Without a doubt, developing or improving mobile marketing strategies in 2012 is likely occupying a lot of real estate on the product roadmaps of many brand managers.
For those marketers whose top priority in 2012 is creating and maintaining mobile apps to support their marketing activities, figuring out the functional requirements and features to make mobile apps appealing to their target audience is a daunting first step.
In order for marketers to leverage mobile platforms and generate measurable ROI from apps, it’s important to first take a look at how a mobile app would best serve the business goals – whether that’s generating inbound calls, mobile commerce transactions, online reservations, walk-in traffic to a physical location or generating revenue from in-app advertising.
Most marketers agree that having a deep understanding of what features would provide the most value to your core users keeps them coming back for more, leading to earning loyal followers and favorable reviews in the App Markets, ultimately generating additional downloads and new prospective customers.
As we learned from a recent study, mobile apps can support your branding activities by creating brand favorability and increasing purchase intent in people who interact with branded mobile apps.
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.
While that all seems fairly straightforward as a marketer, building out the utility in mobile apps still seems to be a challenge in many first time app development projects.
If you’re planning to expand your mobile marketing initiatives by building out or improving your own branded app in 2012, but aren’t sure what features to include, it might help to get a little inspiration from a few mobile marketing experts by checking out their favorite app features and taking into consideration their insight into mobile trends.
Bill Dinan, President, Telmetrics
Mobile apps represent a monetization goldmine for marketers as consumer smartphone adoption continues to climb. As mobile users are on the go and ready to make buying decisions immediately (e.g., looking for a nearby restaurant, gas station, retailer, hotel, etc.) mobile apps are the quickest and most user-friendly way to gather the info needed for an informed purchase on the spot.
Because of this purchase immediacy, mobile app-driven leads are more valuable than traditional leads– leading to increased marketing opportunities for mobile local search publishers, mobile ad networks and app developers to charge more and to report on specific analytics regarding consumer actions within their apps, such as what maps/driving directions accessed, business called, reservation booked.
My favorite apps follow:
- Yelp: For finding a nearby restaurant that gets great reviews and is open when I want to dine or book a reservation, Yelp is my one-stop-shop app for eateries. Plus, it provides maps, menu pricing, phone numbers and the ability to book a reservation directly via OpenTable.
- Superpages: If I need a local business in any category–plumber, florist, dentist, you name it–without a doubt my Superpages app can find it and connect me immediately with the right business. Besides the ability to immediately access hours of operation, driving directions and customer reviews, my favorite features are the spinning wheel interface and “x-ray function” that allows you to see through walls showing the nearby business names.
- TripAdvisor: If I’m planning a trip or are looking to check into a hotel immediately due to a change in travel plans, TripAdvisor is my most reliable app for researching hotels for quality, pricing, and location. I can act immediately and get the best deals on the right type of hotel in the right area.
- SoundHound: I travel quite a bit and enjoy keeping my music collection updated. SoundHound is perfect for this as it grabs a snippet of a song based on your input and returns the song info, e.g., singer, group name, year recorded, lyrics, etc. It also gives you the option to download the full song from iTunes.
Monica Ho, VP of Marketing at xAd
My top apps for 2012 are all location-based platforms. Because mobile is a purely local medium, it is taking local search to a whole new level. And consumers are taking advantage of those search advancements, as evidenced by my company’s network report that shows 75 percent of smartphone users conduct mobile-local search while mobile-local search traffic has grown by triple digits year over year.
In the same report I mentioned earlier, in-app search is growing faster than (and is on pace to eclipse) browser-based search, due, in part, to greater smartphone penetration.
With that in mind, there are tremendous marketing opportunities within apps. The ability to steer a highly qualified, purchase-ready consumer into your brick-and-mortar storefront within the hour can only have a positive impact on sales and your bottom line.
My recommendation for 2012 is to begin testing targeted search and display ads within apps. Due to mobile’s limited screen dimensions, those ads, when targeted properly, can help you leapfrog competitor listings to generate leads and/or achieve greater exposure.
