The interest in using mobile apps for marketing and promotional purposes has grown substantially over the past few years, in line with the increase in the usage of apps in general and the continued growth in the smartphone market. Many companies are keen to be seen to use the latest technology and will happily spend vast amounts of money on having apps developed professionally before considering whether it will genuinely benefit their business.
Recent reports in the press suggest this isn’t always the case. For a start, a recent study by discount website MyVoucherCodes has shown that as many as 79% of UK smartphone owners were “highly unlikely” to use a paid-for phone application or game more than once – and for free apps, it’s likely that the figure is even higher. The report goes on to estimate that this year alone, mobile phone owners will collectively spend more than £747m on apps they never use.
Though great news for those developing, distributing and selling mobile apps, it does make you wonder whether apps make cost-effective marketing tools. There are significant risks associated with developing apps and the first thing to consider is how the app will add value to your target market. Apps have to provide real value to users, and if you don’t get it right first time, negative feedback, potentially damaging your brand, could be all over the internet within minutes.
With a novelty factor or a game, there’s the risk that the app is not sufficiently associated with the brand to generate any real benefit, and if your app is simply a mobile version of your website, where’s the benefit to the user? Today’s smartphone user has tens of thousands of apps to choose from and unless your app can either enhance your existing offer through a different interface (good examples include Rightmove, Totaljobs and WordPress) or add value in any other way, for example by allowing location based content and promotions to be delivered, it’s unlikely to be used more than once.
Also, it’s easy to forget that the number of people owning smartphones and using mobile apps remain a small proportion of the total mobile market. According to comScore, a global source of digital marketing intelligence, smartphone penetration in the UK is currently at around 23%. In addition, comScore’s research shows that the percentage of mobile phone users in the UK that had sent an SMS during the three months covered in the study was over 90%, whilst the percentage that had used an application (including games) was 38%. So, a voucher campaign delivered using SMS guarantees a much wider reach compared to one delivered through an app, and allows all customers to benefit – not just those that own a smartphone.
For now, most experts agree that traditional SMS text messaging remains the most effective channel for companies to communicate with their customers. SMS messaging allows for instant, two-way communication directly with customers regardless of phone type, brand or operating system, and regardless of their physical location. Used correctly and responsibly, it provides a very cost effective marketing medium that can bring an interactive component to any traditional marketing campaign.