The mobile tsunami wave led by the increasing adoption rates of smartphones which has touched 1 billion and is growing has ensured that no marketeer can ignore the mobile phenomenon. With over 1.2 billion apps in the app stores alone and 60 billion downloads of apps, integration of apps in the marketing strategy has become a compelling necessity. Apps have already surpassed the web when it comes to consumer time-spent, and are second only to time spent watching television. Almost every B2C marketing strategy of large companies comprises of mobile marketing component and apps are integral to the customer engagement process as well as the buying process.
Throughout the lifecycle of engagement of the customer, a B2C firm has the opportunity to creatively optimise the customer experience at various touch points. However this is not necessarily true with B2B marketing strategy despite the decision makers being in constant touch with the mobile devices significantly more than individual consumers. Their firms still rely upon engagements through the traditional means rather than providing mobile optimised experiences across all touch points, including apps, websites, landing pages, email and social media. B2B firms can learn from the long journey of B2C firms with mobile apps when they have figured out how to maximise customer engagement and revenues.
Building apps that are successful and creates stickiness with the customers is a combination of Science and Arts. Investment in building the apps will have to yield results and even after the initial investment there is an ongoing need for investment and nurturing the customer network that the app tries to bring together. Hence B2B firms may find it challenging to get started as the path to the ROI would not be straightforward and would require modifications along the way. In order to make the mobile apps work for marketing, firstly, it is important to think of propositions that would lead to convenience and customer delight. Companies which have products to offer could build apps that provides the convenience of placing the order starting with product related information, pricing details, review of other customers’ experiences, past order history based reminders for reorder as well as new options and shipping details. Convenience of ordering by capturing the details of the product from the barcode data would also delight the customer.
Providing thought leadership content relevant to the prospective and current customers is another useful channel for engaging with the customers through the apps. With frequent travels that B2B customers undertake, they could be delighted if they were to be provided with networking opportunities with others in the industry through apps that could take advantage of the location-aware capabilities of mobile devices. Organisations with large geographically distributed sales force will benefit through apps that could facilitate networking and exchange of ideas or best practices. Organisations planning for events could make it convenient to the participants by providing the schedule, list of speakers with the links to their profiles and most importantly offer networking opportunity with other participants through the app which could also include messages that could be pushed to the social networking sites.
Building the app is the first step but equally important is promotion of the apps and ensuring adoption rates are good and the user base is consistently growing. This involves focus on smart design with interactive features, rigorous testing, reviews by various forums, listening to the user experience, working on their feedbacks and fine tuning the apps to be responsive to version changes and technologies used in the devices. It is important to ensure that apps work both online and offline as at times internet access may not be available at certain locations hence synchronisation of content and usage pattern would be necessary. Detailed analytics of various parameters such as the types of devices being used, engagement time, specific content downloaded, recommendations of the app and frequency of access and other business specific data would be extremely essential in order to realise the maximum returns from the investment made in the
development and maintenance of the apps.
Creating awareness of the apps with the intended audience and constant unobtrusive reminders would be the critical success factors for the apps to become popular. Its not the mere downloads of the apps but acquiring customers profitably is what is important for the firms launching the apps. Therefore inbound marketing strategies such as use of Twitter to discuss the app amongst the intended audience and integration with Facebook are worth considering. Selecting the right name, investing in an icon that has an excellent recall value, optimising the description of the app and testing under different categories and keywords will help in creating a large interested customer base. Owning the presence in the Appstore and making it another channel to inform customers about the best features of the app and what problem it would solve would also help in encouraging larger number of people to become interested in the app. Ultimately when the delighted customers inform others about the positives about the app and bring in more customers to sign up, that’s when the app would have become the real winner.
The writer is CEO, Global Talent Track, a corporate training solutions company