How can you make an app actually stand out?

How can you make an app actually stand out?

Remember one of Apple’s first smartphone slogans? “There’s An App For That?” It couldn’t be truer these days. There’s over a million in each major store (Apple and Android), and those numbers grow daily.

Standing out among a million of anything is pretty hard, which begs the question: how do you get a mobile app to stand out?

Step 1: Understanding how people typically find apps

This will vary by industry or the service you provided, but recent research from Think with Google offers some insights. Namely:

25% of app users discover an app through search
Search ads are also one of the more effective formats.

But what if you don’t have a strong PPC budget or the ability to bring in an SEO expert? At that point, social media — typically free and possible to get attention if you think a bit outside the box — becomes an important resource for mobile app marketing. And for social media to work properly, you’ll need content (otherwise, what else are you sharing?).

At this point, the ecosystem for mobile app marketing looks like:

SEO
PPC
Social Media
Content Marketing

You should be seeing by now that mobile app marketing is essentially a holistic digital experience — which explains why so many companies create apps without a plan for marketing them (because it can seem overwhelming in the midst of other day-to-day tasks) or why half of the companies still didn’t have an app in early 2014 (again, seems like a daunting process).

We can make this process easier for you — yes, it’s complex and holistic, but it starts with one important element, and that’s our Step 2.

Step 2: Understand your value and how that could be conveyed in an app

You might have seen this graphic in other posts or presentations, and we apologize for the brief curse word, but here goes:

Many companies get confused here and think what they sell is their product or service. No. In fact, you sell what your product can do for someone’s life. That applies whether you work in plumber routing apps, health care apps, productivity apps, or gaming apps. You’re not actually selling the product; you’re selling the value of the product/service in the life of the end customer.

All marketing — but especially app marketing, which is a very crowded world — starts from understanding your value, figuring out a story around the value, and then finding ways to tell that story to a consumer. Regarding apps, the root of the story you’re telling is simple: if you download this app, this value will always be with you so long as you have your phone. (Which for most people is all the time.)

You can brainstorm this, white-board this, or take any other collaborative team approach that’s best for your organization — but the most important steps to begin any mobile app marketing process are:

Understanding your value
Figuring out stories around that value
Determining how to tell those stories
Applying that out across different mediums and approaches

Step 3: Embracing the holistic digital package

If you look above, our focal points to get your app out into the world are going to be:

SEO
Search ads/PPC
Social Media
Content Marketing

We’re going to start with the value prop. Let’s say you make an app that helps small businesses schedule technicians out to customers (electricians, plumbers, cable repair, etc.)

You start with value points, such as:

Makes people’s lives easier
Customers can track where their tech is/understand how their appointment is being affected
Stores customer info that the tech can access (value for the business)
Potentially has invoicing capabilities
Etc.

Once you’ve outlined the points of value, you need to determine how to fit them within the holistic digital ecosystem.

For SEO, you need a certain degree of technical functionality around keywords, headers, density, titles, and page data. But you also need to do keyword research and understand terms people are actually searching that might lead them to your app. Those are your target keywords. There’s no point in targeting “scheduling solutions” if everyone and their mother is Googling “scheduling apps,” right?

For search ads/PPC, again you need an idea about keyword search volume and about keyword conversion rates; you can find this information via Google itself (Keyword Planner) or via a host of third-party sites such as WordStream. You also need to figure out how to convey your value in a short search ad. Search ads are huge in the travel app community, for example. Let’s say someone is looking for a hotel room in Cincinnati and gets an add for your app. If they travel a lot, but Cincinnati is just one stop, they’ll probably ignore your ad if it seems like it’s very Cincinnati-focused. But if it seems universally relevant (“easy room finds for business travelers on short notice”), they’ll probably download it. Language is important to PPC as much as functionality is.

