Last week I gave some examples of branded apps that provided a compelling “mobile hook”, or app functionality that provides a unique and often innovative utility.  These mobile hooks exploit native smartphone technology like the GPS, camera etc. and effectively extends a company brand into the mobile segment.  I want to dive into this a little deeper now.

The Dead App Syndrome for Brands

Most apps after the initial download become “dead apps.”  These are apps that are rarely used and often end up on the 4th or 5th screen on your smartphone if you haven’t already deleted it altogether.    In my involvement with organizations over the last few years, dead apps have been a key fear for companies as they plan out their initial entrance into mobile.  Every brand wants its apps to be used regularly.  If so they are providing valuable utility to their customers and creating ongoing brand touch points in an emerging and exponentially growing technology. Engagement was a top goal of all the app development projects that I have been a part of and I don’t see that changing.  Every time their customers “refill by scan” in the Walgreens app, they also see their weekly circular and mobile coupons.  This is strengthening their loyalty to Walgreens.  Now, let me give you an example of an app that has missed the mark.

My bank, I won’t give the name here, just released their first mobile app a few months ago.  It is very nicely laid out.  I can do all of their online banking now in the app.   But I don’t want to pay my bills once a month via this app.  That is for a weekend morning sitting comfortably in my home office with my 24 inch monitor and stack of bills.  Yes, I can quickly check my account balance on the go and find the nearest branch but I already know where they are.  So I rarely use the app.  Now I won’t delete it, but yes I have moved it to my iPhone’s 4th screen.  My bank clearly missed an opportunity to engage with me in a new way.  I am sure they spent $100k on the development of this app and I will bet they will not meet the ROI or ROE (return on engagement) goals they put in place.  Why did they miss this?  I can’t be sure of this here but I have often seen how the team that has designed their website is also in charge of the mobile apps.  They’re website centric paradigm gets applied to the same use cases in their mobile app.  Mobile cannot be only a mobile optimized version of your web properties. We use our smartphones very differently.  Brands have to find unique mobile extensions of their product and/or services.  Facebook has been strongly criticized over the last couple of years and actually admitted this week that its biggest mistake was not embracing mobile.  At minimum my bank could have started to drive regular engagement with me by creating an effective use of smartphone notifications that would remind me of overdue bills or of large purchases.  I would then tap on the alert to directly get into the app and get more info on the large purchase or conveniently pay the bill right there in the app.

If your team has been tasked with creating your first branded apps I strongly recommend that you get help from experts in mobile apps, specifically mobile use case driven experts that can collaborate with you in finding your unique mobile hook to ensure that you stay on your customer’s smartphone home screens.