The Evolving Mobile App User

Mobile wallets and enterprise apps are just the beginning. Here's what companies need to know about the evolution of apps.
Customer Experience

Mobile apps are ubiquitous. With more than 1.4 million apps in Apple's App Store alone, there's an app for nearly everything. Apps drove the majority of media consumption on mobile devices last year, accounting for about 7 out of every 8 minutes, according to comScore.

However, the average person spends the majority of his or her time using only a handful of apps. Driving app downloads and high engagement rates are harder than ever. To stay ahead of the competition, marketers must adapt their mobile strategies to better serve customer needs and expectations. Here's how to jumpstart your app strategy.

Social media, messaging, video, and navigational apps command a large chunk of time spent on apps, reported Forrester Research. In a three-month study of nearly 3,000 U.S. smartphone owners, the top three most-used apps were Facebook, YouTube, and Google Maps. These results aren't surprising, notes Mark Tack, vice president of marketing at Vibes, a mobile marketing solutions provider.

"I only use apps that have a lot of utility and this is true for many people, so it can be tough to get [consumers] to download other apps like a retailer's branded app," he says. "Marketers have to look for new opportunities, like mobile wallets."

As an example, Tack points to Men's Wearhouse. Vibes helped the retailer create emails with coupons that could be saved on Google Wallet or Apple's Passbook. Last year, Men's Wearhouse launched about 50 of these email/mobile campaigns. Emails that included the "save to wallet" feature had a coupon redemption rate that was 10 times higher than those that didn't offer the feature.

"We think giving customers something to react to by saving the coupon in a mobile wallet drives engagement instead of just another email that gets pushed down," says Men's Wearhouse Executive Vice President of Marketing Matt Stringer in a webinar. "Email offers mass reach, but the mobile wallet ultimately drives a much stronger take rate." The company is also exploring ways to integrate its loyalty program into mobile wallets and provide a smoother experience, Stringer adds.

Within a few years mobile wallets will be used for more than just managing digitized coupons, predicts Forrester Research analyst Thomas Husson. "Mobile wallets will become marketing platforms," Husson says in the webinar. Payments will be only one of the features that mobile wallets offer, as marketers increasingly use them to reach customers. "We expect some apps to morph into marketing platforms with open APIs" he continues, "that allow you to integrate your services and your brand to enable commerce."

March 2015: Mobile Engagement

Read the related article">"Mobile Engagement"">

Personalization and Convenience
There are other ways to boost engagement without connecting your app to a mobile wallet. Retailers, for example, can personalize app content based on purchase history, shopping behavior, size preferences, demographics, and geographic location, says Alex Muller, chief executive officer and co-founder of mobile marketing firm GPShopper. Customers, Muller notes, "expectpersonalized content andconvenience."

GPShopper, which works with brands like Bebe, The North Face, Express, and Best Buy, creates app features that complement in-store experiences. For instance in the future, if a customer is in the fitting room and would like to try on adifferentclothing size, she could select an"Assist Me" icon on the retailer's consumer appon her smartphone. A store associate would see the notification on a tablet and beacons would show the associate the customer's location in the store. The account login of the customer'ssmartphone app also would give the associate the customer's name and purchase historyif the customer opted to share this information.And when the customer is ready to check out, she can notify the associate on the app as well.

Clients have expressed interest in adding these experiences to their brick-and-mortar stores, according to Muller. "A successful mobile app maintains the same brand experience as your brick-and-mortar storesandyour eCommerce website," Muller says. "It provides your customers with engagement, value, and convenience."

Deep linking
Making it easy for users to navigate an app will also drive deeper engagement. Mobile deep linking-bringing users to a specific page instead of an app store or the app's default screen-is a popular way to increase an app's stickiness.

URX is one such company that is helping companies like Spotify and HotelTonight quickly connect users to the appropriate page within their mobile apps. If someone is reading the lyrics to a song on a mobile web page and clicks on a link to listen to the song, URX makes it possible for the user to find the song on Spotify or go to Spotify's app install page if that person doesn't already have the app.

Other companies are developing similar tools that link to pages within apps, such as, Tapstream, Quixey, and more. Another competitor, Branch Metrics, announced last week that it had closed on a $15 million series A round of funding, reports TechCrunch. Additionally, Facebook, Google and Twitter enable deep linking. Googleadded deep links to Android apps in its search results; Facebook rolled out mobile app engagement ads that include a deep-linking feature and Twitter added deep-linking features for apps to its Twitter Cards.

Deep linking is becoming an important asset for marketers who want to seamlessly drive mobile traffic from mobile browsers to apps. The next step is to foster deep linking between
differentapps.The deep linking process varies across operating systems, creating an opportunity for a deep linking standard that works across platforms and operating systems, but until that happens, companies are already thinking of ways to connect content across apps.

"URX is focused on rolling out more ways to enhance the user experience on apps," says URX Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer John Milinovich. "Restaurants could include suggestions for nearby things to do on their apps that directly connect you to another business' app or retail companies can create an app economy by partnering up with other apps."

Enterprise Apps
Mobile computing is also driving employers to rethink the tools and business processes they provide to their employees, customers, and partners. But while most companies are undergoing a mobile transformation, few have reached a level of mobile maturity, finds Alan Lepofsky, vice president and principal analyst at Constellation Research.

"We wanted to know where people were in their mobile journey and we counted four stages," Lepofsky explains. Based on a survey of more than 500 executives representing businesses with at least 1,000 employees, 97 percent were at level 1 with some basic mobile enablement steps like implementing policies for using mobile devices; more than three-quarters have made their websites mobile responsive (stage 2), but only about half have enhanced them with mobile-specific features (stage 3). Less than half have started to rethink entire business processes around mobile (stage 4).

Stage 4 includes finding new ways of doing things with mobile devices. "Think of Disney's digital wrist bands that let people make purchases and record customer information or new business models like Uber-these are dramatically different mobile experiences that are changing the ways customers interact with businesses," Lepofsky notes.

While not all businesses might reach stage four, companies can benefit by creating processes that enable improved ways of working. Location-based collaboration through GPS data could help employees in a huge enterprise find colleagues and customers in specific geographic regions. And having an enterprise social network could help employees get quick answers to their questions.

Of course, corporations will be slower to adopt mobile devices and apps than consumers, but the changes are inevitable, Lepofsky maintains. "Mobile transformations, particularly in the enterprise, are still very much in the early stages since it comes with security challenges, questions about retraining, and other issues," he notes. "But it's a very exciting time."