Commentary

Give Away Apps to Gain Market Share

Today's marketers have to work harder to acquire and retain customers due to the shifting digital landscape. However, marketers can also harness digital interactivity to their advantage by aligning with their customers. Here's a not-so-secret weapon to help win in the marketplace.

An oft-neglected but effective digital marketing tactic is to give away online or mobile apps that complement your products. Why? First, apps are easy on the marketing budget, and have negligible impact on margins. Second, if done right, apps make products more valuable for your customers.  Third, online apps provide an ongoing connection to your customer's experience with your product. 

Moreover, customers are beginning to expect apps, as noted in a recent eMarketer survey (Mobile Web: Best Practices for Retailers, February 2011).

An example helps illustrate this. Imagine you are a brand manager for Weber Grill. You have an assortment of products at various price points for different segments.  But demand might be off -- either because consumers are settling for the no-name brand, or because they are waiting longer to buy.

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A typical offline incentive might be to include a giveaway, such as a pair of grill mitts. Instead, what if you offered free access to a mobile app or Qeb app to customers who register their purchase?  Suppose the app provides recipe ideas, grilling instructions, and temperature guides for meats and vegetables? It turns out that this actually exists! Weber offers "Weber's on the Grill" -- an iPhone and iPad app.

Weber has made a good start, but here are some suggestions to generalize this example. First, don't charge for the app (Weber charges $4.95). Second, extend the app to not only offer recipes, and Facebook sharing (both great), but also offer a way to order accessories (cross sell). Third, include the ability to get fast, online access to customer service thru the app. Taken together, these application features make the experience of owning the grill a "best in class" experience.

A well-designed online app extends and customizes the product --setting it apart from the competition. 

Designing an effective app that is a complementary offer to your product requires exploring these three dimensions:

• Product Knowledge
The app should provide content that helps the buyer know basic facts about the product itself such as installation, user's manual, and Frequently Asked Questions.

• Product Usage
This can be either content or utility that helps the buyer accomplish the job they "hired" the product to do. In the grill example, the larger job is outdoor cooking and entertaining. The app might pull ideas from power users in a community discussion forum.

• Customer Service

Make it easy to get help directly from the manufacturer or retailer. For example, the grill app could send reminders to update your warranty-card info, or three months after purchase, present a discount coupon for a protective cover for winter storage.

Most digital marketing tactics are focused on digitizing traditional media -- moving offline content to online. However, online apps represent a class of truly interactive strategies that can radically improve the customer experience. This applies post-purchase; it is a means to enhance loyalty by showing concern for the customer's needs.

Over time, customers will expect this level of care, and increasingly, brands are discovering digital means to delight customers, not just inspire them to buy.  Can you think of an online app to spur sales?

2 comments about "Give Away Apps to Gain Market Share ".
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  1. Ernest Ramos from JMango, June 23, 2011 at 5:31 a.m.

    This works extremely well for app developers and app stores as well. Just look at the Amazon App Store for Android devices. A lot of people are now using this service, and a lot of them were pulled in by the free app of the day promos.

  2. Marcus Tewksbury from Alterian, June 25, 2011 at 9:33 a.m.

    No doubt, mobile apps and tablet apps are going to rapidly become a huge factor in short term client relationship management. I think it's in one of Qualman's recent videos that the app market surpassed 1B downloads in 9 months - that's faster adoption than Internet, or heralded FaceBook.

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