One of the biggest lures of smartphones has been mobile apps that the Indian youth have been quick to discover. From learning the art of de-stressing in office in five easy steps to how to drape a sari and even finding accurate auto-rickshaw fares while travelling on Indian roads, the mobile app has made all these tasks possible today. As Hemant M Joshi, partner, Deloitte Haskins & Sells, puts in, the usage of mobile apps is no longer restricted to buying an air ticket, playing popular games such as Angry Birds, Temple Run and Candy Crush Saga or transferring money through the use of mobile banking apps from ICICI Bank or HDFC Bank, or locating a restaurant nearby with the help of apps such as Zomato, or even using your smartphone as a source of light through the app known as Flashlight. So, while Tuk Tuk, a global positioning system (GPS) based mobile application, allows one to calculate auto-fare, the Sari app is a learning tool for young women who still havent mastered the art of draping a sari and the Office-yoga mobile app tell you how to keep your nerves in the midst of a Powerpoint presentation.
The idea of launching mobile applications began with online travel portals that wanted to make the entire buying experience simpler and convenient. Gradually, other service providers such as banks,
e-commerce, and hotels launched their own mobile apps, said Joshi.
But what started as a simpler way to provide better service has, in the last few years, turned into an important tool in the struggle to keep consumers engaged. And the gambit has paid off. So much so, that people are spending more time using mobile apps than making calls on their smartphones. Today, an average Indian smartphone consumer spends just 28% of her time on voice calls and text messaging while 72% of her time is spent on activities such as apps, gaming, entertainment and consuming internet related content, according to data collected by Nielsen Informate Mobile Insights.
Apps are all pervasive today an intrinsic part of our mobile experience, integrating themselves into everyday activities from setting alarms to managing budgets to finding our way around. They not only enhance the device capabilities but also give each consumer an opportunity to personalise her handset to specific needs. There is now an app for virtually every consumer need and at the same time, the apps on a
consumers phone screen represent her lifes interest and passion, said Navdeep Manaktala, head of developer experience, Nokia India Sales, a subsidiary of Microsoft Mobile Oy, the wholly owned subsidiary of Microsoft Corporation.
Even as mobile apps have become an integral part of peoples lives, brands are always on the lookout for the right app an app that would directly place a brand in the hearts of consumers. Praveen Sharma, director, performance sales, Asia Pacific at Google, says that from a users standpoint a mobile app should fulfill two important needs.
First, a mobile app should be entertaining. Second, it should have a functional benefit or else, even if a consumer downloads a mobile app out of curiosity, after realising that the app has either no use or limited use, she may simply delete it, says Sharma. As a matter of fact, more than 80% of apps are used only once, because consumers find no long-term value in them.
Deepak Miital, an agile mobile app developer and co-founder of IntelliGrape, one of the leading mobile app developing companies in India, agrees. He says that in India, companies still tend to focus on the features and the design of a mobile app, while in the US the motive is always to provide a better user experience. And this is one of the reasons that despite so many locally made mobile apps launched every month, only a few are used by consumers.
According to the Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations (ICRIER), the size of the mobile apps market in India is currently pegged at $150 million and is expected to touch $626 million by 2016. Interestingly, 50% of the mobile apps used by Indian consumers are global apps. So far in India, the creation of apps has been restricted to service oriented brands such as travel and jobs portals and e-commerce players, in addition to content creators and providers such as news channels NDTV, CNN-IBN apart from general entertainment channels (GEC) such as Colors and Zee TV. For service oriented brands, there is a direct impact of mobile apps on their tangible business outcomes such as sales, revenue, margins, service delivery. Hence, there is a more immediate and obvious need for them. It is a natural transition for them to extend from web to mobile, says Prashant Mehta, vice president, co-lead of mobility, SCG, SapientNitro. A lot of travel portals and e-commerce players are extending discounts to entice consumers to transact on the mobile.
For e-commerce poster boy Flipkart, the mobile app has played an important role in driving sales. Together, the mobile site and the app contribute to more than 50% of our business. The mobile app alone contributes to 20% of our revenue today, said Saran Chatterjee, vice president, products and mobile strategy, Flipkart.
Myntra, the online lifestyle store, offers another example of how the mobile app has caught the imagination of e-shoppers. According to its chief revenue officer Prasad Kompalli, the Myntra app has recorded 300 lakh downloads within four to five weeks of its launch. We we will be crossing the one million-mark in terms of download in a months time. Already, about 12% of our revenue is coming through the app, said Prasad.
Meanwhile, for those in the business of content creation, the mobile app plays a very critical role, especially at a time when the television business is fighting to make money. The mobile app is the part of the NDTV eco-system and is very important to us. Digital is gradually growing and it will be an integral part of peoples life tomorrow, said Vikram Chandra, CEO, NDTV Group. The company claims that its app generates 250 million screen views per month.
