One way that brands harness the constantly growing mobile market is by developing branded mobile apps. But is a mobile app right for your brand? Top branded mobile apps succeed with consumers because they provide a tangible benefit, from discounts and deals to easier ordering, prescription reminders, and more. By studying these brand examples and incorporating the following tips into a mobile app strategy, your brand can develop a mobile app that effectively engages your audience.

The Stats on Mobile Apps

First, let’s take a look at the stats on mobile apps:

  • About 56 billion smartphone apps and 14 billion tablet apps were downloaded in 2013.
  • 80% of mobile time is spent using apps.
  • On average, a consumer will use 6.5 apps in a period of 30 days.

These statistics show not only that the market for mobile apps is extensive, but also that it is growing rapidly.

Top Branded Mobile Apps

While Apple, Google, and Facebook dominate the app store, many other brands have launched successful mobile apps that enhance the customer’s experience. Here are 12 of the top branded apps on the market.



The Starbucks mobile app offers a range of features for the coffee enthusiast. You can use the app to find a store, manage loyalty cards, create a personalized drink, and find nutritional information. Starbucks recently updated their app to add shake-to-pay and digital tipping features as well as a purchase history feed. This app has led to mobile payments making up 14% of in-store transactions for Starbucks.



CVS Pharmacy’s app offers a lot of information to users, but it is still very easy to use. With this app, you can refill prescriptions, check insurance information, find a MinuteClinic, access a range of deals, and find the exact product you need in the “Shop” section. Other helpful features include Pill Identifier and Drug Interactions.



Another pharmacy app, the Walgreens app takes prescription refills to another level. You can refill a prescription by just scanning the label, and when it is ready to be picked up, the app will send a text message alert. It also features a “Steps” section that earns you points for walking, running, and tracking your weight. Other features include Pill Reminder, Pharmacy Chat, and weekly coupons.



The Groupon app is an excellent example of real-time marketing. It offers a “Groupon Now!” section that provides real-time deals located near you, allowing consumers to find great bargains on the go. The app also includes the same features as its website. By making the app comprehensive, Groupon ensures that its audience is fully engaged with the brand no matter where they are.

Kraft’s iFood Assistant


Kraft’s iFood Assistant app has succeeded because it is extremely useful for its target audience. It allows you to search recipes by both category and occasion, and also add the necessary ingredients to your shopping list. Other features include a recipe box and in-app coupons. In 2010, the company reported that over 60% of those who downloaded the app since it launched in 2008 were still using it, showing that this app has staying power.



The DirecTV app makes itself useful by allowing you to schedule the DVR to record regardless of location. It also lets you watch and record a wide range of movies and TV shows, from The Hunger Games: Catching Fire to Scandal. Users can live stream TV straight from their mobile device. Launched in March of 2009, this app reached 1 million downloads by the end of November.



With the Chipotle app, ordering your favorite Mexican food has never been easier. This app gets extra points for great visuals – it asks the simple question “What Looks Good?” and provides delicious images of the options. The app also provides nutritional and allergen information, making it even more user-friendly.



Similar to the Chipotle app, the Domino’s app also allows users to easily order a meal on the go, without even making a phone call. Similar to its online ordering system, this app offers the pizza builder, where users can choose their size, crust, toppings, and sauce. It also features the pizza tracker, where users can watch their order through every step of the process.

Pizza Hut


As with the Domino’s app, the Pizza Hut app also makes ordering pizza much more convenient. It offers drag-and-drop features to create your own pizza. Between its launch in July and November of 2009, the app made $1 million in sales.



The Zipcar app offers a number of useful features for its audience. Not only does it locate cars based on location and make the reservation process easier, but it can also unlock and lock the doors to your Zipcar and make the horn honk when trying to locate the car.

Charmin’s SitOrSquat


This unique app provides a very useful function – it finds bathrooms, and says whether you should, as the name suggests, sit or squat. It uses your location to locate nearby restrooms, displaying a red marker if you should squat and a green marker if it’s safe to sit. Users can add bathrooms and filter their search based on needs, including free bathrooms, handicap bathrooms, bathrooms with baby changing tables, and sit-safe bathrooms only.



The Zappos app stands out for its comprehensive approach to customer service. Many of its features were recommended by customers, including product videos, social sharing, saved searches, and notifications for re-stocked items. It also has a dedicated customer support line to easily get problems resolved.

Tips for Creating Your Mobile App

Are you prepared to get started on a mobile app? Here are a few tips for success:

  • Decide between an app vs. a mobile website. While mobile apps are successful for many brands, not all brands have the budget to take a risk on a mobile app that may not work. Before you start planning a mobile app, consider whether or not enhancing your mobile site will better reach the target audience.
  • Choose your platform. When it comes to developing your mobile app, there is a choice: Android or iOS? While Android provides a larger audience, many developers prefer the development process that iOS offers. However, there are also many tools available for cross-platform app development, allowing for reach to an even wider audience.
  • Benefit your audience. Successful apps are those that benefit your audience. An app should appeal to consumers because it either makes life easier, cheaper, or more fun.
  • Keep it simple. The key to a great mobile app is keeping it simple. Experts suggest choosing 4-5 things that your brand does very well, and focus your app on those key features. If you consider the apps above, most provide one main feature, whether it’s ordering, shopping, or finding a bathroom.
  • Determine a price. You have a few options when it comes to the price of your app – free, paid, or freemium. Many brands are leaning toward the freemium option, which means that your app is free to download, but offers in-app purchases.
  • Make payment easy. If you want an app to generate income, make purchasing as easy as downloading the app. Starbucks succeeds in this arena with their new shake-to-pay and digital tipping features.
  • Focus on real-time updates. To remain relevant, an app must have an advantage over the web, which means updating in real-time is critical. Even a one-minute delay will cause much of your audience to lose interest and move on to the next app.
  • Consider creating multiple apps. One lesson that brands can learn from Facebook’s new Paper app is that sometimes, a brand needs multiple apps. Having multiple apps is beneficial if your brand offers too many services for a single app or has multiple customer bases.

How has your brand created a successful mobile app?