It seems that no matter what you can imagine, “there’s an app for that.” Unfortunately, many of the one million apps floating around in cyberspace are quite useless. That sad fact of app life is reflected in the recent report by Localytics that shows more than a quarter of all apps are used only once and never again! On the other hand, the relatively few apps that are consummately useful become a valid reason to actually own a smartphone. Can any iPhone user live without their Pandora or Yelp?
Government: There’s an App for That
Like a freshly fallen snow over a washboard’s surface the sheer number of apps seems to have filled out every imaginable nook and niche. This app proliferation has also found its way into the inner workings of government. A site entitled Civic Commons Marketplace is a type of app store for the municipal administrator. Handily divided up into 18 functions such as Planning & Development; Public Works & Utilities; and Public Safety & Emergency Management, the site/store is a central clearing house for government and civic apps of every kind.
Not all of the apps are strictly intended for government administrators. Recollect reminds you through your choice of email, Twitter, SMS or even phone call that the next day is your scheduled garbage pickup; and SpotHero allows anyone to reserve a favorite parking spot in notoriously traffic-jammed Chicago. Should you fail to locate a spot at all and park in a prohibited space on W. Van Buren St. you might need WasMyCarTowed, which will reassure you that it wasn’t stolen… but you owe a $210 impound fee.
Don’t Overpromote in Apps
Online marketers from the major international corporation all the way down to the work at home mom can also take advantage of this ravenous app-etite for information by devising their own apps. There was a time when every business had to have email, then they had to have a web page, then they had to have a social media
presence… and now you have to have an app! The app-using world generally frowns on apps that are specifically engineered to promote a company’s products or service in too blatant a manner, so the provision of information (no matter how discretionary) that is in some way coherent with your field could help drive customers to further engage with your brand.
App = Branding
Some small business online marketers may be scratching their heads on this one. “Lemme get this straight, I have to spend money to develop, program and market an app that doesn’t directly sell my product?” The short answer is yes. The key to obtaining market advantage with an app is your branding. Every time a user launches the app, they’ll see your logo and of course there will be a link available that will take them to your sales website. Consider it an extra layer of customer interaction. Your website takes your prospects to your brick and mortar store or warehouse, and an app takes your customer to your website.
App or Website?
Another question that arises among the app tyros is exactly what the difference is between a website and an app. There is no short answer for this one, as the functionality of many apps overlap(p)s with websites to the point where the two become indistinguishable. Generally, apps take advantage of various features that are present directly on the user’s mobile device, such as GPS and camera. However, there are many apps that could just as easily have been set up in a browser, and many mobile websites that could have been developed as downloadable apps. Confused yet? Refer to your friendly neighborhood app programmer.
Naturally, there are as many different functions for apps as there are stars in the sky (or apps in Apple’s App Store) so the best way to determine which type of app can best fulfill your marketing goals is to apply ample wads of creativity leveraged by a comprehension of your customers' needs.