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THINK Marketing

Rethinking mobile customer behavior: Michael Trapani on brands breaking their app icon bonds

By , March 17, 2017
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It’s no surprise that smartphone adoption is growing — more than 80 percent of all mobile phone users had smartphones in 2016. Correspondingly, there’s been no letup in the number of apps created for all those smartphones. The Google Play Store surpassed 2.6 million apps late last year, and Apple’s App Store came in second with 2 million available apps. One would think apps are more popular than ever, but there’s more to the story.

Standing out in a crowd

Not everyone downloads apps. Nearly half of all smartphone users don’t download any apps in a month, while the average user downloads only two. While we haven’t reached peak app use yet, mobile customer behavior is changing, and it’s harder than ever for an app to be seen.

Increasingly, more smartphone users are spending their time on core apps that serve multiple functions, like chat apps, browsers or social media apps — and roughly 80 percent of app usage is spent within a user’s top three apps. These core apps are owned by a few of the largest internet players. In response to this market shift, more apps are breaking the bonds of their app icons, says Michael Trapani, product marketing manager, mobile, IBM Watson Marketing.

The everything-to-everybody app

Gone are the days when brands could create an app and expect customers to flock. As a result, more developers are including their services within other apps, artificial intelligence assistants or even within mobile operating systems. For instance, companies like OpenTable, Uber and Venmo are integrating their apps within Amazon Alexa, Google Allo, Google Assistant, Apple iMessage, Tencent WeChat, chat bots and map apps.

Many consumers no longer want a phone full of apps when they can choose other full-function apps. Take Tencent-owned WeChat, the massively popular Chinese chat app that surpassed 700 million monthly active users (MAUs) last year. It’s the everything-to-everybody app. People use it to chat with friends and colleagues, order dinner, play the lottery, pick out clothes, book tickets, control smart devices at home, play video games, balance their checkbook and more.

A new era of mobile development

Trapani expects this trend to continue and present a new opportunity for customer engagement. How can you take advantage of this shift? The first step is knowing where your customers spend their time. Then consider how you can put your app’s capabilities in those places.

For instance, think about how your customers might take advantage of your business or service through a map application like Google Maps, Waze or Apple Map. If you’re a hotel, you might offer customers the ability to book a room right from within that map’s app or to reserve a table at your restaurant.

Think about your current process. If you’re a retailer, does that involve going into your app, finding the accounts page, drilling down to order status, tapping on the order, then finally reaching order status? Think how you might use a chat bot or AI assistant instead to streamline the process. For example, would it enhance the customer experience if your contacts could simply open a chat bot and ask, “Where’s my order?”

Trapani says, “The places in which we can reach our customers are growing, not shrinking. The brands that will be a part of this future are the brands that think about their apps as more than just icons, but rather as utilities that can be applied in every part of a customer’s life.”

Watch as Michael Trapani, Product Marketing Manager, Mobile, IBM Watson Marketing offers advice on how brands can think outside the icon:

For more on the trends that are shaping marketing today, please check out IBM’s “10 Key Marketing Trends for 2017 and Ideas for Exceeding Customer Expectations” ebook.

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