Saving Abandoned Brand Mobile Apps

There’s a graveyard of brand apps that were a little more than a flash in the pan in terms of repeat usage from consumers. And the reason for this is simple. The majority of brand apps serve little or no utility at all to users.

The key, unsurprisingly, is making apps that are based more on long-term utility (see Vail Resorts’ EpicMix) rather than campaign one-offs. The tradeoff is that true brand platforms require a mix of departments while most brand apps originate from marketing departments and are geared to specific campaigns.

“Utility apps have broken the path for the app world,” said Yvonne Caravia, chief experience officer for Mobients, a mobile design and strategy agency. “People who are on the go want to get stuff done quickly, and having a branded app that provides some sort of utility is a good way to get them coming back over and over again.

A study by Localytics found that just one in four mobile apps are never used again after being downloaded. The same study also found that 26 percent of apps aren’t used more than once.

It’s tough to figure out what it will take to get a consumer coming back for more. A lot of entertainment apps do well in terms of downloads, but once consumers interact with the content once or twice. There’s only so many times people will use the Heineken Track Your Bud app, to see where their bottle of beer came from. On the other hand, apps that provide a utility, some sort of value for the consumer, are seeing high engagement numbers among users coming back for more.

“Tracking downloads is often a first step to gauging an app’s success, but download stats often provide an incomplete and inflated view,” Localytics says in its report on app usage. “High download numbers always feel great, but if those customers never open the app or abandon it after just a few uses, those high download numbers are really part of a high churn rate.”

It all comes down to an app being an offshoot of a larger customer-engagement strategy rather than just ticking a check box. Some good examples of apps that are likely getting a lot of repeat usage, due to their evergreen utility features, are Walgreens’ app that allows consumers to schedule prescription refills, Zyrtec’s Allergy Cast, REI’s Snow Report, Kraft’s iFood Assistant and Clorox’s MyStain app.

“We realized very early on that the mobile platform was a very effective bridge between the online and the store experience,” said Abhi Dhar, chief technology officer for e-commerce at Walgreens. “In the pursuit of the ideal multichannel experience for our customers, we built upon the heritage of our brand as America’s ubiquitous, trusted and convenient drugstore and married that with the capabilities that the mobile platform brought to us.”

Here are a few apps that have proven they’re built for the long haul, not a short blip.

The Walgreens app isn’t just another retail app that encourages purchase. The app provides consumers with several utilities. The first is the ability to refill prescriptions. No one wants to stand in line at the pharmacy and then sit there and wait for the prescription to be filled. The app not only lets consumers scan their medication to get it refilled, but also notifies consumers when the medication is ready to be picked up. Another interesting feature of the app is the Quick Prints tool. App users can select pictures from their phones, send them to Walgreens to get printed and then pick them up in an hour. The Pill Reminder within the app is a handy feature as well, reminding consumers when they need to take their medication. Sure, the Walgreens app lets consumers browse the retailer’s online products, which can be bought through the app, but that isn’t the only focus.

Zyrtec’s Allergy Cast
The allergy fighter is helping consumers with allergies by giving them access to the forecast for the day along with the day’s top allergens. The app also helps consumers with relieving indoor and outdoor allergy symptoms. The app isn’t heavily branded and is something that its target would visit regularly.

Kraft iFood Assistant
This app’s video how-tos, recipe box and no-hassle shopping feature is what makes it such a big win among consumers. The app carefully incorporates Kraft food products in a way that doesn’t feel like advertising at all. On the contrary, the app actually helps consumers figure out what’s for dinner, making a shopping list and even showing consumers what stores near them sell these items. The functions that has gotten the iFood Assistant rave reviews.

REI Snow Report
REI’s snow-sport loving consumers are truly appreciative of the brand’s Snow Report app, which reports on the weather conditions at various ski resorts in the United States. What’s great about the app is most consumers that are planning an excursion for the weekend with friends at a ski resort are emailing ideas back and forth. With the ski report app’s sharing functionality, users can share conditions with friends on Facebook, Twitter and via email. Once at the resort, consumers can use the app to view cameras and stay in touch with participating mountain Twitter feeds. Forgot to pack a hat? A store locator shows stores near the resort that sell what you need. This app is definitely contextually relevant to the REI customer.

Clorox MyStain
It’s happened to the best of us. Going out to dinner with friends, spilling a whole glass of wine on that new white shirt. Clorox’s MyStain app is there to the rescue. It gives consumers tips and tricks on how to remove the toughest stains. There’s a library of stains in alphabetical order.

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