At this point, most businesses that have a presence on the internet need to consider their strategy for offering a mobile app. With more than 1.2 million apps in the Apple app store alone and over 75 billion downloads, companies need to think seriously about the purpose and utility of their mobile app before jumping on the bandwagon.
Hopefully, companies who spend the time and money to develop an app in the first place are going to think it through, but it’s not just the functions of the app they need to consider.
Consumers don’t want to download an app unless it’s going to serve a purpose for them, so creating one with the objective of simply keeping their company in their customers' mind isn’t going to be successful (probably). In order to ensure your company’s app is something consumers actually want, here are a few key aspects to think through.
What is the Purpose of the App?
What I mean by this is, what is the purpose of creating the app in the first place? Have you been bombarded with mobile overload and started to panic that your company hasn’t taken advantage of mobile technology? If so, take a minute to breathe and reevaluate.
Obviously, creating an app and offering it to consumers is a form of marketing because regardless of what the app does, consumers will think of your brand when they use it. However, creating an app solely for marketing and branding purposes may cause customers to feel annoyed with your brand more than anything. For some, space on our phones is precious and limited. Even if you can convince consumers to download your app in the first place, if it’s not built for them instead of for your company they’ll delete it in time for the next iOS update.
What are the App’s Specific Functions?
Now that you’ve established you’re creating an app for the customer, it’s time to think about what your app will actually do. When you think about your favorite apps, or the ones that are most used, they usually have a simple but important function. The best apps are not a company’s mobile site contained in an app for download. These are actually some of the most frustrating. Customers shouldn’t need to download your app to view your site on a mobile device; it should already be mobile optimized.
We’ve discussed Kayak before with regard to mobility and they’re still a great example of what not to do. Their mobile site is behind a full-page ad to encourage visitors to download their app. This would be annoying on it’s own.
However, if you do in fact download the app you’ll find there is very little difference between the mobile site and the app itself. Both make the process of searching for a flight fit a mobile screen. In cases like this, there’s not much incentive for consumers to take up space on their devices for your app when they can just use a browser.
If you still want to create an app, think about functions unique to mobile devices that your customers can actually use and will still be relevant to your business. One of my favorite examples, of course, is Charmin. I know what you’re thinking: Why on earth would anyone ever download an app from a toilet paper company? The answer is simple—the app is useful.
Charmin’s app is not a mobile replicate of their desktop site. If it were, no one would want it. Instead, they found a way to use mobile functions to help customers and tie them back to their brand.
The app is called SitOrSquat and essentially crowd sources data to help users find a clean public restroom in their area. Users can search for and view public restrooms in their area on a map or in a list, see or upload reviews and rate the bathrooms as “Sit” or “Squat” (I’ll let you put that one together).
You can also filter your search using features like free, handicap accessible, or based on if it has a baby changing table. And, of course, you can always #tweetfromtheseat.
Personally, I think this app is genius. Once again using their immense creativity, Charmin found a way to not only market a product that is challenging to say the least, but also to create something useful to it’s customers.
When you’re thinking about your own mobile app, channel this kind of creativity and utility to create something your customers will actually use and may not yet realize they need. Even though creating an awesome app will benefit your company, create it for the consumer first.
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