Mobile: does every brand need an app?

In a world more and more dom­i­nat­ed by mobile phones, mar­keters are cur­rent­ly obsessed with apps, which are soon becom­ing what web­sites were 10 years ago. At the moment, it seems that every brand has come to the con­clu­sion that it needs an app. The aver­age annu­al invest­ment in apps is now $5,5 mil­lion , and we can under­stand why, when every study is show­ing that con­sumers are spend­ing more time on their apps than ever before. How­ev­er, as my col­league point­ed out in this very inter­est­ing arti­cle on the Adobe blog, US con­sumers might spend 86% of their mobile time on apps, but once we remove gam­ing, Face­book, Twit­ter, Youtube, news and util­i­ties apps, a brand app is com­pet­ing only for a share of 11% at the very best! So the ques­tion remains: does every brand real­ly need an app?

In my opin­ion, this isn’t the ques­tion that you need to ask your­self. What you should rather ask is What is the best mobile chan­nel for my brand, my com­pa­ny and my audi­ence? Apps can pro­vide a new and excit­ing oppor­tu­ni­ty for brands to com­mu­ni­cate with con­sumers, but this does not mean that your brand needs one. For some com­pa­nies, hav­ing a ful­ly opti­mised mobile web­site will prove to be more cost-effi­cient and over­all bet­ter than invest­ing time and ener­gy in the cre­ation of an app which would not serve a spe­cial util­i­ty. For some oth­ers, a respon­sive web­site will be enough to insure than the brand is eas­i­ly and quick­ly acces­si­ble when­ev­er a client needs to search on the go.

Take out your mobile phone, and have a look at your apps. Now, tell me: which of you ever down­loaded and kept an app that did not pro­vide a real­ly use­ful ser­vice? This ques­tion rais­es the cru­cial point of the Why? behind the app. A brand app needs to add val­ue, to solve prob­lems, and to pro­vide some­thing real­ly use­ful and unique. If it doesn’t, it is very like­ly to fall short and to end up being a waste of mon­ey and resources.

Brands need to be con­sumer-cen­tric, and to real­ly think about how the app will meet a cus­tomer need and help dri­ve engage­ment with them. Let’s look at an exam­ple: when L’Oréal devel­oped the app “Make Up Genius”, a vir­tu­al make­up tester allow­ing cus­tomers to try prod­ucts on them­selves and see them move in real time, it was a real suc­cess because it pro­vid­ed them with a real unique ser­vice, and was much more than a sim­ple cat­a­logue of cos­met­ics. Sim­ply hav­ing an app pres­ence is def­i­nite­ly not enough.

Devel­op­ing an app costs mon­ey and time, and is a real invest­ment. A recent announce­ment from Gart­ner, the tech­nol­o­gy research com­pa­ny, point­ed out that 0.01% of con­sumer mobile apps will be con­sid­ered a finan­cial suc­cess by their devel­op­ers through 2018. As dis­cussed in this arti­cle, the com­pe­ti­tion in the app is real­ly fierce, and 60% of apps are delet­ed only one month after being down­loaded. This shows that to have a chance to suc­ceed, a brand app needs to be part of a well-thought mobile strat­e­gy that works seam­less­ly. It is also essen­tial to keep in mind the neces­si­ty to get a ful­ly respon­sive and mobile opti­mized brand website.

To sum­ma­rize, an app can be extreme­ly ben­e­fi­cial to your busi­ness and your mobile strat­e­gy, but for it to be a suc­cess, a brand app needs to pro­vide a unique & non-decep­tive ser­vice, and to help your brand dif­fer­en­ti­ate itself from its competitors.

What about you, what is your opin­ion regard­ing brands apps? And if you’ve already got one out there, how use­ful has it proven to be? Do not hes­i­tate to share your expe­ri­ences in the comments!