How to evolve your mobile marketing strategy

Mobile apps have become a must-have for brands in the smartphone era. But how do you ensure yours actually sticks with customers?


While Nike achieved this with its Nike+ Run Club, few others have succeeded. The task is made more difficult for product companies that engage with consumers infrequently, or where that engagement is mediated through a retailer.

Cochrane says the goal should be to get consumers to ‘check in’, through creating content and community. In this way, he believes brands can create relationships around even mundane but essential products such as toothpaste.

“They are not just selling toothpaste, they actually taking care of you in terms of your oral health,” Cochrane says. “What is the brand promise, and how are you going to reinvent the services for your consumer to have a new relationship with them? And how are you going to maintain that relationship with them over their lifetime and make it habit forming?

“You survive by creating a real community around your customer.”

This might also mean thinking seriously about the level of interaction a brand can expect to maintain on an ongoing basis. According to head of advisory and solution at design and development agency, ThoughtWorks, Daniel McMahon, this might mean ditching the duration of an interaction in favour of its repetition.

While some app experiences see the consumer adopt a ‘discovery’ mindset – such as when Web browsing or interacting on social media – at other times they are adopting a ‘need’ mindset. McMahon says this is well demonstrated by food service apps such as Uber Eats.

“Those brands are really at the forefront of trying to drive down that time on screen, because less time spent on screen to get a successful outcome maximises the value of that moment with the customer,” he explains. “On the other hand there are those moments of discovery where I just want to immerse myself in something and want to learn something new.”

McMahon also points to fitness apps such as Strava, which align with the ‘need’ category. While they might only be actively used for a handful of minutes each week, they play an important part in the life of the consumer.

“It is a really important part of my world, but that is not necessarily manifested in screen time,” McMahon says. “The frequency of the interaction builds the strength of the relationship.”

Human-centred thinking

Not surprisingly then, McMahon says human-centred design is playing a crucial role in helping brands understand the role they can play.

“The best brands are doing that continuously because they assume that the world isn’t static and they will need to continue to gain insight into that community of people that they serve,” he says.

But for many brands, time is running out. With the Internet and app economies only making room for a small number of winners in each category, many brands have a limited window of opportunity should they wish to avoid their apps being cast into the ranks of the zombies.

And just as Dunbar’s number sets the number of individuals with whom any one person can maintain stable relationships with at 150, Cochrane postulates the maximum number of brand relationships we might want to maintain on our phone as no more than 30.

“All of us at some point in time are going to make the decision that there are some brands we know and trust and are speaking to as a person in order to fulfil our daily needs and live a certain aspiration lifestyle,” Cochrane says. “They are the companies I really need to live my life – how do I go on vacation, how do I do business travel, how do I eat in my home, how do I eat outside my home, and so on.

“There are certain brands I will just know and trust and they will be in my phone. So I will be part of their loyalty and rewards program and they will know everything about me.”

And then there is everything else.

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