Yep, I said it. Struck makes them. In fact, we’ve made ridiculously good ones, like here and here. So why would we suggest cutting off a potential business opportunity? Because there is a glut; there are too many bad ones and most seem to be the result of some terrible decisions.
Am I nuts? Likely. But before we jump into a medical diagnosis, indulge me a few questions. How many screens of apps do you currently have on your smart device at this very minute (self-disclosure, I have five)? And how many folders do you have on those screens? Even if you keep it pretty pared down, it’s likely you have over 20 apps at any given time. And if you’re the average iPhone user, that number can be as high as 37.
Now, how many do you use those apps every day? Every week? According to a study by Localytics, 26% of all apps downloaded were used just once. And even once an app is downloaded, regular usage isn’t guaranteed. In fact, 68% of all smartphone users will open five or fewer apps more than one time a week.
Yet, download statistics are consistently flaunted as a measure of the effectiveness of apps. It’s a complete fallacy. Given the stats above, the focus should be on actual engagement stats. Unfortunately, those numbers aren’t nearly as impressive. Couple that with the sheer saturation of apps in both iTunes and the Android App Store and it’s only getting more and more difficult for any brand’s app to breakthrough without significant investment. Which begs the question: Is there an alternative?
First, we should define the main benefits to an app experience; push notification, location tracking and (for now) camera integration. For retail brands, push and GPS are enticing tools and are likely leading brand managers to make the decision to create apps. Of course, these functions are largely predicated on users granting that access. And if they don’t? Well, you’ve just spent 6 figures (most likely) on what really amounts to an additional web presence that will need to be updated independently from your existing sites.
So what should brands do?
1) Objectively evaluate the customer need you’re trying to address. There is a dangerous corporate mantra that sounds suspiciously like “we need an app.” Ignore it. Dismiss it, at least until you can do some honest thinking and confirm a realistic customer need.
2) If you do find a perceived need, decide if the benefits of an app marry up with your customers’ habits. Will your customers enjoy hearing from you given their physical location or with ongoing push notifications? A good way to gauge that may be to see what kind of response and interaction you get in your other digital engagements (email campaigns, SMS, social media, etc.).
If you conclude an app is absolutely necessary, please make sure your idea falls into one of two categories: Entertainment or Utility. Customers won’t be interested in any other type of app coming from a brand. For sheer (yet on-brand) entertainment, consider the knot-tying app from Columbia Sportswear or the Sealy In Bed Tagger. For utility, Starbucks has perfected how their app meets their customers needs. But please, don’t try to do both at the same time. You will fail.
If I haven’t dissuaded you yet, consider this: Maybe what you need for your mobile customers isn’t an app but a mobile-optimized site. With advances in HTML-5, it’s getting easier and easier to create app-like experiences. Enter shameless plug here: Our recent work for a Jack in the Box microsite is a great example. It features entertaining experiences that take advantage of the touch-screen interfaces but housed in a site that circumvents all the challenges of creating an app.
So the next time you hear that dreaded 3-letter word being thrown around in your boardroom– Fight it.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to play one of the 3 versions of Angry Birds on my phone.