I’m sure that I could be a movie star…

…if I could get out of this place. Billy Joel, “The Piano Man”

In many ways this is a phrase that applies to mobile apps today. There is no doubt that mobile apps are powerful. But getting out of the gate and gaining notice with the mobile consumer audience is far from a sure thing, no matter how great the app is. 

Smart phone apps can be used anytime...

For many retailers and Consumer Goods Marketers (CGM) they are highly cost effective and impactful. According to Internet Retailer, June 2011, in their article Look at Me highly successful mobile apps can be developed for $20,000 to $200,000, depending on complexity and functionality. While expenditures of this level are not pocket change, neither are they out of the realm of possibility for retailers and established CGM firms. And the impact can be significant…

The big questions with apps, given their current popularity among smart phone owners, is how to let the consumer know the app is available, how to get them to down load the app, and then how to ensure consistent, long term usage.

So, how to get them known? Unlike mobile sites, consumers cannot easily do a url search and latch on to an app. They must often search out information if such an app exists and then download from a specific sources or sources. It is also frequently the case that they must not just have a smartphone, but also have a phone with the right OS platform.

Given that reality, perhaps the best method of obtaining adoption is missionary efforts undertaken by a firm’s employees. This is particularly valuable in a retail environment, where some employees have been talking to customers about house credit programs and/or loyalty programs for years.

However, for these efforts to be successful the employees must be fully conversant in usage of the app, and be true believers in the value it adds to that customer’s experience. They must also understand what the terms and conditions around acquiring the app are: where it can be downloaded, and what are the platform and informational requirements.

As a further step, all app marketers can, and should, make the subject of their apps a primary focus on both their convention web sites and on mobile sites if they have them. The app must also be promoted in any social media channels that the company uses. Essentially, any contact method the company has with its customer can be fair game. This could even include mentioning the app on email, and even direct mail advertising campaigns.

But getting the app on a consumer’s phone is only half the battle, as most owners of smart phones end up with more apps on their phone than they know what to do with.

Reminders of potentially important events are important for keeping top of mind for your app. But these reminders must add value to that customer…apps that are just annoying message generators soon get put on the back burner or are uninstalled.

The key here is value: News about new releases that are meaningful to the audience: general industry related news, special exclusive promotions, insider product information or news about celebrity endorsers are some of the messaging tactics that have proved to provide app “stickiness” in the this market.

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