Mobile App As a Brand Marketing Channel: Benefits Apps Provide to Brands

It’s important for brands to be visible to their customers and follow advertising trends. There are many effective brand marketing channels: TV, outdoor advertising, endorsements, sponsorship.

However, well-known companies such as Starbucks, Domino’s, Avis, and others have taken advantage of one more effective marketing solution. In this article, we talk about how mobile apps help businesses to break new ground in their industry and help you find an effective mobile app marketing strategy.

Why should brands go mobile?

We live in an age when almost everyone on earth uses a smartphone. According to App Annie’s recent report, the total time spent in apps increased by 50 percent globally from 2016 to 2018, reaching nearly 1350 billion hours per year. 

average time spent on mobile

Such growth is related to the growth of the mobile audience itself. And if you’re still not among those who exploit this platform for marketing, it’s time to think about its effectiveness. Smartphones are the one niche where you can find everyone in your target audience. Why not use the opportunity to reach your customers with a mobile app?

With mobile apps, brands can enhance their customers’ offline experiences, connect with their loyal audiences, and boost sales. According to a recent report by CodeBroker, 75 percent of consumers will engage more with loyalty programs that provide rewards in a mobile-friendly way. 

Five ways of how mobile apps help businesses

1. Increase brand awareness

Marketing agencies are constantly looking for new platforms through which to advertise brands — or at least place logos. Imagine that every time users unlock their phones they see your brand’s logo. By increasing your brand’s visibility, you can increase your customer base.

Apps installed on the phone

2. Collect data about users

Since your application (hopefully) solves a problem for your users, they’re more likely to share their data with you. You don’t need to send an email asking users to fill out a form for a bonus. Your application itself is already a bonus, so it’s easier for you to get data about your users’ preferences.

Methods of collecting data depend on the type of app, but there are several basic options:

  • Onboarding. You can collect information about users with a small questionnaire during registration. You might ask questions about age, preferences, habits, and so on.

  • Questionnaires for bonuses. If your application offers discounts, bonuses, and special offers, you can provide these as a reward for completing a small questionnaire.

  • Analysis of in-app behavior. This is the most advanced among powerful ways to collect user data and is the most common method for loyalty apps. When your users make purchases or leave reviews of your products, you can collect data about their behavior, analyze that data, and adjust your brand development strategy based on it. The Starbucks mobile app helps Starbucks collect user data, try out new ideas, and roll out targeted data-driven initiatives. The company’s personalization and customer satisfaction efforts are reaping excellent rewards. As of April 2019, Starbucks boasted 16.8 million active loyalty program members.

3. Growing brand loyalty with app

A mobile app for your business is a perfect tool for increasing loyalty. Starbucks is a clear leader in successful brand building through mobile platforms. They’re commonly cited as a perfect example of how a brand can tap into a mobile-app-consuming audience. Louis Vuitton has created a city guide app to give clients unforgettable travel experiences. This move helps Louis Vuitton demonstrate care for their customers and results in customer loyalty and advocacy. You can read about how to build a brand loyalty program in our article on designing a successful customer loyalty program like Starbucks, Kohl’s, and Chick-fil-A.

4. Grow your audience

A mobile application can serve as a way to attract new customers. Chipotle spotted the opportunity to attract new customers by means of a delivery service offered in its app. Delivery has helped the company attract and retain new customers who prefer not to go to the restaurant. Thanks to new customers, the company’s digital sales in the fourth quarter of 2018 grew 65.6 percent compared to the same quarter in the previous year and accounted for 12.9 percent of total sales.

The Starbucks app

5.Increase sales. By making the buying process easier, more convenient, and more intuitive, apps can facilitate the customer experience — which, in turn, improves sales. Loyalty programs and additional services, as in the case of Chipotle, can improve sales as well.

Domino’s Pizza had a serious sales issue in the mid-2000s. Their stock hit an all-time low in 2008, going for nearly $3 a share. Today, it’s worth $246. In addition to making improvements in product quality, the company decided to take advantage of digitalization. 

