Why Most Marketers Completely Miss the Point of Apps

on under Social Media Marketing.

According to a recent joint study by Forbes and Adobe, 53 percent of marketers are currently designing and deploying apps. Realizing that mobile internet usage could possibly outpace desktop usage by the end of 2014, marketers are furiously refurbishing their content marketing strategies to adapt to the change. There's just one problem.

Marketers are completely and utterly missing the point of apps.

Let's take a look at why, and how you can leverage this knowledge to blow your competitors out of the park.

Why Consumers Love Apps

Marketers certainly aren't making a mistake by realizing just how important apps are. According to research by Flurry, users spend 80 percent of their mobile time not in their browsers, but in their apps. Clearly, ignoring this behavior is ignorant and short-sited. But let's take a look at the kinds of apps these consumers are actually using:

apps

Thirty-two percent of this time is being spent on games. Facebook, entertainment, and utility come next. Then come the rest of the social networks. Then, finally, all the way at the bottom, tied with productivity, we have "news."

And what kind of apps are most digital marketers playing with these days? "Content" apps. "News." They are packaging their web content, or something "proprietary" that looks exactly like web content, inside of an app.

Unless you're planning to start a paid digital newspaper, I doubt these content apps are doing you a whole lot of good.

Neilson estimates that the average mobile consumer has 41 apps on their smartphone. But according to the Flurry study, consumers only open 8 apps a day, and those are dominated by top apps like games, Facebook, and YouTube. A study by Localytics found that only 31 percent of apps get opened more than 11 times, and this was back in 2011, when apps were shiny and new.

Even massive media publications struggle to reach visitors with content apps. Wired gets roughly 20 million visitors to its website each month, but its app only has 102,000 users. Even the massive conglomerate News Corporation couldn't keep their online publication The Daily above water. Even costing just $0.99 per week, it failed to reach even 100,000 subscribers, and never broke even.

The simple truth is that people don't want to look at content in apps. Even if they did, the fact that it's walled-off from search engines makes it practically invisible. If you care about the onslaught of mobile usage, and you're in the business of content, you should focus your efforts on responsive design.

Consumers may spend 80 percent of their mobile time in apps, but they only spend 2 percent of that time in "news" apps. I'd say the 20 percent browser time is a safer bet.

That Doesn't Mean You Shouldn't Create an App

I'm not saying apps can't be a good way to improve customer loyalty. I am saying that "content" apps are a horrible way to improve customer loyalty. We have blogs and email lists for that.

Just take a look at the most popular free iPhone apps of 2013:

  • Candy Crush Saga
  • YouTube
  • Temple Run 2
  • Vine
  • Google Maps
  • Snapchat
  • Instagram
  • Facebook
  • Pandora Radio
  • Despicable Me: Minion Rush

These are utilities, networks, and games. They aren't "content." They are interactive. This is why people spend more time in apps than browsers. They give them something to do.

You want consumers to use your app, see your brand name on a daily basis, and learn to trust you, right? Don't give them an app that they can "read." Give them an app that they can use.

Image credit: Cristiano Betta

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  • Thanks for the great tips. Very nice and informative blog post.