Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Kimberly Grimms, futurist and blogger.
Mobile gadgets like phones and tablets have rapidly become the most widely used and the most essential technology in the world. Desktop computers have long taken a back seat as users demand convenience and look for something that can keep up with how they live. Try this: stand in the middle of a busy place like a mall or plaza, look around, and count how many people are using their mobile phones while walking, eating, or talking to someone. What has just happened? It almost seems like we blinked then everything changed.
The rise of mobile technology naturally birthed other digital phenomena like mobile software applications or mobile apps and in the business side, mobile marketing. A lot of brands use mobile-first strategy for seamless customer journey and find a way to be with their customer every step of the way. And why wouldn’t they? The Pew Research Center reported that 90% of American adults have a cellphone, 64% own a smartphone and 42% own a tablet computer. A majority constantly check their phones for messages and alerts even if their phone didn’t ring or vibrate, 44% have slept with their phone next to their bed, while 29% cell owners “can’t imagine living without their phones.” 34% of users also go online using a mobile device. Among their activities include accessing the internet, email, download apps, get directions, and “check in” or share location.
The rise in mobile technology is also evident with the ever-increasing number of available apps for download. One research by Statista revealed that 2.5 million apps were offered for Android and Apple App Store as of July 2014. Imagine being in a store with everything you like, but sadly you can’t have them all. Let us make the job easier for you with this guide in choosing the best apps.
“Do I need this?”
Before downloading an app, a user must ask this question. Most mobile apps are free and if you don’t evaluate your needs, you will end up downloading everything until your phone erupts with clutter. If you check your social accounts and emails often, it might be best to get the app instead of accessing them on your browser. Read what the apps are all about and don’t give in to pressure from peers and fads. Once downloaded, give them a try and then decide whether you want to keep them and whether you have use for them at all. Six different apps for one same purpose of photo collage? Really? And apps like avatars and dubsmash — yeah, give it another month then free up some memory.
The F words: Form and Function
Pretty won’t cut it when it comes to apps that are going to be your partners for everything virtual. In successful mobile marketing, that’s user interface and user experience. For users, it’s simply form and function. Do not confuse beautification and color schemes with interface and experience. For an app to be useful, it must be design plus context. In short, it must be an app that makes navigation easier and an app that actually does something to make your life easier.
Easy like Sunday morning
App designers and creators worry about ease of use a lot and users should, too. If an app needs a manual, drop it. Chances are there are apps that are similar but not as difficult to use. Photo and video editors, for example, are rather complex. Choose an app that is easy to install, easy to use, and easy to access because if they are giving you a hard time just trying to launch and start it, chances are you’ll never want to open it again.
Information never gets old
A lot of apps do not have very long shelf lives. One day they’re hot, the next day they’re not. Retention is the name of the game. Yes, there is hope in humanity if we base it on a research by Localytics. Their analysis showed that news apps like The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal saw the highest retention rate, with 44% of users. This means users opened news apps more and kept them. Gaming like “Clash of Clans,” entertainment like Netflix, and sports like ESPN registered retention rates between 33% and 36%. If you are choosing an app, get something current because the content evolves and are mostly relevant.
“This offer is for app users only”
Creating an app is a go-to branding strategy that aims at integrated digital marketing. For a digital marketing strategy to work, there must be integration of exclusive and personalized content, something that an app can do. Among the reasons users download an app is to get exclusive offers, discounts, and be in the know of perks and promos. This is especially for people who shop online or make orders online. Take this study by the Food Marketing Institute about digital grocery commerce: according to the research, the most important grocery functions that users look for are ones that give exclusive discounts, can track loyalty points and incentives, and proactive identification of coupons and sale offers. Most retail stores, restaurants, and even lifestyle businesses like travel have mobile apps. Find out if they reward users with exclusive deals.
Look for in-app personalization
Smartphones are incredibly personal devices that seem to connect all disparate points of our life. That is why when we seem to have misplaced or lost it, it almost feels like we lost a limb or something. So when you download an app, make sure that it is personalized in a manner that it becomes part of your life. This makes you want to open it more. Virtual possibilities for personalization are endless — welcoming a user on a first name basis, personalization options, personalized notifications, and basically, control. Most apps are like a music album, there are fillers you don’t like, thus the birth of the “playlist.” So choose an app that you can custom-fit to what you want so that it feels more “you.” Pinterest, for example, allows you to pick categories you care about so it makes browsing easier and more relevant.
Mobile marketers work hard to segment their audience. This adds value to their business and their brand. So chances are there is an app out there that is actually close to what you want and need. For example, you are a soon-to-be bride who lives in the US and you want to download an app to help you prepare for the big day — check list, suppliers, designers, inspirations. If you download an app created for the London market then take out suppliers and designers out of that list (unless of course you want to ship the gown from London without fitting). Apps for event planning, travel, and retail, it is best to go local.
The fun factor
Fun and the level of enjoyment make everything worth it, in life or in app. You must be able to enjoy an app or else your relationship is doomed. An app, whatever primary purpose it may serve, should be fun to be with.
There is no use arguing with statistics. It is true that the future of the web is mobile. Research analysts from IDC estimate that with over 470 million smartphones set to be shipped this year by manufacturers, nearly a billion people will own one by 2015. As a result, app downloads are expected to reach 183 billion within four years. So expect to be bombarded with apps that promise everything but do nothing. Be wise when you choose an app, just like your most cherished treasures, it must be something you can’t live without.