Seeing the market was going mobile, Domino’s took a mobile-first approach. By creating a branded mobile app that provided an extremely responsive experience, Domino’s shifted their business model. The Domino’s app contributed to half of the company’s online sales in 2015, with online sales making up over half of total sales.

Talking about luxury shopping, Euromonitor International says that luxury goods sales are growing much faster online than in physical stores, accounting for 14 percent of all online sales as compared to 5 percent of all sales in traditional retail. Buying luxury goods or paying for services without leaving an application can not only make the lives of your users easier but also help you get more sales.

The Domino’s app

Read also: Сreating a Customer App for Your On-Demand Delivery Platform

Which features are best for a branded shopping app?

Most of the features that premium brands add are designed to shorten a user’s path to their products and to tell about those products as much as possible. The more convenient your app is for users, the better chances that users will turn into customers. How can you make this happen?

Advanced search filters

Filters make the user experience more personalized. Gap added advanced search filters to all its apps (Gap, Banana Republic, Old Navy), as did Mango. Users can filter items by size, color, price, and name. With filters, users spend less time searching and are more likely to return to your app. Most importantly, you can shorten the distance between users and what they’re looking for, thus increasing the chance of a purchase.

Device synchronization

Asos, Gap, and Mango give their users the ability to start shopping with one device and continue with another. Imagine a situation where a user comes to your app for sneakers but also adds a t-shirt for training and a few pairs of socks to the cart. Then, without having made a purchase, they log in on another device but the cart is empty. The chance that they’ll add those impulse buys to the cart again is extremely low.

Barcode scanner

Louis Vuitton and Forever21 invite customers to use their apps not only on the go but also in brick and mortar stores. If a user doesn’t find a product of the correct size or color in a store, they can scan the barcode and instantly find out which stores have the right size or color, or just buy it online.

Nearby stores

With the help of geolocation, users can find your brand’s nearest shops in your app. Inditex implemented geolocation in all its apps – Zara, Massimo Dutti, Pull & Bear, Stradivarius, Bershka, and Oysho – to make it easier for users to get to their nearby and shipping stores.

But an app can increase sales not only by letting customers make purchases through the app itself. An app doesn’t have to offer online shopping to be effective.

Ways you can go mobile

How to market your brand? There are five types of branded applications you can create to deliver value to your consumers. Check how market leaders successfully use them to get more loyal customers.  

1. Mobile apps that solve routine tasks

These types of applications make using brands’ products and services even more convenient. Also, some brands may offer some useful content and lifehacks for customers. 

  • BMW. BMW offers their customers an app that can control their cars remotely. Users can lock and unlock their cars and even control the temperature inside. Also, with the “Vehicle Finder” feature, users can find their cars – the app shows a map with the car’s location.

  • Nike. Since 2006, Nike has developed several apps. The Nike Training Club is a personal trainer app, while Nike Run Club helps runners track their running activity.  The Nike app is a shopping app that lets users buy Nike sportswear in a few taps. The Nike Training app contains a lot of step-by-step guides and workouts for users willing to do exercises at home.


2. Loyalty apps

According to a survey by HelloWorld, 61 percent of respondents stated that the most important way a brand could interact with them was by surprising and rewarding them for being a good customer. 

Lots of well-known brands like Chick-fil-A, Starbucks, and Marriott Bonvoy create own loyalty applications. In our previous article, we’ve described two types of apps that ensure customer loyalty. 

3. Entertaining mobile apps

Solving daily problems is not only about performing complicated functions. It’s also about entertaining your users and performing tasks related to their hobbies.

  • Coca-Cola

There are several Coca-Cola branded apps for smartphone users. The Coca-Cola Freestyle app is an extension of the Freestyle Machine campaign. With this app, you can create a custom mix of Coca-Cola drinks, find the nearest Freestyle machine, and taste your mixed drink. 

The CocaCola® app allows users to scan icons on Coca-Cola packaging to earn rewards, play games and watch behind-the-scenes videos, and many other activities.

