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TO APP OR NOT TO APP, IS THE QUESTION When talking about digital marketing, a question that keeps coming up from brand-owners is whether apps assist in brand engagement: and, the response to that would be, “It depends.” Before we get to the “It depends on what?” follow-up question, let us look at some statistics of the apps market: The number of apps downloaded globally doubled to 45 billion in 2012. India is the fourth largest market for Android apps, with App downloads by Android users in India over the past year exceeding downloads over the past 3 years combined. These figures are for the total apps market. Just so that everyone is on the same page, the apps I am referring to are branded apps – apps that are created and released by brands to showcase attributes of the brand or to retain visibility of the brand in a user’s Top-of-Mind-Awareness radar, whenever the apps are in use – and can either be developed for Facebook or for the mobile platform (Android, BlackBerry, iOS, Windows Phone 8) or AR on the mobile platform. Furthermore, the function of the apps may be ecommerce, education, entertainment, gaming, information, or location-based. Coming back to the “It depends on what?” question, the first step is to define the objective behind the creation of the app. The next step is to define the measurement of brand engagement, as it happens through the use of apps. The relevant metrics to determine an app’s efficacy in assisting in brand engagement are the intensity of usage of the app and the frequency of use of the app, by the target audience/group (TG); and not just the number of downloads of the app. These two measures, among others, are indicators of the level of salience of the brand, to the user, and these indicators will differ depending on the objective behind the creation of the app. The decision on investing in an app should be predicated on the objective or purpose of the app and how this objective/purpose impacts brand salience. Developing a brand app just because everyone else has done so, is not a valid objective. Having said so, the objectives can be any of the following: Sl. No. 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14.

App Objective Replicate website (on mobile devices) Campaign / Event-centric: Registration, Schedules, Live Tweets, etc. Gaming

Metrics - Brand Salience No. of downloads, No. of Visitors No. of downloads, No. of Visitors No. of downloads, Frequency of use, Intensity of usage Information: News, Weather, Store Locator, Fashion Tips, etc. No. of downloads, Frequency of use, Intensity of usage Entertainment: Contests, Quizzes, Time-fillers, etc. No. of downloads, Frequency of use Enhanced brand experience: AR, Product Information, Virtual Guides, etc. No. of downloads, Frequency of use, Intensity of usage Ecommerce No. of downloads, Frequency of use Location-Based Service: Deals, Promos, New Launches, Events, etc. No. of downloads, Frequency of use Social Media engagement: Facebook, Google+, etc. No. of downloads, Frequency of use In-store experience augmentation: Price comparator, Product No. of downloads, Frequency of use, Information, etc. Intensity of usage Utilitarian: Lifestyle, Health, Travel, Commute, etc. No. of downloads, Frequency of use, Intensity of usage Education No. of downloads, Frequency of use, Intensity of usage Alerts: Deals, Promos, New Launches, Events, etc. No. of downloads, No. of Visitors Video/Music Streaming No. of downloads, Intensity of usage


Generally speaking, developing an app just to replicate the website (for specific mobile device platforms) or to manage an event does not make much sense. Ensuring that the brand website is displayed optimally on a range of devices is better addressed using Responsive Web Design (RWD) when designing the website; while microsites are a better alternative, to apps, for running and managing events.

The point to note is that a device owner is extremely careful about the apps she loads on her device, and unless the app is seen as delivering value or delivering something different, it is unlikely to be loaded; or, if loaded, unlikely to be used. So, here is a list of recommendations brand-owners may like to run through when designing a branded app: Keep it relevant The app should communicate the brand message or the brand values when executing or in the utility it delivers the consumer. There is no use developing an app that consumers love but that does nothing for the brand. Keep it light Make sure the app can run on a range of devices, from the modestly-speced (single-core CPU, qHD screen) to the massively-speced (quad-core CPU, Full HD screen), smoothly. Also, ensure that the app is neither a memory hog and nor a power sink. Make it dynamic Design the app to pick up data constantly from the cloud, and to present the most up-todate information to the user. Push notifications should also be supported. Also, the app has to deliver more information, or present it in a different manner, than the user can access by googling the web. Multi-platform, multi-device A branded app has to be developed for each of the major platforms (Android, Blackberry, Facebook, iOS, WP8) and has to be optimised for each device category (smartphone, phablet, tablet). Promote the app Don’t forget to promote the app, after taking all the trouble to develop it. Use the digital properties of the brand, use established app stores, and use email marketing to get the news


about the availability of the app to as large a group of the target group/audience (TG) as possible. Apps are a great way to engage with consumers and to evagelise a brand among the TG, and all brand-owners should evaluate the option of developing one for their brands, provided they have clarity on the objective behind the exercise, they know how to measure the efficacy of the app, and they develop an app that a user would love to use.


To App Or Not To App, Is The Question