For social media, remember the first word: social. It’s not about selling like crazy or pushing product. Again it comes back to value. What’s the value of your app and how can you convey that? And if people are talking about or discussing needs relative to what your app can do … jump in the convos. This is called “social listening,” and it can work. People get very busy and don’t always have time to research every ideal app for the challenges they’re trying to solve. If you appear in a Twitter convo and solve a problem for them, most people will give your app a look.

For content marketing, again: value. It’s not about pushing out reams and reams of content. It’s about figuring out who might want your app and writing/designing content they would likely be interested in. You’ll whiff sometimes, sure — no one bats 1.000 on content marketing anywhere — but the surest path to failure is overproducing just to “have a lot of content.” A lot of content doesn’t help at all unless it’s targeted on who might actually want your app.

We haven’t even touched yet on e-mail marketing, and that’s another large component of getting your app in front of people — especially if your company’s marketing team has a whole has embraced e-mail and developed a mostly-robust list.

By this point, you might be a bit overwhelmed by the different tactics you can employ to stand out in a crowded App Store. And that’s going to lead to our next post! Next time out, we’ll focus more on social media marketing and driving that experience forward. Many small businesses try to experiment with social media, don’t see the returns they want, and abandon it quickly. It doesn’t have to be that way! You can be successful, but it requires a bit of context, a bit of strategy, and a bit of targeting.

AR vs VR

AR vs VR

Augmented reality is becoming a larger and larger part of the brand landscape now. Before we get too deep down the augmented reality (AR) rabbit hole, let’s do a quick vocabulary lesson — because there are other, somewhat-similar terms that often get confused.

First, let’s distinguish between AR and virtual reality, or VR. AR is the blending of virtual reality with real life; developers create images and applications that blend in with the world around the user. The most commonly known version of augmented reality in 2016 was Pokemon Go, which broke almost all Apple download records and likely created a rush for more brands to interact with AR. Virtual reality, by contrast, is the creation of a virtual world that users can interact with — by definition, it’s going to be different than augmented reality and not contain many elements from the existing world we see every day. Virtual reality is probably a little farther off in terms of driving business and brand behavior, but Oculus Rift (a well-known VR platform) being purchased by Facebook was a step in that direction.

The final component is artificial intelligence or AI. This refers to machines who learn from experience and repetition. Presently, you’re seeing this mostly with chatbots — but in the future, AI will shape much of how business is done.

Back to augmented reality. While the market is small now, it might grow to $90 billion by 2020. Brands are rushing into the space — in part because of the huge success of Pokemon Go, and in part because it’s a next logical step in our continued digital evolution. How exactly are brands working with augmented reality? Here are a few examples.

It may soon be in your iPhone camera: Apple is working on this with teams from several startups it recently acquired. This would allow, for example, a view of a city street to be overlaid with directions, price points for nearby restaurants, coupons, or — wait for it — some type of animated creature to make you giggle.

Smart glasses: At the same time Apple is working on integrating augmented reality into their phone cameras, they’re supposedly also working on “smart glasses.” This isn’t necessarily a surprise, as the biggest tech companies out there are working on the same. Facebook has one in the pipeline, as does Snapchat. (In a nice hipster throwback move, Snapchat will make their glasses available in vending machines.)

The smart glasses concept for brands will be the next tier of “making sure you’re on Google Maps” from 5-10 years ago. Now you’ll want users to be able to engage with you through augmented reality. That could be information about your store/product, coupons, offers, or random fun characters you sprinkle near your brick and mortar to encourage people to come in.

How brands are experienced: Think about live sports for a second. The advent of HDTV has driven down incentives for people to drive to a stadium, park, buy food/drink, etc. when the views are so stellar at home. (This is mostly true for football, but applies to other sports equally as well.) But what if augmented reality comes to stadiums, and fans can overlay the field with characters, images, and real-time stats? It might be coming soon to Gillette Stadium, home of the Patriots. It was possible at Gillette because of a Wi-Fi upgrade, which would be a necessary condition at other venues.

