert Scoble.

Whether you’re opening up an ice cream store or taking over as CEO of a Fortune 500 company, something both ventures large and small must consider is the necessity of incorporating social media – more specifically, mobile technology – into the spectrum. Many folks in the digital world have suggested the mobile platform is the hot spot to keep an eye on, particularly due to the global reach of the phone. While many people in developing nations are only beginning to incorporate computers into their daily routines, having a phone is almost a given, therefore the market bountiful. Furthermore, those most up-to-speed with digital communication usually rely on apps for everything from directions to restaurant ideas to shopping.

The New York Times reports that by the end of this year there will be 116 million smartphone users in the United States according to the digital marketing firm eMarketer. Entrepreneur.com also pointed out that in June 2011, “nearly 40 percent of American mobile subscribers accessed downloaded apps.”

It seems to be a no-brainer then that those in competitive markets need to embrace the world of mobile technology. The real question is how to effectively utilize an app in a way that meets functional needs and boasts the marketing influence of your brand.

In the Times piece, the article tells the story of one small business owner who managed to successfully build an app that served beneficial purposes for both customers and the enterprise, yet, despite positive results, never took off. The baby toy shop in Boston, called Magic Beans, and the owner, Sheri Gurock, worked to create an app that allowed shoppers to check themselves out on their phones rather than going to the register.

Additionally, “the app also allowed customers to scan a bar code to get product information, descriptions and reviews that had previously been available only to customers shopping online,” says the Times. “When a customer bought an item using AisleBuyer, the app would automatically recommend two related products in the store and offer discounts and coupons. That resulted in an eight percent increase in sales to those who used the app.”

The app served great purposes for the small margin of people that partook, but unfortunately, few really bought into the initiative. Likely, Gurock, who made the app in 2010, was a little ahead of the curve, thus she says plans to try again.

Despite the small success, generally speaking, the growth of everything digital suggests mobile apps are a great way for businesses to boost sales, spread the word about the company, and deepen brand loyalty. The hardest part is just getting started.

In an interview with GigCoin.com, Kristi Carter, a marketing consultant and tech journalist, noted, “Branded apps can potentially enhance customer loyalty and their overall opinion of the company. However, you must make it valuable and user friendly, compatible with various platforms, use creative marketing.”

The site offers four primary steps to developing a successful app for a brand:

o      Follow Apple and Android’s content and legal guidelines.

o      Do keyword research and give your app a useful name that relates to these keywords.

o      Write an easy-to-understand and search-term-rich description of your app.

o      Do competitor app research to learn from what they’re doing on 1, 2 and 3.

Content, on the other hand, is not as by the book, and works best if created to either share exclusive brand-oriented materials or to allow further assistance for customers. It needs to be catchy.

As noted on ComputerRepairNewYorkCity.info, the primary goal should be to “create brand advocates and build relationships” by targeting the demographic, offering customized user-friendly experiences, and keeping the brand message consistent. For instance, the W Hotel created an app to allow guests to order room service from their phones, and TrailHead, by North Face, is an app produced one to help hikers find routes. Both benefited the companies by encouraging sales, subtly advertising, and in the case of North Face, allowing for the ability to share on social networks. It’s free advertising at its finest and most inconspicuous.

As Entrepreneur.com mentions, apps are meant for the most dedicated of customers, therefore marketing is a main cause to the impetus. The app should speak to the most faithful demographic, and engage their interests and needs.

“Every brand and business has its superfans–the people who are most loyal to that brand, and who go out of their way to promote it,” Mobile Roadie CEO Michael Schneider told the outlet. “Mobile apps enable them to promote your brand, share your content on Facebook and Twitter and be a more loyal patron and consumer.”

The last question is whether or not to charge for the app. Across the board the answer is no. People are way more interested in participating if the item is free; plus, it’s an efficient way to lure them in so that they will eventually spend the money on something more lucrative.

Overall, it’s safe to say: make the move, keep it simple, and speak to the right audience. “If you build it, they will come,” and from there, work in your own incentives.

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