I attended an interesting conference last week called DigiApps. I was attending as a speaker but was also very interested in the content and conversations. The discussion was meant to cover all types of applications but the truth is most 'cool' applications today are made for mobile, with a lot less emphasis on Facebook applications. Two years ago everyone wanted to build a Facebook app but the continual evolution of the Facebook platform has made app discovery very difficult which means the value of the Facebook app is decreased.
Mobile apps are broken out by plaform. Most mobile apps today are build for the iphone, with a lot more interest in 2010 on building for Android (Google's platform) and Blackberry (Rim's platform). Windows Phone also has an app store. There were two big take-aways that may seem obvious but you would be surprised how often marketers miss the boat on these.
1. Make sure the app is of value to your customers. Great examples of valuable apps are Fandango and Pizza Hut. Fandango allows a customer to search movie times from wherever they are by accessing the GPS in the device. A customer can also purchase movie tickets right from the app for participating movie theaters and forgo waiting in line at the theater. Pizza Hut's app allows customers to place a pizza order right from their phone. This app was in direct response to their number one customer complaint, long wait times on the phone.
Make sure whatever app you build has utility for your customers. There was an example given of an app that markets towards young women learning to apply makeup. The app loaded pictures of super models for girls to practice putting makeup on. The app would have been a stronger value prop for the customer if girls were allowed to upload a picture of themselves and apply makeup. Most young women don't relate well to super models.
2. Make sure the marketing plan includes promotion. This is definitely not a 'you build it and they will come' situation. There are literally hundreds of thousands of apps in the iphone store. If the marketing plan does not include promotion it is highly likely the app will go undiscovered and not deliver the marketing value the brand was hoping for. AdMob shared some interesting data about how app users discover new apps. Over 40% of new apps are discovered through Search. The second most used discovery tool is Mobile advertising, followed 3rd by peer to peer recommendations. Several case studies showed how an effective mobile advertising strategy would work. A brand may need to only advertise the first few days. Advertising for a day or two can drive the ranking of the app far enough up in the library to be better discovered by searchers. A small advertising investment to jump start the discovery of the app leads to a stronger likelihood of viral pass-along.
What I found really interesting is brands that are creating apps they charge for; creating a new revenue stream. The most expensive example of a brand charging for their app is Virgin Atlantic. They have an app called "Flying Without Fear" that gives people afraid to fly answers to their biggest concerns. Virgin charges $4.99 for this app. Another example is Kraft, their app called "ifood assistant" costs $0.99 and gives recipe ideas. I'm not sure why a consumer would pay for this app when there are lots of free app that do the same thing. I love the Whole Food recipe app, which is free.
Another kind of app that may make sense for your brand is an experience app. Prius has built a very cool app called "Prius Experience" that lets a person experience what a test drive in a Prius would be like. If your product has a longer purchase process like a car or a computer an experience app may be the way to get prospective customer to experience your product.
Lots to think about. It's important to note mobile apps are not broadly used, a brand should do the research to make sure their target audience is using mobile apps before they build one. The best way to promote apps is through mobile usage. One exception is if a brand is big enough, like Pizza Hut, it makes sense to promote the app through existing advertising to increase awareness. A URL at the end of a TV ad can do this. Short of getting Apple to put your brand app in their TV commercials marketers need a marketing plan to make the apps work for them.