With mobile technology being the current go-to information platform, many sustainable brands — from global icons to mid-size and entrepreneurial ventures — are developing apps as a means of turning their social good message into something more visible and interactive. Marilyn Simes, president of Digital Instincts, a digital marketing agency, provides an expert’s perspective on what companies should know about their customers before creating a sustainable app.
Establish your goals, objectives and budget
“It’s easy to get excited about apps,” says Simes. “We brainstorm new ideas and clients bring in their own. However, these are irrelevant if they are not pertinent to the target audience.” Apps can be used to help guide change from within an organization or to encourage the right behavior from a customer base. First, you must find out if targets are on iPhone or Android and if they use mobile apps, Simes advises. Apps must also be continually updated with fresh content once they are activated. Does your company have enough exciting content as well as the resources to produce it and maintain it for a long period of time?
Set up benchmarks to track success; this may include the number of downloads and unique users (so you can clue in to those who use the app once but never return). Other key measurements include the number of unique app users over a specific time period as well as an active user rate (number of users versus download rate).
The American Cleaning Institute, a trade association whose members are producers of household, industrial, and institutional cleaning products, notes that their iSTREEM app (which predicts the concentration of chemicals used in "down-the-drain" products) covers more than 10,000 wastewater treatment plants and 200,000 river miles across the United States. It promotes product stewardship and regulatory compliance, topics of great industry concern.
Establish a budget and stick with it. App development costs can get expensive depending on a number of factors that vary from the app’s content, data integration feeds and the selection of the development team. It’s important to remember that an app that is easy to use and simple to consume will achieve operational excellence and, ultimately, a profitable new mobile business audience.
What do targeted users want?
“Be singularly focused on the end user when developing an app,” reminds Simes. She suggests putting yourself in the user’s place and also considering whether the goal of your app to engage a business or consumer audience? Do you have the ability to create a user focus group to better understand audience needs and experience? For green marketers, this is a valuable resource that can help to fine-tune the app experience and also help promote it with like-minded individuals.
Some organizations use a free trial period to garner interest and use. The Pharos Project is a database created by the Healthy Building Network to help builders position themselves as eco-focused and avoid being accused of greenwashing. With more than 1,367 products profiled in the database, it is a comprehensive source of high value to its target audience. Currently used by about 300 companies to manage more than 50 million square feet of real estate, it may be tried out by individuals for 30 days at no charge. After the trial period, the Pharos Project subscription costs $17 a month, although there are some subscription options.
Here are some tips to guide your creation of a sustainable app:
1. Stay on track and focused by developing an app that matches your mission statement.
2. Develop apps that do something useful and/or have a purpose, so that customers will want to use them on a regular basis.
3. Use apps to expand your outreach to new customers, especially from younger generations who are early adopters.
We’ll be exploring other unique challenges of building and promoting apps for sustainable brands in future posts. If you have specific questions, please share them with me here.