How do mobile apps fit into your marketing strategy?

by | Jun 27, 2018

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As marketers, it can sometimes feel like the ground is shifting beneath our feet. Between changing algorithms on platforms like Google, Facebook and Twitter, the emergence of new marketing technology and tactics every few months, and the automation of everything, it’s hard to stay on top of it all. Not only do we need to be experts in new marketing tools, but we need to keep track of new devices, too. The emergence of IoT devices like Alexa, the Apple watch, and Google Home are just a few examples of new channels that we, as marketers, have at our fingertips. It’s yet another opportunity to find and engage with our target audience.

Before climbing aboard with the new hottest device, however, it’s important to keep up with the channels that have emerged over the past 5-10 years. One such channel is mobile devices. With people spending an average of 4 hours on their mobile devices everyday, it’s critical to not only understand the basics of mobile marketing, but also to explore creative ways to win on mobile, and to define new branded channels for growth.


What is Mobile Marketing?

Here are the basics: Mobile marketing is a digital marketing strategy that harnesses multiple channels to reach people on their smartphones, tablets, and/or other mobile devices. Mobile marketing could take the shape of content, ads, emails, SMS, social media and apps. Pretty simple, right? You’ve also probably heard about “mobile first” strategies, which are basically initiatives to help businesses prioritize mobile search, ad campaigns, and other tactics above strategies to engage people on their desktop or elsewhere (like, say, in person).


What is a marketing app?

A marketing app is a mobile app experience that creates a new channel for bringing your target audience into your funnel, and keeping them there or getting them through to a conversion. It’s a form of content marketing that is specifically designed for the mobile landscape. By creating a compelling experience that speaks to your audience, you are engaging them in a way that is value-added. You’re also creating an opportunity to get in front of them through push notifications, and fresh content or experiences that are easily accessible on the go.

Is there competition in the mobile app space? Of course there is. There are no silver bullets here. But, with the time that people spend in mobile apps rising 69% year over year, I think it’s worth the investment, and will prove to be an indispensable part of our content marketing strategies going forward.

Just think about how clogged your own email inbox gets, or how difficult it can be to focus with 15 tabs open on your browser. Within the mobile landscape, an app creates a less crowded and frantic experience, helping people to engage with content during the times when they actually want to read it: i.e. in those few spare moments they have on the bus, waiting in line, or traveling.

By owning your own channel of marketing content, notifications and engagement, you’re putting your brand back in the driver’s seat, rather than relying on someone else’s algorithm to get your content in front of your people. And one option for this is in your own custom mobile experience for your brand in the form of a marketing app.


How do marketing apps fit into my marketing funnel?

If we think about a simple buyer’s journey, below, we could dive into how mobile apps could fit into each phase of the buyer’s journey:


Awareness Stage: Brand Awareness Apps
A brand awareness app is on that is not closely tied to your product, but is a standalone interactive experience that’s incredibly shareable. They could serve as a first touchpoint with your target audience, engaging someone who wasn’t yet looking for your product, but who relates to your mission as a business and then enters your funnel through this brand awareness experience.

Consideration Stage: Content Marketing & Educational Apps
So, your marketing team has spent countless hours creating, editing and iterating huge amounts of content. But, they’re buried deep in your website and might be gated by forms. You’re likely using this content in your email marketing, social media, and other channels, but what if you could create an ultimate, shareable resource whereby your persona could download your app and access all of your valuable content on the go? Not to mention, they will get notified with a push notification every time you publish a new piece.

Decision Stage: Apps enabling purchases or sign-ups
With 24% of U.S. total digital purchases being made on mobile devices, you have to not only make sure that your site is mobile optimized (of course) but if over 40% of your traffic on an e-commerce or lead generation site is coming from mobile, what would your conversions look like if you had a mobile app experience that made purchases, forms and data capture even more intuitive?

Retention Stage: Retention Marketing Apps
For many tech companies offering digital platforms, a mobile app isn’t a question, it’s a necessity. For those who haven’t mobilized their product yet, it’s worth considering what features of your product your customers want to access on-the-go, and making it as simple as possible for them to do so. In addition to product interactions, you might want to add a loyalty program that can be accessed from a mobile device, or automated push notifications based on triggers within your product.


So let’s take a look at where some successful marketing apps fit into the growth funnel:


Brand: The Knot
App: Wedding planner
User Journey Stage: Brand awareness app
Description: All-in-one wedding planner app for brides. Find venues and vendors, stay on budget, manage guest lists, registries and more.
App in the iTunes Store // Android Store

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Brand: Bark & Co.
App: Bark Buddy
User Journey Stage: Brand awareness app
Description: An app that enables people to find and adopt dogs near them. The app is used as a top-of-funnel brand awareness app for the product  Bark Box. A monthly box subscription for dog treats / toys.
App in the iTunes Store // Android Store

Screen Shot 2018-06-26 at 2.11.25 PM.png

Brand: Sherwin Williams
App: ColorSnap Visualizer
User Journey Stage: Consideration stage
Description: Uses VR to allow customers to identify colors and visualize paint shades in their environment using virtual reality renderings. The app is marketing Sherwin Williams paint.
App in the iTunes Store // Android Store

Screen Shot 2018-06-26 at 2.12.09 PM.png

Brand: Sephora
App: Makeup, Hair & Beauty
User Journey Stage: Decision stage
Description: Virtual reality app allows users to try on makeup in the app to determine if they’d like to purchase.
App in the iTunes Store // Android Store