  • Red Bull TV

Red Bull TV has apps for a wide variety of devices across different platforms. With the help of Red Bull TV, users can watch sports events, music festivals, GoPro videos, films, and documentaries. Red Bull TV for Android won the Best TV Experience category at the 2017 Google Play Awards. There are eleven more apps by Red Bull on Google Play and twelve of them on App Store including games, VR apps, sticker packs, and more.


4. Chatbots

With the help of chatbots, users will communicate with your brand via different messengers. This is another convenient option, since they have no need to download additional apps or switch between apps.

  • British Airways. British Airways launched the Emoji Quiz bot for Facebook Messenger. It asks questions about their ideal holiday and offers a set of emojis to choose from. Then, the bot suggests a destination based on the answers. There’s also a link to the company’s web page offering tickets to this destination.

  • Lyft. With the help of Lyft chatbot, users can request a ride via Facebook Messenger and Slack. The Messenger bot will let a user know the current location of a driver. In Slack, users can simply use slash commands.

5. Branded emoji keyboards and sticker packs

In 2015, more than 250 brands created their own emoji keyboards. In 2016, this number almost doubled. Emoji keyboards are another way to tap into your users’ smartphones and increase brand awareness.  

But a lot of experts find sticker packs more effective than emoji keyboards. Sticker packs are used by big brands, including Disney, Starbucks, Nike, Burger King, and Sephora.

6. Games

Games are probably the biggest niche for celebrity apps.

  • Kim Kardashian: Hollywood. In 2014, the guru of celebrity apps – the mobile development giant Glu – launched Kim Kardashian: Hollywood, one of the most popular celebrity mobile games. Users of Kim Kardashian: Hollywood can live the lifestyle of Kim Kardashian in the game. Offering people the opportunity to live the life of socialite Kim Kardashian, the game raked in $1.6 million in its first five days on the market.

  • PewDiePie’s Tuber Simulator. Another example of a celebrity game is , a game by the biggest YouTube star Felix Arvid Ulf Kjellberg, known online as PewDiePie. The game is free to download and is a simulator where players can try to become the best YouTuber. Users make videos to gain views and subscribers. They can buy different items like furniture, equipment, and clothes. Players can also use “bux” to purchase special items. “Bux” is the game’s currency, which is available to purchase. Players can connect with their friends and follow others. They can also join competitions where users vote for their favorite player.

7. Content apps

  • Jamie’s Recipes and Jamie's Ultimate Recipes. Jamie shares his step-by-step cooking instructions and inspires his fans to cook. While the Jamie’s Recipes app is free (content include photos, videos, how-to guides  updated weekly, and a built-in shopping list), his second application, Jamie's Ultimate Recipes, costs $9.98. The Jamie’s Ultimate Recipes app includes recipes, photo and video content, shopping lists, and guides. But it’s called “ultimate” for a reason: the app includes more than 600 of Jamie’s all-time best recipes.

  • Sweat: Kayla Itsines Fitness. Another example of a celebrity app with useful content is Sweat: Kayla Itsines Fitness. This is a fitness app created by Kayla Itsines, a world-famous personal trainer with almost 10 million followers on Instagram. The Sweat: Kayla Itsines Fitness app has multiple trainers and home workout programs. Users can track their progress and learn about nutrition and healthy lifestyles. Kayla’s app is free to download. Users get a free seven-day trial but then have to buy a monthly ($19.99) or yearly ($119.99) subscription. This app has been downloaded 30 million times and is expected to hit about $76.75 million in revenue in 2018.

  • Kim Kardashian West Official App. Some celebrities share their behind-the-scenes photos and videos and even personal journals. And Kim Kardashian has not only a mobile game but also the Kim Kardashian West Official App. It’s free, but it also offers a $2.99 per month subscription. Khloe Kardashian, Kourtney Kardashian, Kylie Jenner, and Kendall Jenner also have similar apps. They’re all free to install and charge $2.99 per month for a subscription.

Let's now talk about luxury brands as they're are increasingly using technologies to promote themselves, drive sales, and build a strong community of loyal customers. In the future, according to a report by Bain & Company, the online channel will represent 25 percent of market value in the luxury segment.

