Commentary

Time To Get On The Apps Bandwagon

When you see someone mesmerized by their smartphone, they probably aren't responding to email; it's more likely they're interacting with an app. In fact, we're all becoming more accustomed to clicking apps to get news, receive offers or perform tasks. Apps are the future, and it's time for marketers to get on the apps bandwagon.

According a recent report, "Smartphone Industry Pulse February 2010," by Flurry, a mobile analytics company, 58 new companies are launching iPhone apps each day! But there's no reason this explosion must or should be limited to smartphones. The app phenomenon can and will transform the Web as well.

Online, video transforms static content into something equally or more engaging than an app. An entirely new class of apps is emerging that is video-enabled. According to TechTarget, 72% of IT buyers use video to research IT purchasing decisions. And the numbers are even higher outside of IT. Playing off that interest, video-enabled marketing apps can easily combine the power of video with interactivity to convert prospects at a much higher rate than with traditional tools. And, unlike iPhone apps, you don't need special skills to get started.

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2010 will be a big year for video. Today, armed with just a Cisco Flip Camera or Kodak Zi8, a marketer can create a short, video-enabled marketing app with a distinct call to action - such as prompting the viewer to download a free trial or register for a Webinar - that is easily tracked and measured.

So how can marketers get started? It's best to begin with simple programs where you can inexpensively test the effectiveness of video and compare ROI. Companies are already experimenting around three areas: event promotion, customer testimonials and product announcements.

Event Promotion


Many companies rely heavily on webinars and events to engage prospects, customers and partners. But attendance at online and live events is down, and companies are looking for ways to capture more interest. In less than an hour, you can tape a host or presenter, add interactivity (including social networking links about the person) and create a short video app to promote the event. Including a video teaser in the webinar invite and event landing page can increase conversion by 30% or more. Post event, the content can be placed in an app and broken into key topic areas with calls to action, making it much more compelling and engaging for the viewer, resulting in further conversions.

Customer Testimonials


Many companies use online customer case studies to validate products and services and support the sales process. But prospects are now inured to text and graphics, which fail to capture authentic insight and enthusiasm. Now, however, it's possible to convey emotion and authenticity through video. Successful digital marketers are deploying video-enabled apps that feature customers telling their stories alongside interactive elements that encourage users to click for more information or learn more about the person speaking. Marketers can create this enhanced experience in hours with calls to action that offer a return on investment significantly higher than standard testimonials achieve today.

Product Announcements

Another area where video shines is communicating product announcements in a more compelling and engaging way. Unique to traditional product collateral of the past, especially standard text descriptions seen on most sites, video-enabled apps funnel interest deeper into the organization. By "branching" the video, which gives users control over the experience, it's possible to create a more personalized interaction where the prospect tells a marketer a lot about their interests by how they interact with the video app. So, for an extra hour or so of work by the marketer, a vanilla product announcement is turned into a powerful engagement tool that simultaneously tells a story and pulls prospects in for targeted follow-up and lead-nurturing.

8 comments about "Time To Get On The Apps Bandwagon ".
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  1. Ruth Barrett from EarthSayers.tv, March 16, 2010 at 2:45 p.m.

    Am in slow reading group this morning. Can you cite examples of a video-enabled app? Who is writing these apps?

  2. Thom Kennon from Free Radicals, March 16, 2010 at 3:02 p.m.

    I actually think apps will soon be creaky artifacts of this transitional age between robust fixed web computing and the future of mobile web computing.

    These future mobile OS and software suites will transparently include & support much if not all of the one-off utilities and functions we currently require a whole mess of unconnected and disparate standalone apps to perform and enjoy. Yuck - it's a chocolate (access/identity) mess!...

    Now you start to see where Google's been heading with with Android and Google Docs and Chrome and their cloud, dontcha?...