Sports is a specific type of branding, but this idea can be extrapolated out to any number of other concepts. Trade shows could be made more informative and entertaining. Lifestyle brands could offer real-time makeup tutorials. B2B salespeople could walk prospects through a demo (and pricing) more effectively. Much research in the last few years has shown that customer experience is more valuable than traditional branding now, and augmented reality is a great chance for brands to increase the CX.

Training: This is more an internal (focused on employees) idea rather than an external (focused on customers) one, but it’s nonetheless valuable. Microsoft’s augmented reality offering, HoloLens, has partnered with an elevator company to help train 24,000 technicians. They can see problems ahead of arriving at a client site, and less experienced techs can be guided by more-veteran ones. The techs can also pull up tons of information about the elevators in question via HoloLens.

From $0 to $90 billion is a giant market jump, and augmented reality is here to stay for a while. Understanding how it could help you deliver on your brand promise is crucial to the next 5-10 years of business.

What other applications of augmented reality have you seen and liked?

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Why is IoT exciting?

Why is IoT exciting?

As a quick refresher on what exactly IoT is, it refers to the idea that everyday household objects — such as your dishwasher — can be connected to a network, thus sending real-time data on improvement and upkeep. Tesla actually somewhat predicted the idea in 1926!

In our next post, we’ll look at the implications of IoT on field service management. For now, though, we want to concentrate on some of the overall benefits of the Internet of Things. Why should technology moving in this direction excite you?

Health
You’re already beginning to see this with devices like FitBits and a Health app built into iPhones, but the Internet of Things promises a world where real-time health information is being tracked. While this is scary to some — think about a science fiction movie where everyone has a chip implanted — it can also be very beneficial to people understanding their health peaks and valleys, vital signs, and more. Potential risks can be identified way faster than the prevailing current model of “See a doctor if I think I might be sick.”

Financial Savings
Everyone wants to more effectively manage their budget, from individuals to organizations. This could be a major boon for field service management budgeting, as we’ll address in our next post, but the implications are massive across all fields. Let’s say your refrigerator is able to send information about maintenance and service directly to the retailer, or the nearest repair shop. There’s one sizeable fiscal advantage; the repair shop can contact you and offer you a price break because of early detection. Imagine that same refrigerator can essentially be ‘e-mailed’ 4 recipes you plan to use that week, and tell you the exact shopping list you need based on what you already have. That eliminates the all-too-common excess purchases once at the supermarket. Simply by connecting an inanimate object (refrigerator) to a network, you’ve found ways to reduce costs and waste.

Airports
Do you travel for work a decent amount? Are airports often the bane of your existence? IoT might make that better, as we’re currently seeing in London. Airports can use IoT around arrivals and baggage claim, which can send real-time data about how many workers are needed in a given area. They’ve also been able to use information from the aircraft themselves to turn around a plane in less than 30 minutes for a second departure. The whole idea is maximum effectiveness based on information — which is something many travelers have wanted to see from airports for decades.

Overall Economic Benefit
In addition to your household or organizational savings, IoT might represent $1.9 trillion of economic value by 2020. What’s good for the goose might well be good for the gander in this case.

What other benefits are you thinking could come from IoT?

What’s the future of the mobile wallet?

What’s the future of the mobile wallet?

Even as recently as 15-20 years ago, the primary things most people wouldn’t leave their house without were wallet and keys. After all, smartphones didn’t debut until about 2007. While people had cell phones and Blackberries prior to that, those only came into vogue in the late 1990s.

Flash forward to today: what are the three things you probably never leave your house without? Most people would say wallet, keys, and phone.

But here’s where it begins to get even odder: many people on business trips these days? They only leave their room with their phone. At many hotel chains now, such as Starwood, your phone becomes your room key. And at hundreds of businesses, your phone can also be your wallet.

This evolution from ‘standard wallet’ to ‘digital wallet’ happened relatively quickly. Because the rise of the digital wallet is an important aspect of how big a deal mobile has become, it’s relevant to look at the process of how we got here.