Tips and tricks of creating an app for a luxury brand

To best serve your customers, you need to understand their primary needs and incentives when buying luxury goods. So what do your customers want? 

Feel like a member of a private community

A lot of people buy luxury goods or order luxury services to experience the feel of uniqueness and belonging to a private community. There are several ways to do that:

Premium membership. Some luxury apps require users to purchase a premium membership to get access to the service. XOJet, for example, has an annual membership fee of $2,500. It provides its VIP members with exclusive discounts, a concierge service, luxury partner benefits, and access to VIP events. Essentialist’s complete functionality is also available only after purchasing a membership. In Essentialist, a user fills in a registration form and schedules a call with a concierge. After a short onboarding, the user confirms their wish to become a member of the community. Only after a call and purchasing a membership does a user get access to Essentialist services.

Invite-only registration. Some luxury applications offer invite-only membership. Take Luxy, for example — a dating app for millionaires who seek true love. Users can access the app only if they earn more than $200,000 a year or they’re voted in by 50 percent of the existing community members. To verify a user’s income, Luxy asks them to send pictures of their driver’s license or passport at registration together with a picture of their most recent tax return. Online retailers have started using the invite-only model as well. Net-A-Porter has created NetBook, an invite-only social network app that allows users to create wishlists and connect with other shoppers based on those lists. Net-A-Porter has already invited fashion industry influencers to download the app. These influencers can invite their friends and colleagues, growing the network in this way.

An excellent user experience 

Users expect the highest level of customer service — or better — with your luxury digital product. Let’s find out how to please your customers.

Easy onboarding. Luxury companies use highly personalized user onboarding. After a user has registered in XOJet, the concierge explains how XOJet works and answers all questions. 

Personalized content. Big data is now the main technology that allows applications to deliver highly personalized content to customers. The Luxe Digital report states that 85 percent of luxury brand sales come from customers registered in a brand’s database. Big data analytics enables luxury brands to identify and connect with their affluent consumers, understand their lifestyles and purchasing behaviors, and build long-term engagement.

Advanced features for a deeper experience. The main bottleneck of online stores compared to brick-and-mortar stores is customers’ inability to touch and try on items. Augmented reality and 360-degree images can overcome this. Augmented reality allows users to see how items will fit them. Cartier has an app where brides can use AR to check how jewelry from the latest collection will look on them. With 360-degree photos, users can see how an item looks from different angles. This solution is useful for rental and hotel booking apps. For instance, Shangri-La Hotels offers immersive 360-degree discovery experiences to shape customer decision-making. Brands can benefit from 360-degree videos as well. For instance, in 2016, Dior used a 360-degree camera to record their Paris fashion show so viewers could take a front-row seat.

App localization. The luxury market has a large target audience all over the world, and you should provide a seamless user experience for every customer. Consider localizing your app to support multiple languages. Don’t neglect the Chinese market. Bain & Company states that Chinese customers will account for more than 45 percent of the luxury market. Moreover, half of these luxury purchases will happen in China, which means apps will need to be adjusted for the local market.  

Appealing design. There’s actually no strict rule for the color palette, but neutral or monochromatic colors are recommended to direct a user’s attention to the most important content in your app: your goods. What’s obligatory, however, is the use of animations. Smooth animations not only make a design more appealing but also guide your users through the app. You can learn more about the benefits of web animations in our guide to mobile UI animations. 

Strong support. It’s important to make customer support your strongest feature. This is possible through integrating your app with real-time messaging so your customer support team or even a personal concierge can solve customers’ concerns around the clock. You can also offer your users to schedule a call with a concierge. This is a good option when a client has complicated questions and is looking for a detailed explanation. But this feature may be impractical if a customer has urgent issues. To optimize the user experience, implement deep linking in chat. This feature allows users to quickly go to a particular website or app page or even see a preview without leaving an app. For example, look at how HotelTonight has implemented deep linking in their concierge chat. Providing a highly personalized customer experience requires additional human resources and efforts. First, you should hire and train a concierge team so they can serve your customers 24/7. Also, it’s essential to create an admin panel where your team can serve customers. 

