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 marketing channels for brands: 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.

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. In the United States, the average user spends almost three hours a day in mobile applications out of less than four hours a day spent on mobile devices.


First of all, such growth is related to the growth of the mobile audience itself. A lot of experts say that the era of mobile applications is ending and new technologies are replacing apps. Perhaps. But for the moment, apps are far from fading away. Conversely, we’re seeing the growth of mobile app usage. 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. 

Offering rewards via a mobile app ensures this. Brands like Starbucks push out promos through their apps. Customers can download discounts that render well on mobile screens and are easily scanned.

Five major benefits of mobile platforms as marketing tools

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:

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

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

3. 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. Increase loyalty

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. 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. But an app can increase sales not only by letting customers make purchases through the app itself. 

An app doesn’t need to offer online shopping to be effective. 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.

The Domino’s 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. 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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