The first generation digital wallet
You can think of the first wave of digital wallets as the late 1990s. The big player in the space then was PayPal. These were essentially software solutions that provided an easy way to store cards for repeat online purchases. PayPal was such an important brand in the early days of the commercial Internet that many of its founders, the so-called PayPal Mafia, went on to become billionaires. (eBay purchased PayPal for $1.5 billion in 2002.)

The role of NFC
NFC, or Near Field Communications, is a set of standards for portable devices. It allows them to establish peer-to-peer radio communications, passing data from one device to another by touching them or putting them very close together.

NFC has been one of the driving forces of the digital wallet evolution. The first phone with NFC technology was actually released in 2006 — a Nokia — and at the time, the idea was considered game-changing.

Since then, however, there’s been a slow adoption of NFC technology as a standard-bearer for digital wallets. Only a percentage of the most popular phones come equipped with it, and oftentimes retailers have to shift their point-of-sale software in order to be compatible. In addition, per Wired, there are only about 220,000 live contactless merchant locations in the U.S. — out of 8 million vendors that accept credit cards.

The big three players in digital wallets — and “the beacon”
PayPal is still one of them. The other two are Google and Apple, although competitors are emerging at all levels. (More on that in a second.) Google, Apple, and PayPal are all exploring different options above and beyond NFC. Some of the notable ones are Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and QR codes. Bluetooth 4.0 has been considered a strong game-shifter in the last two years. That system works with a lower-power variant so that two devices can connect when they’re in the same range. However, no point-of-sale systems need to be changed at all. There’s something called “a beacon,” which is akin to a scannable sensor. Apple, PayPal, and Square (the device you’ve probably seen on top of phones and iPads at craft fairs) all use the beacon right now. It allows for longer phone battery life (compared to NFC) and a higher bitrate for data.

Security and user experience are the keys
The reason Apple Pay has gone above Google Wallet at the highest levels of digital wallet evolution is for this reason. The key deliverables — both for consumers and issuers — are security and user experience. Apple Pay now has tokenization of card numbers, biometric (thumbprint) log-ins, and on-device storage. In the process, they’ve been able to get a solid market share on the issuer side (credit card companies), because they offer a simple and private way to pay. Per Wired, they’re working with 11 credit card issuers who represent 83% of U.S. charge volume.

U.S. shift to chip and pin technology
If you live in the U.S., you may have noticed in recent months that many vendors are asking you if your credit card has a chip. If you’ve traveled abroad, you understand a little bit how this works — but in the U.S., we’ve predominantly had magnetic stripes on the back of our credit cards for a generation. The chip technology is called EMV, and most chip-card reading terminals can work with NFC. This supports contactless payment, which means a whole host of digital wallet options are opening up as the U.S. fully transitions to chip-based credit cards.

The next wave
There are different emerging concepts out in this space: Coin, for example, is a smart wallet that uses a physical card as opposed to storing data directly on your phone. Their website proudly displays that they’ve shipped over 250,000 devices so far. Their concept is similar to Wocket, billed as the ‘smartest wallet you’ll ever own.’ Lifelock Wallet, an app that scans 1 trillion data points per day for threats to its users, is another contender. Cuallet is one of the most interesting options on the market, in part because it’s multi-currency. One of the potentially great promises of the continued evolution of digital wallets is that they might make e-currency like Bitcoin easier to pay for goods and services with. Cuallet also allows for international and domestic airtime recharge.

A final important note on the evolution of digital wallets: companies don’t just operate in the first world, but in developing economies, people need methods to pay for things. Paper money is often not a viable option because of physical security risks (i.e. robbery), so new digital wallet concepts are developing to serve those markets. CBS’ 60 Minutes did a feature this year on M-PESA, a digital wallet/mobile payments solution taking Kenya by storm. The key difference between M-PESA and more familiar U.S.-based options? You don’t need to be linked to a bank account to use M-PESA. 8 in 10 Kenyans have a smartphone, but less than 20 percent have a bank account. Hence, this solution is ideal.