Additional value. Most luxury applications have additional features that make their apps more engaging. Gucci offers users to explore the most fascinating sights all over the world in the Explore tab, add cute stickers to user’s photos in the Photobooth tab, and download wallpapers created by Gucci. Louis Vuitton has a separate app that serves as a travel guide. Also, consider implementing an items finder. Image recognition is implemented in the Louis Vuitton app. With the help of the LV Finder feature, users can take a picture of one of the brand’s handbags and the app will transfer them to the shop page with it.

Data security. Data security is a top concern for all business niches. Luxury brands should be especially attentive, as there’s a lot of money at stake and companies tend to store sensitive data about their clients, including addresses and phone numbers. Choose reliable payment systems like Braintree or Stripe and invest in data encryption. Read our guide on security problems you should consider when building an app.

Six of the most common mistakes when creating a branded mobile app

Mobile apps have one common problem. According to Statista, 25 percent of apps are downloaded and used only once. Users often download an application because of the cool name, catchy icon, or loud description, then open it once and never return to it. Why does this happen?

There are plenty of reasons why users abandon branded apps, including poor design, inconvenient controls, and lack of functionality.

Here are the five most common errors you should avoid if you don’t want to lose customers after the first use.

1. The app doesn’t solve the user’s problem. This is the most common mistake. When you decide to reach your customers through a mobile application, you should understand that you’re not just placing advertising on your customers’ smartphones. You’re creating a useful and convenient product that will solve a daily problem for your users. Only if you do this will customers return to the application again and again.

2. The app doesn’t create awareness and loyalty. According to HelloWorld, 75 percent of consumers expect discounts and offers from a brand. If a branded app doesn’t offer any brand information, discounts, and special offers, users are likely to abandon it.

3. The app is hard to use. Any high-quality mobile app should be easy to use and intuitive. No one wants to use an app that takes ages to figure out. Even if you offer the most necessary tool ever, you can forget about millions of users if your app isn’t convenient. 

4. The app doesn’t provide a personalized approach. In a world exploding with content, customers want to be sure you’re thinking of them. Get closer to your customers by identifying their individual needs. Sending valuable personalized push notifications is an effective way to retain your app users. We have a whole article dedicated to the role of push notifications in ensuring customer loyalty. Read it if you’d like to go deeper into such best practices.

5. There’s no clear relationship between your app and your brand. To power purchases, your app should be a logical extension of your brand. Or at least it should solve a problem that’s specific to your target audience. We also recommend you use images and videos, tell stories, and create characters to maintain the connection to your brand.

6. You don’t refresh your app regularly. Your app should always be in line with your brand. If you change your marketing brand strategies, offers, or provide better branding, ensure that you have enough resources to update your app.

App promotion as a challenge to overcome

Keep in mind that promoting branded apps also requires marketing. Many small and midsize businesses don’t realize that developing a mobile application is only the first step in achieving a top-performing app. You can measure the success of your app by downloads and usage. But first of all, your potential users have to know that your app exists. Let’s figure out how to start a successful brand campaign.

Avis, a rental car company, applied an influencer mobile app marketing strategy to launch its mobile app. They used the hashtag #AvisNow to run a campaign that showed users simple steps to rent a car through the Avis app. 

The rental service provider partnered with several influencers who had similar target audiences. Some of these influencers were travel photographers. All of them posted their own unique cases showing how they used the app (including memorable images, videos, and essential tips for travelers). 

As a result of this campaign, which reached 933,000 people, Avis saw 2,000 engagements and three million impressions. The app became popular. Larry De Shon, the president and chief executive officer of Avis Budget Group, recently stated that the company had surpassed two million transactions in the app.

A huge number of brands create a mobile app for business as it’s a powerful marketing tool. There are various benefits of creating an app for a brand. Mobile apps enable one-on-one interactions between businesses and customers, allowing businesses to turn communities into families. Mobile apps humanize companies and facilitate better interactions between brands and customers, increasing both loyalty and sales.

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