Ever use an “app?” If you have a smartphone you probably have. The more iphones, Android phones and even Blackberries there are in people’s hands, the more “apps” people want for them.“App” is short of application, by the way – think of it as a mini software program. Apple’s iphone / ipod touch app store is the biggest player in this exploding industry, offering thousands of apps that feature everything from Tetris to time sheets. People with mini computers want mini programs for them, after all.
It didn’t take long for savvy businesspeople to understand that if your smartphone can surf the web and play games, it can also do more “useful” tasks. A natural extension was multimedia networks like ESPN offering specific sports updates to users in real-time. The next step was a no-brainer – an app that gives helpful information about a specific product or business. For example, the myStarbucks app lets you peruse the menu, get nutritional information and even store hours and amenities – all updated in real time. That’s a big deal to coffee junkies. It’s free to users, but it’s worth millions to Starbucks – especially since it’s consistently in the Top 20 of itunes most downloaded apps.
Target’s app let’s you make your own shopping lists and log onto their gift registries. Amazon’s app gives you a customized shopping experience. American Greetings has a free app that lets you pick out and send digital greeting cards. Geico has an app that let’s you pay your insurance bills, gives you advice in the event of an accident and even helps you find a taxi or a rental. Eukanuba’s app helps you to find off-leash dog parks (but still features the Eukanuba logo prominently). You get the idea.
Right now, the app world is mainly ruled by bigger companies. Why? Because you need a software/web developer to write an app (it is software, after all). It’s not always a big job, but it can be tricky. As with most innovations, however, the more people get the hang of apps, the more they are becoming a reality for smaller businesses. Got a restaurant? Why not keep an updated menu on a small app. Maybe you could even send updates on specials if people opt in. Got a bed and breakfast? How about an app that features maps that help you explore the city you are located in. That’s extremely interactive marketing!
Think about it, and you’ll soon come up with some of your own ideas. It’s a great new way for companies to offer more than just another sales message.