Screen Shot 2018-06-26 at 2.16.05 PM.png

Brand: Shell
App: Inside CCS
User Journey Stage: Consideration stage
Description: App to educate academics and industry experts on the value of CCS, the CCS process and current CCS activity across the globe including shell specific projects.
App in the iTunes Store // Android Store

Screen Shot 2018-06-26 at 2.17.35 PM.png

Brand: Charmin
App: Sit or Squat
User Journey Stage: Brand Awareness
Description: App that tracks and lists all nearby public restrooms with ratings. The app is marketing Charmin toilet paper.
App in the iTunes Store // Android Store

Screen Shot 2018-06-26 at 2.19.49 PM.png

Brand: Coca-Cola
App: Coca-Cola
User Journey Stage: Retention
Description: Deals, perks and freebies offered in a mobile app. This app is a retention marketing and loyalty tool for Coca Cola.
App in the iTunes Store // Android Store

Screen Shot 2018-06-26 at 2.20.34 PM.png
Brand: Nike
App: Nike+ Run Club
User Journey Stage: Brand Awareness
Description: Tracks distance ran, time runs, play music through app. App is marketing Nike running shoes.
App in the iTunes Store // Android Store

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As you can see, there are opportunities for owned channels of content and digital experiences at every stage of the marketing funnel. For more perspectives and examples of marketing apps, check out the Content Marketing Institute’s thoughts on how marketing apps increase brand value.


The benefits of building your own mobile marketing channel

Check out this graphic outlining how many pieces of content are published on the internet per day, and you’ll see just how competitive the marketing landscape really is.

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Vying for that moment of attention, that click, that journey through your impeccably designed funnel — it’s tough, and can be costly, especially if you’re relying on ads to up your KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators).

Let’s take the social landscape as an example. It’s not getting any easier to acquire, engage or retain your community on social platforms if relying on organic reach. Organic reach from a Facebook post is dwindling to about 2%, so in order for anyone new to find your brand, you need to either get crazy engagement numbers (i.e. “go viral”), or purchase eyeballs for your content in the form of ads. Even once you have purchased those impressions/clicks/follows, you aren’t really guaranteed that your content will continue to get in front of them again, without spending more to break through their feed.

It’s safe to say that many third party platforms for publishing content (such as Facebook and Twitter) are crowded, and they are constantly evolving their algorithms to support their own monetization strategies— they’re not going out of their way to support the little guys getting content pushed out to their global community. By owning your own channel, you’re less reliant on the whims of third party platforms, and have more control.


So, where do you start when considering a marketing app for your brand?

As with most successful marketing initiatives, launching a successful marketing app starts with a deep understanding of your customer, and a creative idea. A great place to begin is with your user personas, and thinking about what your target audience might want to get from a mobile experience. For some customers, maybe it’s easier access to great content such as ebooks, learning modules and videos that become more accessible for on-the-go learning. For others, it could be a more streamlined process to be able to make a purchase, or onboard themselves onto your product or service. Or maybe, it’s a brand awareness app that offers a creative experience that you think will be intensely shareable and bring more people into the top of your funnel.

Start with pen and paper (and some other creative folks if you have them) and a brainstorm what could be an interesting on-the-go experience for your customers, based on their needs, wants, interests and frustrations. You could also start by interviewing your target demographic, sorting through support tickets for trends, and interviewing existing customers. What you’re looking for is a big idea, or a big piece of content that could be a sustainable source of interest and engagement within a mobile experience.


Here are some common questions I hear from marketers about mobile apps, maybe you have them too:


Isn’t it exorbitantly expensive to build a mobile app?

It’s all relative, so what might be expensive for one marketer could be peanuts to another. But, I will say that the emergence of low-code and no-code app building platforms like Hatch Apps have significantly lowered the cost of creating, launching and managing native mobile apps. A recent pricing study we conducted on the cost of developing an app revealed that building an app on the Hatch platform costs at least 50% less than the average cost of working with a software development agency.

My product team doesn’t have time to build this, so who is going to manage our mobile app experience?

With no-code app creation and management platforms like Hatch Apps, anyone is able to manage content within an app. It’s as simple as a tool like SquareSpace, for example. If you’re not sure that’s the route you want to take, check out our post on how to choose the right software development solution for your business for more ideas on how to get your software built.

I just want an app temporarily for a creative campaign or event, where should I look?

With apps built on Hatch Apps or similar platforms costing a fraction of the cost, and a fraction of the time to develop, that’s a great option for a temporary mobile experience, and one that could be tied to an in-person experience such as an event.

Is a mobile app going to cannibalize my website traffic?

This question always intrigues me because while it is true that a mobile app could cannibalize your website traffic, I always wonder how much that really matters? Sure, web traffic is an important metric for us as marketers, but so are conversions, retention and engagement. My recommendation would be to look at the broader scope of where your challenges lie today. If you have major challenges with retention and loyalty, then a mobile app could be a perfect solution, and one that would solve a problem that isn’t directly tied to your top-of-funnel traffic.

If I create a mobile app, won’t I be competing with the millions of apps in the app store?

Yes, you will. Mobile apps aren’t a silver bullet…but what is? (If you find one, let me know!) Building and marketing an app is a big initiative that shouldn’t be taken lightly. It will require a launch strategy and a growth plan. That being said, if you’re able to build a creative and engaging experience that your target audience is looking for, you’ll have a direct channel to them that you own, which is something you might not currently have today. Given the volatility of algorithm changes and how they impact social reach and SEO, for example, well worth considering.

If you’re ready to take the next step, and want a framework for how to sketch out the initial concept for your app, check out our post on how to create a user journey map for your app concept.

If you have any questions, feel free to book time with me or a member of the Hatch Apps team here.

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