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By Michelle Wohl

There's a lot of money to be made developing branded or custom mobile apps, so the last person you should be listening to about whether you need a mobile app is an app developer. While there is no shortage of content about why every brand needs a mobile app, in this article, we will discuss the state of apps today and highlight some things you need to consider when deciding whether a custom app is right for you.

The State of Apps Today
While many app developers will tout stats about how much time people spend in apps every day, you must drill down to get the real story. Yes, people spend a lot of time in apps. Of the 1.8 hours average users spend online on their smartphones each day, mobile apps account for 89% of this media time.

The truth, however, is that consumers are very selective about what they download and even more selective about what they keep on their phones. 84% of the time users spend in apps is spent using just five non-native apps they've installed from the App Store. Before you fool yourself into thinking that your app is important enough to be the sixth, consider this: The average number of apps used by the typical US smartphone owner has been stuck around 27 for four years straight (Nielsen). According to a new study on mobile app usage, nearly one in four mobile users only use an app once. With all the new apps on the market, consumers aren't downloading more. So unless your brand is Facebook, Google, Amazon, Apple, Yahoo, Microsoft, or eBay, you shouldn't expect your app to become the next app sensation.

Would a Consumer Want to Use Your App?
Before you invest your money in building a branded or custom mobile app, you must ask yourself a few very important questions.

  1. Is your brand big enough and are your customers passionate enough to take the time to download and use your app regularly?
  2. Will your app make your customers' lives easier and will it provide continued value, beyond what is available on your mobile optimized website?
  3. Will you invest to ensure that your app provides a joyful experience and will you continue to invest to ensure that your app stays up to date and cutting-edge?

If the answer to all these questions isn't a 'hell, yes!' you need to reconsider your mobile strategy.

A 'Hell Yes!' Branded App
A discussion of branded apps wouldn't be complete without talking about one of the best ones out there: Starbucks. The Starbucks app is successful for a number of reasons and Starbucks can positively answer the three questions we posed above:

  1. Brand: The Starbucks brand is incredibly strong and customers are literally addicted to the product, often visiting stores multiple times a day.
  2. Continued Value: The Starbucks app makes customers' lives easier in many ways, including advanced ordering, quick payment, loyalty tracking and more.
  3. Investment in Tech: Starbucks invests millions in its mobile technology to ensure an excellent experience. The app team continuously adds new features and focuses on ease of use.

Other Solutions
So what should brands that can't say 'hell, yes' do? First, they should focus on creating a great mobile web experience. The vast majority of people looking for information on a mobile device will do it from their browser. A non-responsive mobile experience is frustrating for customers that might be looking for a quick answer about hours or location. Ensure that the content on your website is easy to access from a mobile phone. If not, invest there first.

Second, brands should focus on collecting customer data and engaging with customers in a personalized way. If you speak to your VIPs the same way that you speak to your first time customers, you are missing a revenue opportunity, as loyal customers will visit more often and spend more when treated well. But without a custom app, how can you collect the data you need to personalize your communications and campaigns?

If you don't have a loyalty program, consider investing in one because of the data that it will provide around customer frequency and spend. Brands that have invested in loyalty programs understand the value of VIPs and the immense impact they have on revenue and brand advocacy. In fact, most brands will find that the top 25% of customers drive the vast majority of revenue. Modern loyalty solutions allow brands to track purchases and rewards and engage with VIPs, without the pressures typically associated with branded apps. Not only do brands save money but they get a rich feature set without needing a technology team to support the effort.

About Michelle Wohl

Michelle Wohl is the Vice President of Marketing at Thanx, which helps connect brands with their best customers through an automated loyalty, feedback, and marketing platform. Thanx's turnkey loyalty solution for brick-and-mortar merchants allows consumers to get rewarded simply by paying as usual, eliminating the hassles of traditional loyalty offerings, while delivering actionable data and automated campaigns to help merchants grow revenue. Founded in 2011 and based in San Francisco, Thanx is financed by Sequoia Capital and other elite Silicon Valley investors. 

Contact: Michelle Wohl / 888-233-1939

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