    The app-makers of today are enjoying a brief but brilliant run in the solo sun--- my guess is that within 3-5 years, when all mobile devices are to some degree 'smart', one- off "apps" will seem as quaint and old-fashioned as our separate logins to Prodigy, Compuserve and sundry BBSs were before the advent of browsers.

    bigevidence.blogspot.com

  3. Rich Reader from WOMbuzz, March 16, 2010 at 3:17 p.m.

    Beyond event promotion, customer testimonials, and product announcements, online video is being used to follow through on events in fan pages and in the online communities where people discuss brands. In a sense, fan pages and online communities are becoming free-form apps around which Brand-created content mixes it up with User-created content in a platform where agency insecurities and taboos are not dictating the evolving relationship between a brand and its' tribe. I'm in the follow-through right now for #NapaValleyTweetup, sponsored by Robert Mondavi, and like most other fans, relishing the openness.

  4. Cliff Pollan from VisibleGains, March 16, 2010 at 4:26 p.m.

    Ruth Ann -

    We provide tools and are writing apps, but the possibilities are endless.

    Cliff

  5. Jimm Fox from One Market Media, March 16, 2010 at 11:04 p.m.

    Cliff, I couldn't agree more. Here is a list of 42 different ways companies are using web video today: http://www.onemarketmedia.com/blog/2009/12/42-ways-to-use-video-to-grow-your-business/

  6. Mark Laudi from Hong Bao Media (Holdings) Pte Ltd, March 17, 2010 at 10:18 a.m.

    Cliff, like you I'm on the sell side of the online video equation, and I agree that apps are a great way to engage viewers, and to deliver video.

    But - reality check - why would anyone download an app to their phone just so they can see customer testimonials? Or to sign up for an event?

    What is the compelling, "must-have it right here, right now" value proposition?

    Where is the reward - real or perceived - for going through the hassle of installing an app on your phone?

    What is the problem you're solving (I mean for the end user, not the companies commissioning you to build apps)?

    While I'm at it, I've seen Jimm Fox's "42 ways" on numerous websites and while those ideas are valuable tactically, they are tragically devoid of strategy and bankable revenue outcomes for the companies who should supposedly produce this content.

    Cliff, at least you finally hit on what others in our business haven't: there has to be a call-to-action for content to be really useful, and to go beyond "nice-to-have".

    Finally, I'm growing a little tired of the "DIY video" crowd, exalting marketing managers to become television producers. Ask anyone in television and they'll tell you how much effort goes into producing something that is both credible and appealing.

    The amateur in-house productions I have the misfortune of stumbling across from time to time is not just embarassing for those involved, but damaging for the brands.

    C'mon guys - the sooner we can go beyond "wouldn't it be cool if..." ideas to "this will drive revenue in the following, measurable, market-proven ways" ideas, backed by credible research and hard-and-fast case studies, the better for our customers collectively, and the better for us as an industry.

  7. Jonathan Mirow from BroadbandVideo, Inc., March 17, 2010 at 4:27 p.m.

    Oooh! I wanna download an App so I can watch video some product-jockey shot on his Flip. Hold me back, Martha - this is gonna be big. Hello, people download apps that do things that their current phone OS doesn't do, like find local Pizza places or Movie times. There is one "master app" for cat-barf video - it's called YouTube and I agree wholeheartedly with the guy from Wunderman - Apps will appear as quaint memories when the feature-sets of smartphones stabilize. In fact, the only reason apps really exist is because the iPhone isn't open-source. Droid rules, dontcha know.

  8. Scott Bauman from Greenough Communications, March 19, 2010 at 3:42 p.m.

    I have been doing work with VisibleGains, so there's my disclosure. I think some of the commenters missed Cliff's point. He's saying that marketers can learn from the popularity of mobile apps (and how they engage users) to create apps, or app-like videos with interactivity, that marketers can deploy online, not on phones. This would mean, for example, using a video-enabled app to promote an upcoming webinar (the app would be used in the outbound email campaign and posted to an online landing page, for example). So, I see "app" being used here as proxy for easy to build, execute and measure, all things that I know marketers want to hear when they think of ways to use video more effectively.

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