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Why Most Branded Apps Fail

David Murphy

According to a study published by Deloitte, 80 per cent of branded apps struggle to get even 1,000 downloads. And yet, according to a different study from Distimo, 92 per cent of top global brands from Interbrand have presence on apple’s app store. This means that just about everyone is trying, but very few are succeeding.

So what are brands trying to achieve by having an app?Apps are expected to enhance sales and improve engagement. But more importantly, branded apps are expected to deliver the brand promise and add value to the customer experience.

As we know from the Deloitte study, very few apps get the multiple millions of downloads every brand wants. But downloads aren’t enough. Most organizations measure number of downloads as a success parameter of an app. However, as per a recent study, users download an average of 65 apps on their phone, but use only a few for daily business. This points to the fact that those apps which become part of their daily life are the most valuable.

So why do organizations fail in creating compelling apps? I believe there are five principal reasons, as follows:

Misplaced goals
Right now, lots of organizations are new to mobile. Getting an app into the app store is seen as “something to do”, a box to be ticked. We have a web site, we need an app. Executives from different departments have different ideas as to what they want the app to do. This jumble of ideas and objectives creates budgets for building apps, but a poor vision of what the purpose of such apps are.

Placing the user last
Another outgrowth of the organizational politics is that different business groups fight over the app’s user interface. One of our customer’s in-house UX designer said that he had business units “fighting for placement in my menu bar”. A major issue is that these political fights rarely result in a user-centric perspective.

What a lot of companies fail to understand that is with around 1.5m apps across Google Play and iTunes alone, the user has a lot of choice over what they put on their phones, and that the centre of their universe is not your brand. As soon as you have issues with your user experience, they will drop you like a hot rock.

The IT department is too slow
Mobile creates a “collision” between IT and Marketing. IT has traditionally been the domain of technology, but Marketing is in charge of the brand and human factors. Successful apps navigate the human factors through technology. We’ve found that most organizations are poorly prepared for this collision.
Most IT departments are not used to working at the blistering “update every two weeks” agile pace of the app store. Update or die. Some IT departments can take two weeks just to iterate a draft of a spec. document and get approvals.

Marketing is too fast
I overheard an IT person at a conference talking dismissively about marketing’s “throwaway” apps. Of course when marketing spends technology money without considering the longevity of the investment, this chafes the tech people. Marketing works on the “campaign calendar” and thinks of apps in terms of media buying. IT people have trouble working with folks like this.
Unfortunately the marriage between IT and Marketing must be made into a happy one. Apple, the most valuable company in the world, uses this combination to disrupt the competition and connect the Cloud (long-lasting Information Technology) with branded consumer user experiences (hot, trendy, social and viral content). At Photon, we call this “Cloud-to-Consumer User Experiences” or C2C-UX for short.

Choosing the wrong people
Many organizations outsource their problems, but this makes things worse. Most outsourcers are in a poor position to understand the creative needs on the marketing side, while delivering the latest technology and connecting it back through core IT systems.
At Photon, we help our customers to cross the deep divide between IT department’s core cloud based services and Marketing department’s explosive mix of social, mobile, local and viral based user centric experiences. In our opinion, winning branded apps are a result of perfect balance between engineering and design.

Srinivas Balasubramanian is CEO of Photon Infotech

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