DIGITAL BUSINESS | Are apps the future of digital marketing?

By Mirza Baig

At the time of writing this article – two app-centric buyouts happened within nearly a week of one another: Rakuten (owner of buying the WhatsApp messaging app; so what does this all mean to the marketing industry, plenty actually.

Telcos: for whom the bell tolls

Consider now the simplistic mission of WhatsApp – to be a mobile messaging platform, to be exact a messaging platform WITHOUT advertising, yes, marketing and investor types alike will say this is hearsay, that without advertising dollars to fund and grow the business it will not be viable.

That’s not to say it’s without a price tag, yes, the first year subscription to WhatsApp is free and after that a yearly subscription fee is just 99 cents. Executives at telcos the world over must be shivering at the mere thought of what the future could look like if a Facebook-backed WhatsAp becomes the norm for how we communicate “over the phone”.

Deloitte’s latest TMT Predictions research suggests that overall voice calls are getting shorter from just over three minutes in 2006 to about a minute and 45 seconds in 2011. Hopefully you still call your Mom, though you’re probably texting or using the FB Messenger app or BBM with everyone else.

My share of wallet?

Let’s for a minute though put ourselves in the shoes of the customer, it’s great to remind the corporate heads of share of wallet concept; but let’s not forget at the end of the day, we’re all consumers first and foremost. So, if we all put ourselves in the role of the customer first – why wouldn’t anyone payout a mere 99 cents to pay for an app that let’s easily lets you message your contacts. This is a fundamental shift in marketing.

Especially in the digital age where almost every marketer is now focusing on lead generation, SEO, SEM and content – all for what – to create a funnel so at the end of the day you can build personal relationships with a mass niche.

The reality is, the best brands know that it’s not B2C or B2B it’s H2H – human to human.

“We want advertising” – said no one ever at WhatsApp

How can the best brands create a lasting relationship with a customer: give them something they will want, something with a feel-good value and what’s better than connecting with someone?  This is the secret that the two co-founders of WhatsApp intrinsically understood, that by focusing only on the customer experience and leaving the advertising side of the business out of their work day they could perfect the user experience and technology behind the messaging app.

The oft quoted “Build it and they will come” approach certainly worked with WhatsApp. Spread through word of mouth and the appeal of a universally low price point. Along with a intuitive user experience that works on smartphones and the majority of basic Nokia phones still in circulation in many developing countries, this app will soon enough be business school text book case study course material.

Are Apps the future of digital marketing though? Let me rephrase that and state, emphatically state, that Apps are the future of ALL marketing….

How? What other medium has that Holy Grail approach of gaining such trusted status as to voluntarily place that medium on your most sacred of personal devices: your smartphone?

Ads, especially on a smartphone in its current state are too small to really be effective or are too intrusive…how many times did we really want to see that poker ad or Candy Crush ad while spending time with our child on their ABC – phonics app?

Rethink marketing as relationships not metrics

Marketing’s mission, especially for the brands that get it, is to build relationships by connecting on a human level – think of the recent Coca-Cola America is Beautiful Super Bowl ad or the Red Bull Felix Baumgartner free fall from the edge of space video.

Building relationships by offering utility takes the app experience to a whole new level. Case in point is the US-based, Express app that integrates with you’re the Express credit card so you scan and pay for your jeans or blazers in store, all from your iPhone. (unfortunately for us Canadians, this scan and pay thru your phone and walk-out functionality its still only Stateside… any Canadian banks willing to take up the charge?)

Leaving Canadians out of the scan from your phone and pay feature aside, this is true utility. In other words all of the marketing metrics we all try so hard to achieve with click-thru rates or time-spent or lead-generating conversion funnels – an app, especially an app done well that provides utility (read engagement, loyalty, word-of-mouth and the most important of all metrics overall actual dollars spent on product) could very well be the savior of the marketing industry.

Agree? Disagree? Tweet me @MirzaMB

Publisher turned digital marketer focused on content, engagement and analytics, Mirza Baig  is a self professed tech and comic book geek fostering high-level relationships with CMOs, CIOs and COOs to enable multi-screen / multi-platform digital programs. Mirza is Mash+Media’s Digital & Social Media Strategist. MASH MEDIA creates meaningful dialogue with your customers, wherever they are, 24/7. We’re a full-scale integrated marketing communications firm with advanced digital capabilities focused across the end-to-end customer experience from digital screens to experiential marketing to in-store shopper marketing. Best of all, we drive results for the world’s leading brands.

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