We’ll continue to see more and more evolution with the digital wallet — as a function of new credit card policies and technologies, as a function of new apps competing and interacting, and even as a function of the rise of connected devices via Internet of Things. We’re only scratching the surface with how exactly people will pay for goods and services in the coming years.

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How do you plan for online experiences when a customer is offline?

How do you plan for online experiences when a customer is offline?

 

The online experience — vetting, reviews, etc. — is obviously pretty promising for businesses.

The online version of customer experience (an increasingly relevant term) usually involves researching a product, tracking its location, finding out the nearest brick and mortar store, or searching for support information.

Should your online and offline strategies be different, though?

See, in the present business world, an event organized by any company or institution does not take place only in the real world — but also the digital one too. The graphics and content on the digital media play an important role in making the event a grand success. How you invite people is often through social.

Thus, digital experience is no longer different from the real experience.

How do you create a solid online customer experience, though?

A few tips:

– Have an integrated and dedicated channel (Omni-channel) for reducing inconsistency and errors.

– Companies should not hesitate from investing in dedicated software systems that can streamline and automate customer-facing processes. (Think about emails, re-targeting, etc.)

– A company’s CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system should be able to streamline the information and keep track of all the amendments made to any client’s data.

– Analyze and provide what the customer actually needs and not what you think is needed.

– Offer convenience, as digital customer experience should not burden up the customer; it aims at making the task easy and quick.

– Make it appealing, as online customers are far more impatient and demanding than general ones.

So how do we unite the offline and online experience?

Omni-channel marketing is the answer to this question. By combining all the channels offered to a customer into a single cohesive unit, a company can gain the benefits from both. We cannot ignore the advantages of human-to-human interaction involved in physical stores.

We trust easily when a person speaks to us rather than reading an email, gestures instill confidence and develop credibility. The goodwill associated with a company has always been influenced by the people working for the company, and that is why salespersons are still recruited in this digital world. Finding potential customers is crucial but retaining the customers is of higher significance, and for that, we need to reconsider and restructure how we plan for the user experience.

Your Website Still Matters, Even In A Mobile-First World

Your Website Still Matters, Even In A Mobile-First World

Mobile applications are often considered a replacement for a website because of how quickly mobile got to scale.

But is that the right approach?

Nope.

A website should still be the backbone of your digital marketing efforts. It should be mobile-friendly, yes. Someone pulling it up from a phone should have a relatively seamless experience with it. But you still need to focus on your website, for a few different reasons:

– You get several pages attached to a single domain.
– It is cost effective.
– You can build a website even by yourself by following simple instructions using tools like WordPress.
– Your business is accessible 24/7.
– Products can be displayed attractively.
– The payments are transparent.
– It helps you in branding.
– A strong online presence attracts customers.

It’s not all positives, though: attracting substantial traffic to your website is a bit difficult and takes time. However, a site once developed and promoted adequately has a far broader reach than any other form of advertising. It will always be the center of your online presence and will help you grow using other social networking sites or pay-per-click advertisement programs.

The website is like a pamphlet which convinces the reader to give the product a try. A website includes information not just about the product but the contact details, career options you offer, significant announcements, achievements you have made, FAQs, etc. It is a comprehensive model that smoothly glides from one page to another making sure that no information sought after is missing.

There is no substitute for a website by any other form of social media — and it is a reliable channel for creating a database of users or potential clients. You can add blogs to your website, increase your visibility by using search engine optimization (SEO) techniques, give a description of upcoming activities, organize events, etc. and spread your business across the globe. Many things can be taken care of just by making your web presence worthwhile.

Mobile presence is good, but web presence is even better. Your website serves as your salesperson, your brand ambassador, your marketing tool and a lot more.

So, next time you feel that your app is doing good and you no longer need to focus on your website, consider how functional you would be with and without a site.

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How can you make an app actually stand out?

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