Mobile apps for brands have failed. This is the quite jarring — but not unsurprising — sentiment at many agencies and brands. Despite investments in the development and promotion of branded apps, very few, if any, can be considered a success. Download numbers are dismal and for the consumers who have taken the download bait, their attention span is comparable to that of a goldfish. I get it. The ROI that marketers are seeing is very discouraging.
From a consumer’s point of view, there are a few reasons why I’m not engaging – or even using – branded apps. There is no efficiency increase, no real system of engagement and no true mobility add-ons. So how do brands move from unsuccessful mobile initiatives to results that are worth the investment? As one of the most successful mobile stories of the year, examining the five key characteristics of Uber is a great place to start:
- Mobility: Uber was designed for the mobile-first world. It’s not just a ported version of an existing Web solution. Too often, brands simply replicate other digital solutions, offering no mobile add-ons. The apps that keep users engaged over the long-term will be built for the form factor, taking into account the small screen and leveraging all of the available sensors to provide a true mobile experience.
- Integration: Uber connects with a network of systems and data sources to provide a comprehensive, seamless user experience throughout the entire customer journey – from discovery to payment to reviews. Apps cannot live in silos; they need to simplify the user experience as much as possible. For instance, a retailer app should allow for in-store contactless payments, connect with CRM systems and transaction records to allow for personalized deals.
- Automation: Previously done manually, Uber automates the demand matching workflow for the taxicab industry. The nature of the “always-on” consumer requires automation technology to power marketing efforts. Marketers need to automatically trigger campaigns based on a variety of situational and behavioral factors for millions of individuals. To intervene in consumers’ lives at the right moment, mobile marketing campaigns must be agile, launching when it is relevant for the individual – not the brand.
- Data: Uber figured out how to act on data in real-time. By analyzing the integrated data streams and anticipating customer demand, the company has introduced surge pricing to maintain optimal ratios. Marketers need to adopt predictive and prescriptive analytics to not only anticipate customer behavior but also make this information actionable. For example, a clothing brand could predict which items from the new spring line a customer would be interested in and know that a Free Shipping offer sent Friday afternoon is more likely to motivate a sale.
- Community: Uber has created its own community; users are empowered to rate drivers and drivers can rate consumers. By allowing people to participate and connect with other users, they have a sense of ownership. Brands should find ways to let their users connect with each other, contribute content (in the forms of reviews, photos, etc.) and participate in decision-making, like voting on new app functions or products, such as a new seasonal holiday drink at a coffeehouse.
The customer journey no longer fits into the “funnel” that has guided marketing for decades. The complex new reality mobile has created is one of always-addressable consumers who are increasingly unforgiving of less than ideal experiences. As marketers reinvest in the development of native branded apps in 2014, they should keep Uber in mind – and not just for a ride around town – but as a mobility model to follow.