My favorite location based apps are:
- go2 Local App: which is locally customized so you can access listings of what’s going on around you, including concerts, shows and even family fun. In addition, the app comes equipped with directory search, business info, ratings and reviews, and local deals.
- Poynt: thanks to its local features such as people search. But I use Poynt mostly to access movie times and gas stations with the cheapest prices.
- Google Maps: may seem like an obvious choice from a navigation perspective, but it really does a good job of helping me maneuver New York City. I’m a relatively new resident, so I often question the best routes; however, I rarely panic because I can instantly find my way with Google Maps’ help.
Brian Klais, Founder of Pure Oxygen Labs & Mobile Search Expert
Besides native iOS apps, my must-have-list includes the usual suspects, like Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare, QR readers, and Yelp.
As a consumer, the apps I admire most are those that make life easier and understand what it means to be mobile:
- GoodPlayer: lets you stream home videos in any format over home wifi to the big screen without the hassle of converting, downloading, or saving them
- Sonar: lets you discover people you know from FB, T, LI, who are near your location right now
- Walgreens: what could be easier than reordering prescription in literally 3 clicks with no typing?
- Firefox Home: makes all your desktop browser bookmarks and history portable
- INRIX: get real-time traffic updates no matter your any location
- Find my iPhone: I’ve got 4 iPhones, an iPad, and 3 tween girls in my home (!)
When designing apps, marketers need to think more like a mobile consumer who’s on-the-go and rewards brands that use technology to respect their time.
A few other takeaways for mobile marketers in general:
1) Make it easier for search-dominant mobile users to find and download your app by optimizing app visibility in Google. No one likes searching the App Store or Android Market. When we search Google for a brand, the app should be ranked on Page1 to maximize reach, downloads, and app popularity. (I’ve written about optimizing mobile apps for search results recently at Search Engine Land.)
2) Ensure QR success by using only QR codes that are easy for phones to read (21×21 or 25×25 format) when displayed at a small sizes. Keep the URL to under 25 characters, including branding for easy recall, while being able to redirect the destination on the backend, without making the QR obsolete (See my article on creating QR codes with optimal URLs).
3) Engage local/social mobile users by claiming your brand’s social and local profiles on G+, Foursquare, Maps, Yelp, FB. But make sure to use tracking URLs to attribute “organic” web clicks to the source app. (I’ve also written about poor mobile app metrics and referral data.)
When users of standard apps like Twitter, FB, Yelp, or Maps click your profile URLs from the app, it loads the webpage without passing referrer data, because apps aren’t a referring page. So marketers are left with anonymous “direct” traffic in their analytics and little attribution.)
My Favorite Android Apps
To close out this article, I figured it’s only appropriate to share a few of my favorite and most often used apps on my Android smartphone. I’m also a relatively new iPad owner, and despite downloading a ton of game-based apps on both devices, it’s rare that I play any of them.
If I’m looking to my mobile devices to cure boredom, my preferred entertainment apps include Netflix, NBC & ABC players, NFL Mobile, Direct TV Sunday Ticket and the official New England Patriots app.
Thinking about my own app preferences as a user, I definitely fall in line with the utilitarian approach, and I organize all my apps by type, so I have categories for Eating, Exercise & Activity-based apps, Entertainment, Shopping, Travel & Tools.
Within each, I also have a tendency to utilize apps where I am already a registered / logged in user of a service – such as MapMyRide, my SunTrust banking app, Marriott Hotels or Delta Airlines; the Tanger Outlet Store app which offers exclusive deals and the Kroger grocery coupon app – these organizations could easily track my usage on mobile and offer unique promotions to me based on my activity as a loyal customer.
Outside of the above, other apps that I love, but have limited utility or are for highly specific activities, include navigating subway/lightrail systems in the cities I most often visit, or tracking powder totals on and total days skied on both my Snowbird Ski Resort and Ski Utah apps.