Do you really Want or Need a Mobile App?

App stores are full of goodies that people like you & I want to explore high time. It’s really cool to do something in the mobile space. “Let’s have an app,” this always tops the bucket list of a brand marketer but hang on, think about why do you need it? In such a competitive environment the question is ‘does your brand app stand a chance?’ Does every brand actually need to have an app?

Mobile Mentality:
For marketers today, the mobile app is becoming what the website was 10 years ago. When it comes to apps from Indian brands, only a handful have worked like Flipkart (4 ratings), SnapDeal (4.2 ratings), Uber (4 ratings)  Zomato (4.3 ratings), etc. A 4-point rating and beyond on an app storeis considered to be a success. All the really successful apps have high user review scores or ratings. 

Now when we speak of Indian market, app download is estimated to account for less than 5% of global downloads despite India being the world’s second-largest mobile user market after China. Besides, the top 10-15 apps downloaded in India are similar to the top 15 downloaded globally. Doesn’t this ring a bell?

Marketer’s dream world:
Haven’t you heard of the saying “as you sow, so shall you reap” but no this isn’t true when it comes to your app success. Marketers always underestimate the cost of app creation and overestimate the benefit to be reaped. Yeah that’s shocking. The brand team looks at the cost of creating an app and assumes that that is where the spending will end. Bingo. No dear not true.Boom surprise..! Within weeks of launch there is a shocking realisation that amidst the millions of apps, nobody is keen on this teeny tiny latest addition. And on the top of it to justify the expense of creating the app, advertising becomes necessary. The budget is doomed.

Downloads in the lakhs or millions that marketers dream of are saved for only three kinds of apps: games, utilities (including service brands such as ecommerce or food retail) and news or information apps. Unless a brand can create some form of credible entertainment, the app has little hope. A consumer has so many other interesting options.

Why do I exist?
Have you ever heard an app begging: why am I there in the first place? For eg, The Unilever Careers app (of course a big shot company) that provides graduate students and job seekers with the necessary info, to start their career has seen only 1,000-5,000 downloads so far.These experiments are wasteful expenditure if we consider the cost of developing apps. An app sets the client tentatively back by Rs. 1-10 lakh depending on the complexities involved.

Wait, I am not yet done! Do you really think that brands need to worry just about the low downloads?  Well, reviews are a big issue as well they often brickback. Let’s take Domino’s Pizza India’s app for mobile orders, it has seen 500,000-1,000,000 downloads but it is a barrage of unhappy customers.

In this day of multiple digital platforms, brands need to be clear about what their mobile app will do that cannot be done through any of their other digital properties. Basically, it has to answer three questions. “Is it a natural fit with the normal mobile usage of the consumer? Does it solve a specific need, offering a clear benefit? Does it give a reason to not just download but to use it again and again?”

I need my phone!
When do you really want your cellphone? Well, there are these three big ‘moments’ when you scream “Where’s my phone!”: ‘bored now’, ‘urgent now’ and ‘repetitive now’.

The ‘bored now’ is the situation where you need to ‘time-pass’ or wait for some other event (imagine waiting at a doctor’s clinic). Urgent now’ is when you need critical information right away, “Hurry up, we need to get to Pizza Hut before it closes”. Apps with map results, addresses, product prices and reviews, news alerts can really come handy. ‘Repetitive now’ is a category where byte-sized information is accessed repeatedly – sports scores, stock market alerts, news apps and such.

Cutting the long story short!
Relevance, and a ‘wow’ user experience, is the key to success of a mobile app. “Brands should create an app considering how their customers are likely to interact with them on mobile, rather than just replicating their web presence,” advises Alok Jain, chief marketing officer, Zomato, whose app has been downloaded between one and five million times.

Nothing beats a great app design. It is truly said, ‘People don’t read ads. People read what interests them. Sometimes, it is an ad’ similarly, when people check out your app and see value in it, they share it in their social circles. If an app can get to that level of quality and experience, the marketing takes care of itself.The main purpose of an app should not be to promote the brand, but to give a utility which makes the user download and use it. The brand should subtly promote itself.

Well since I love to pin down some take aways here’s one: A far less expensive option is to use a combination of social media together with a clean website with a responsive design easily accessible on a smartphone. Admittedly, though, that is less glamorous than launching a mobile app which you wanted in the first place. But the point is all about what your band NEEDS not what you WANT!

Author: Chitra Bhargav, Business Development & Social Media Strategist  



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