As for players such as Zomato that initially began life as an online restaurant guide and later launched its mobile app in 2011, the mobile app is today the primary lifeline of the online portal. So far, the response from our users has been fantastic. Moreover, since the introduction of two new features, FoodFeed and Collections, the number of downloads has increased rapidly. The app has generated over 2.5 million downloads across all platforms including iOS, Android, Windows Phone and BlackBerry, said Alok Jain, chief marketing officer, Zomato.
While many brands have found a perfect partner in mobile apps, there are some that are still in the trial and error phase, especially categories such as fast moving consumer goods (FMCG). According to Joshi of Deloitte Haskins & Sells, the value of transaction is not very high in case of FMCG brands, so a mobile app has little significance for consumer packaged goods (CPG) brands. Mehta of SapientNitro shows a way out. He says that FMCG players should look at apps which will help connect consumers to the higher emotional need that the brand meets. For example, Unilever in the UK has done a great job in creating recipe app, called Recipedia which promotes the companys products in a nuanced way while keeping the value for the consumer at the centre. There are also apps that can be created for social marketing or entertainment. For instance, Coke created an app called Spin-the-bottle. It was a digital version of the age-old favourite game, he added.
Nike has been one of the most successful brands when it comes to launching mobile apps apt for sports lovers. The sportswear brand, which has a running app called Nike+, recently launched a football app. Targeted at soccer players, the app allows one to create matches, apart from providing access to exclusive Nike products. Based on our brand promise, the motive is always to enable players and the sports community. The football app will also be used as the first medium to launch new products and any football related news, said Avinash Pant, marketing director with Nike India.
However, Mohit Hira, CEO, Hungama Digital and digital head, JWT India points out that even as the market is being flooded by a host of mobile apps, not all brands need one. Sacrilegious as it may sound, all brands dont need apps. E-commerce and classified players such as Flipkart and OLX that are doing it arent foolstheyre achieving a purpose because this investment will save them much more in expensive, mass media later. Even advertising agencies have created apps that are invaluable, he said. He says that the JWT Intelligence app is worth looking at, though it hasnt been designed in India.
Even as brands are trying to find a way to monetize mobile apps without driving away customers, till now more than 50% of the apps launched in India are free to download. Hira says that people in India are still reluctant to shell out even R50 for an app but will happily spend ten times that amount on many other indulgences without batting an eyelid.
While one can easily argue that a brand need not earn any revenue from its app, for digital companies such as Zomato or mobile chat companies such as Line or WeChat or Truecaller - a free global phone directory with caller id and call blocker, the mobile app is definitely a source of earning revenue. Googles Sharma says that the relevance of a mobile app differs from brand to brand. For FMCG or consumer goods company, a mobile app is all about promoting a campaign launched to promote a product as opposed to performance marketers, who earn their bread and butter from it, he added.
One model that is currently being followed by performance marketers across the world is advertising. The app market in India is growing at a very significant rate with in-app advertising as the main revenue driver, says Nokias Manaktala. According to International Data Corporation (IDC), this trend is set to further accentuate with in-app advertising projected to account for most of in-app revenue generated by Indian smartphone users by 2017, as compared to 68% in 2013, he added.
Partnerships with telecom service providers and content integration are other ways of earning revenue. Sharad Kapoor, sales head, mobile, India and Middle East at Vdopia Inc, says that the tie-up of general entertainment channel Colors with Tata Motors is a great example of content integration. Colors, which tied up with Tata Motors for its show 24, not only featured the automotive makers sport utility vehicles (SUV) Tata Safari and Storm in the show, the SUVs were featured in the mobile game launched by the same name, 24, he added.
However, Rohit Ohri, executive chairman, Dentsu India Group says that in this world of free apps, there are people who are ready to pay for a mobile app if they find value in it. Citing his own example, Ohri says, I use an app meant for golf players called Golf digest ultimate drill. I had paid R 600 to download the app. People are ready to pay for a mobile app only if they find any incremental value in it, he added.
Analysts say mobile apps still have a long way to go. With smartphone penetration growing, one can expect launch of all kinds of mobile apps. According to a recent study by Technopak, a management consulting firm, India, at present, has 74 million smart phone users. The number of users is expected to increase to 440 million by 2020. Going forward, a variety of apps which will drive engagement is expected to hit the Indian market. But the apps launched in the future will not be driven by variety, but by the desire to fulfill an impulse. Apps will redefine the landscape for a brand, said Naresh Gupta, chief strategy officer and managing partner, Bang in the Middle.