If you’ve been considering building a branded app as part of your mobile marketing strategy, a new study provides some ammunition in favor of the move. Researchers at Indiana University and Murdoch University in Australia found that mobile apps had a positive impact on brand favorability and purchase intent.
Study participants were asked to rate their feelings toward various brands before interacting with their apps and afterwards. On a scale of 1 to 7, before the interaction they rated the brands at 5.25, on average. After the interaction, that rating climbed to 5.49. The researchers also asked about purchase intent. Pre-interaction, on average, they said they were 46.75% likely to buy the products. Afterwards, that number rose to 48.63%.
The study also found that apps that were more informational in style — providing product reviews, deals information or cooking tips — were more effective in engaging users, as compared to experiential game- or entertainment-oriented applications.
Researchers came to their conclusions by surveying 225 American and Australian consumers before and after they spent time interacting with apps in the laboratory. With the Australian subjects, the researchers wired them up to measure things like heart rate and skin conductance, to ascertain whether their physical reactions were consistent with engagement or not. The assumption, based on past research, was that when the heart rate was low, people were externally focused, and when the heart rate was high, they were internally focused — more personally engaged.
“We found through the physiology measures that when you have an app that provides people with information that it is something they internalize and personalize more than the external-based focus of the game-based app,” Indiana University researcher Robert F. Potter explained in a press release. “You’ve invited the brand into your life and onto your phone. If it’s an informational app, you’re inviting that brand even deeper in, because now you’re thinking about what’s in your life and apply it to the things that the apps are presenting you with. With the experiential app, things are still kept at a distance — you’re still experiencing it on your phone and not in your life.”
The researchers looked at apps from Best Buy, Gillette, BMW, Weber, Gap, Kraft, Lancôme and Target.
Informational apps, which the researchers said provided more engagement, included one by Kraft, which provided tips about cooking with their food products, and one by Target, which allowed users to see deals and access product reviews by scanning bar codes. Study participants were less engaged by the Gap application, which let users dress a virtual model, and the BMW app, which allowed users to configure a virtual replica of one of its cars and take it for an electronic test drive.
The lesson for marketers is that apps that provide utility in people’s lives — things they can relate to their own needs and desires — will be more successful in being persuasive. Those that are more game- or entertainment-focused will have less of an impact. Though the informational apps may require more creative ideation and development, the payoff will be better from this approach.
The biggest challenge, of course, comes after the app is developed, as marketers strive to promote the app itself, so it is downloaded and used — thereby building the brand.