When App Store first emerged in 2009, few could have estimated how quickly this market would advance or the impact that it would have in the world of business. Just 500 applications were in existence when the store launched, with this number rising to an incredible one million by October 2013.

The pace of evolution within this market is also reflected in the growth of the competing Google Play Store, which currently has an estimated 1.55 million Android apps available to mobile users. The nature of the applications available has also changed considerably in the last six years, with the majority of contemporary tools now focused on productivity and functionality rather than recreation.

Using Mobile Apps to Market your Brand: Understanding Best Practice

This represents a logical progression for the mobile app market, as business have quickly understood how to monetise applications and utilise them as effective marketing channels. This has certainly proved effective, with a recent collaborative study conducted by Indiana and Murdoch University students revealing that consumers felt more engaged with a brand and were more likely to make a purchase after interacting through a mobile app. Purchase intent actually rose by 1.88 percentage points after customers had interacted with a brand through their apps, suggesting that marketers who develop and use applications could actively drive higher sales conversion rates.

The question that remains is how mobile applications should be used in order to ensure best practice? Here are some ideas that will help you to develop a viable and ultimately successful strategy: –

Understand how a Mobile App can directly benefit your Business

While this may sound obvious, it is important to note that mobile apps may not deliver genuine value to every small or medium sized business. It will require an initial investment, for example, so the value of this must be measured against any financial, social or human returns that you hope to gain. From here, you can attempt to identify the direct benefits of developing a mobile app and using this as a marketing tool.

One of the key benefits of mobile business apps is that they enable you to reach out to a wider, global audience, while also making your company accessible for 24 hours of every single day. If your small business operates locally and according to traditional opening hours, however, there is little point in reaching out to an untargeted demographic that is looking to make a quick and informed purchasing decision. Independent businesses such as this can utilise apps to target local customers with real-time discounts, promotions and rewards, however, as this has the potential to increase profits and lay the foundations for a loyal consumer base.

So to the get the most value from mobile app marketing, start by list the potential benefits and see how each one may apply to your business directly. This will enable you to manage expectations and make an informed decision, as you calculate an estimated ROI and determine a clearly defined purpose for your app.

Focus on Functionality rather than Novelty Value

While there was a time when brands were best served by marketing themselves through fun or novelty apps, the rise of content marketing has altered this outlook. Seth Godin recently claimed that ‘content marketing is the only marketing left’ and this reflects that fact that the development of informative, insightful and media-rich copy should be the foundation on which all digital marketing efforts are based.

This fact was also supported by the aforementioned study, which found that apps providing precise information such as detailed product reviews or price comparison data were considered to be more engaging than experimental or gaming-orientated alternatives. So for mobile applications to effectively market or your brand, product or service, they must be focused on delivering insight or valuable data that enhances the consumer experience and helps their decision making process.

This information must also presented in a visually engaging and easy to comprehend manner, so use a combination of text and imagery while ensuring that the design of your app is as responsive and easy to navigate as possible.

Create a Direct Marketing Channel

By now you will have a clear understanding of how a mobile app can effectively market your particular business, while you should also comprehend the importance of delivering informative and insightful data that offers value to customers. The next step is to optimise your app to create a direct marketing channel, which can deliver a wide diversity of information in real-time and at every conceivable stage of the typical customer experience.

So aside from recognising the importance of concise, media-rich and responsive design, what else can you do to establish your app as a direct marketing conduit between your brand and its customers? One of the first things you can do is enable push notifications, which drive the type of direct interaction that engages customers in a way that is beyond email or SMS communication. Push notifications are initiated by a brand or central server, meaning that with the help of analytics and CRM software they can be delivered in real-time and at a juncture when customers are at their most engaged.

This will create a direct marketing channel that is truly interactive and has the potential optimise customer engagement. It will also improve the efficiency of your businesses marketing output, as your use targeted data and advanced technology to reach out to customers directly at optimal times.