Much of the current digital “buzz” is about Web3 and the Metaverse.
All the other articles seem to present thoughts and opinions regarding these new frontiers and what they offer to the digital evolutionary arc. The feeling of excitement is palpable.
Generating much less column inches is a topic that is on the cutting edge of digital, namely mobile and mobile applications. It’s strange, because mobile really dominates the digital landscape. The stats on penetrations, usage, and those tiny little things called apps are staggering.
We all know how important our phones are. They are an extension and, in many cases, a remote control for our daily lives. Many of us *cough politely* spend up to four hours a day on our phones. Not using them for phoning people, but for keeping up to date with the latest news, watching Tik Toks, liking photos, Wordle (obviously), shopping and of course banking.
And yet, somehow, they seem to have escaped the digital “hype” and “let’s make this an amazing experience”.
While the Metaverse has captured the collective imagination, the reality is that the real action is now taking place within IOS and Android.
Many companies talk about having a mobile-first strategy. They watched the incredible pace of smartphone adoption and the subsequent abandonment of computer-based Internet browsing and interaction and felt the need to respond. But for the most part, this was far from a complete mobile strategy. Instead, for the most part, it meant condensing what was available through desktop experiences into something the size of a smartphone screen rather than considering the power offered by native apps, which frankly got overlooked. or underutilized by many brands to this day.
The result is a numerical paradox. Consumer expectations, usage, and engagement with apps are growing exponentially, but that’s not what brands are offering right now.
So looking specifically at apps, the stats are amazing. Thanks to the great people at Statista, we know that:
- Globally in 2021 there were 230 billion app downloads split roughly 80:20, Google vs IOS
- App revenue topped $400 billion
- 47% of people have used apps to do their banking, 35% have sent money, and 33% have paid for something using a platform payment app, such as Apple Pay.
The outlook for the app is ‘appy’, and brands are finally starting to look at its potential. But there are some obvious downsides to consider. The average person only uses four to five apps with regularity. Most phones are filled with apps that are downloaded and used once. One of the main reasons for this is that many applications focus on usefulness and solving single-functional problems for customers. So apps tend to be utilities, not experiences.
Even banks that enjoy regular customer use have functional experiences designed to help users complete tasks as quickly as possible rather than finding ways to interact with customers.
This tells us that applications are often designed for the “out” business rather than the “in” customer. Banks sought to take existing processes and optimize them for the channel. So banking apps work as extensions of how banks work, not something that works to build a customer relationship. When working on an app project, the priority for project teams is not to sit down and discuss how to use the app as a tool to build better customer relationships, but to ensure that the functionality is as optimal for the user as possible.
But apps have unique properties that make them ideal for marketing and experience. And when done right, they work. 66% of all mobile transactions take place in native apps, deep linking to app content doubles engagement, and native apps generate three times more sales than the mobile web.
It is this uniqueness that many have missed. Why? Because many organizations are not structured in an app-friendly way. IT and digital teams tend to take care of the app experience and marketing teams tend to drive traffic. Due to company silos, transfers between these teams are not always optimal. Consider these application use cases:
- A channel that removes friction and roadblocks from the customer acquisition process
- A channel to build relationships with customers
- A channel to retain customers
- A channel that provides access to first-party data about individuals and their digital behavior
You can see the “marketing” qualities shine through. But of course, applications must be designed to be robust, secure and conform to the required standards. But I think if companies want to develop the best and most effective application strategies, they need to find a way to break down barriers and work in a much more unified way.
So if you’ve been persuaded to help make the world a better place, why not look at what’s out there and think about the value it offers. If it’s a tool or utility, imagine what it could be and think of it as an experience or a destination. Then insist that the marketing and digital teams work together to develop an appropriate application strategy. And I promise you will be rewarded with digital workaholic and appier customers.
About the Author
Dave Wallace is a user experience and marketing professional who has spent the past 25 years helping financial services companies design, launch and scale digital customer experiences.
He is a passionate customer advocate and champion and a successful entrepreneur.
Follow him on Twitter at @davejvwallace and connect with him on LinkedIn.