It’s tempting to create a mobile app for your business almost just for the sake of doing it and because “everybody has one.” It feels like one more thing you just “have” to do as a business, like having a Facebook and Twitter account, but, like social media, just doing it because you think you need to do it is not going to add any value for your organization. Simply creating a mobile app and releasing it into the appropriate spaces for download will potentially get people to do the initial download, but they’ll delete your app as fast as they downloaded it if it doesn’t offer some actual benefits. If you want to be able to take advantage of emerging technology like bluetooth low energy and micro-location based updates, having an app that customers will want to use and devote space on their device to is increasingly important, so let us show you a few of the most common branded mobile app blunders and ways to avoid them.
Not enough content to justify its existence
If you think about it from the perspective of a customer, I think we’ve all been there. You download a mobile app, thinking it’ll give you some information or deal or something that would be useful, and once you download it you find fairly little information and fairly little reason to let it take up space on your device. If an app is just a repackaging of a company’s existing website, without any increase in functionality, there’s no point for a customer to download it and, more importantly, keep it on their device once they do. If an app only offers coupons that don’t update frequently enough or aren’t major deals, people who don’t shop with that company frequently enough will delete it. The Lowe’s mobile app offers some of the typical options for a retailer’s app, with things like a store locator and information about current sales, but the home improvement megastore goes beyond those basic functions with an interactive store map (which addresses some of the problems of shopping at a huge store with extremely tall shelving) and the MyLowe’s program. With MyLowe’s, purchases made when you scan your loyalty card are all tracked, and the app allows you to answer those continually annoying home improvement questions like “which size air filter did we buy for the furnace last winter?” and “what was the name of that pretty yellow shrub we put along the front walk?” Not only is this the kind of thing that gives the mobile app functionality that is extremely useful and a strong inducement for customers to keep the app on their device, it’s the kind of service that will bring customers back to a store that has a number of significant competitors and it helps customers buy with more confidence because of easy access to information. Good mobile app design, and good customer service.
Duplicating what another mobile app already does
Too many branded apps limit themselves to things like store locations and coupons which, while useful functions, are things done extremely well by third party apps that offer that information about every brand. If the app only offers finding the location of stores, Yelp or Google Maps can offer the same function and more and is likely already on the device. If the mobile app just offers coupons or sales, apps like Retail Me Not and one of the dozens of apps with grocery and other manufacturer’s coupons have already got that covered and then some. Including functions that other apps use for the sake of completeness or ease of use is often a good idea, but you have to offer something beyond what can be found in other, more broadly useful apps to justify downloading your branded app and keeping it on someone’s device. Charmin’s “Sit or Squat” app, while also just flat out funny, serves a unique purpose. For all the map and location search apps, finding a clean public restroom is not something I recall seeing available elsewhere. It’s funny, it’s practical, it’s relevant to the brand, and it serves a purpose that hasn’t already been addressed several times over.
You have to have the content to make it work, but the app itself also has to flat out function on a technical level. If the app is buggy, cumbersome to understand, or requires too many unnecessary steps to accomplish something, those are all significant strikes against to a customer considering whether they should let your app clutter up their device. Have someone who really understands mobile app development do the work for you, and don’t put hurdles between your customers and what you want them to do.
Only offered on one platform
There are too many Android and iOS phones and tablets out there (yes Windows and Blackberry we hear you) to only offer something on one of the platforms if you really want it to be part of the customer journey on any kind of consistent basis, especially considering how many people are crossing platforms between phone and tablet or between work and personal devices. If you want to somewhat limit the resources devoted to app development, you can stick to Android and iOS (provided you have a functional, general use mobile site to cover the rest) and probably be just fine unless a significant part of your target audience is one the industries still stuck to Blackberry like the legal profession, but just iOS or just Android is not a way towards success. It’s fine if they’re on different development and release schedules, because sometimes that is just unavoidable as new devices and operating system updates come available, but do your best to keep a level playing field across platforms.
If you offer an app that has some unique functionality that really does work the way it’s supposed to that customers can get on the devices they use the most, you’re on the right path. Did we miss any major branded app pitfalls you’ve run into? Let us know in the comments!