Making the world an ‘appier place
Much of the current digital ‘buzz’ is around Web3 and the metaverse.
Every other article seems to feature thoughts and opinions regarding these new frontiers and what they offer the digital evolutionary arc. The sense of excitement is palpable.
Generating a lot fewer column inches is a topic that is the real cutting edge of digital, and that is mobile and mobile apps. This is odd, as mobile is really dominating the digital landscape. The stats around penetrations, usage and those tiny little things called apps are dizzying.
We all know first-hand how important our phones are. They are an extension and, in many cases, a remote control for our daily lives. Many of us *coughs politely* are spending up to four hours a day on our phones. Not using them to phone people, but for catching up on the latest news, watching Tik Toks, liking photos, Wordle (obviously), shopping and of course banking.
And yet, somehow, they seem to have slipped through the digital “hype” and “let’s make this an incredible experience” crack.
While the metaverse has caught the collective imagination, the reality is that the real action is happening now within IOS and Android.
Many businesses talk about having a mobile-first strategy. They have observed the incredible pace of adoption of smartphones and the subsequent move away from computer-based internet browsing and interaction and felt the need to respond. But for most, this fell way short of a fully formed mobile strategy. Instead, for most, this meant condensing down what was available through desktop experiences into something the size of a smartphone screen rather than considering the power offered by native apps, which frankly have been overlooked or underutilised by many brands to date.
The result is a digital paradox. Consumers’ expectations, use and engagement with apps are increasing exponentially, but this is not matched by what brands currently deliver.
So looking specifically at apps, the stats are incredible. Thanks to the wonderful folk at Statista, we know that:
- Globally in 2021, there were 230 billion app downloads split roughly 80:20, Google vs IOS
- App revenues topped $400 billion
- 47% of people used apps to do their banking, 35% sent money and 33% paid for something using a platform payment application, e.g., Apple Pay.
The app outlook is an ‘appy one, and brands are finally starting to lean into their potential. But there are a few obvious downsides to consider. The average person only uses four to five apps with any regularity. Most phones are littered with apps downloaded and used once. A key reason for this is that many apps focus on utility and solving mono-functional problems for customers. So apps tend to be utilities, not experiences.
Even banks benefiting from regular customer usage have functional experiences designed to help users complete tasks as fast as possible rather than finding ways to engage with customers.
This tells us that apps are often designed business “out” rather than the customer “in”. Banks have looked to take existing processes and optimise these for the channel. So banking apps work as extensions of the banks’ operation, not as something that works to build a customer relationship. When working on an app project, the priority for project teams is not to sit and discuss how to use the app as a tool to create better customer relationships, but on the nuts and bolts of ensuring that the functionality is as optimal for the user as is possible.
But apps have unique properties that make them ideal for marketing and experience. And when done well, they do perform. 66% of all mobile transactions occur within native apps, deep linking to content in an app increases engagement twofold and native apps drive three times more sales than the mobile web.
It’s that uniqueness that many have missed. Why? Because many organisations are not structured in an app-friendly way. IT and digital teams tend to look after the app experience and marketing teams drive traffic. Because of company silos, the hand-offs between these teams are not always optimal. Consider these app use cases:
- A channel that removes friction and hurdles from the customer acquisition process
- A channel for building customer relationships
- A channel for retaining customers
- A channel that provides access to first-party data about individuals and their digital behaviour
You can see “marketing” qualities shining through. But of course, apps must be built to be robust, secure and in line with the standards required. But I think that if companies want to develop the best and most effective app strategies, they have to find a way to break down the barriers and work in a much more unified way.
So, if you have been persuaded to help make the world an ‘appier place, why not look at what exists and think about the value it offers. If it’s a tool or utility, imagine what it could be, and think about it as an experience or a destination. Then insist that marketing and digital teams work together to develop a proper app strategy. And I promise you will be rewarded with a digital workhorse and ‘appier customers.
About the author
He is a passionate customer advocate and champion and a successful entrepreneur.