Investing in an App to Market Your Business

It is easy to understand the appeal of developing an app: an instant hit could raise brand awareness through the stratosphere. Consider Sit and Squat, a mobile guide to public washrooms sponsored by the makers of Charmin’ bathroom tissue. It was a huge hit, with 81,000 people downloading the application onto their mobile devices within the first day.

Charmin mobile app Sit or SquatHowever, studies are finding that such novelty apps do not have staying power with fans. For example, apps that provide news or reference services are the most frequently used by consumers over the longest periods of time – and are most suited for subscription-based and ad-supported models.

More gimmicky entertainment-related apps are used least for the shortest periods of time and lend themselves to one-time download fees, according to an analysis by Flurry.

Now new data finds that if a brand misses with an app, it could cause irrevocable damage to a brand. “For a lot of companies they only have one shot at this,” Anthony Franco, CEO of EffectiveUI.

He points to new figures from a Harris study that the company commissioned. It found that 38% of mobile application users agree that they are not satisfied with most of the apps currently available from their favorite brand name companies/organizations, and 69% agree that if a brand name mobile app is not useful, helpful or easy to use it results in a negative perception about the brand.

Furthermore, 13% have avoided downloading applications from a brand name company or organization due to a previous bad experience with another app offered by that brand.

In a blog post, Franco gives some tips on deciding whether launching an app for marketing purposes is worthwhile – or could backfire. Companies tend to think about such questions as for how to monetize an application or how to make sure it can be found. “These are all important questions that need to be asked. But not yet. Not until we understand one very important thing, “why”…

“Why” is the most important question you can ask, he says. Then once you understand “why”, document it. That will keep the application development process on track. Other tips:

Ask your customers what they want. “For any application, the right user research and design collaboration will drastically reduce maintenance costs and increase initial and sustained user adoption.”

Keep late adopters in mind. The fastest growing market of web-related services and devices are people over the age of 70, according to one study, Franco says. “That means you need to care about how they perceive the device – many designers talk about using more physical metaphors when designing UIs – largely because they understand that novice users need their connection to the physical world to map to their digital interactions. Long story short, it is not only important to ask “why?”, but also to ask “who?”

Focus on what your business does. “If you are a credit card company, you don’t need to build a game. If you are a shipping company, you should not build a social network. Stick with the primary purpose of your business.”

Design for mobile use cases only. Franco noted:

73% of mobile app users say they expect a company’s mobile app to be easier to use than its website. If your website or customer portal has 50 things a customer can do, your mobile application should do 10.

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