INSIGHT: Top 5 myths about mobile apps

Here are five, often ignored, good reasons for marketing leaders to broaden their mobile approach beyond their own apps.

“Time spent on mobile is skyrocketing,” says Thomas Husson, analyst, Forrester Research.

Since about 80% of that time is spent on apps, Husson believes many marketing leaders have quickly jumped to the conclusion that the only way to reach and engage their customers is through their own branded apps.

“Wrong,” he claims. “Here are five, often ignored, good reasons for marketing leaders to broaden their mobile approach beyond their own apps.”

1. Branded apps are relevant

“Yes, some of them (Starbucks, Nike, and many others) are success stories,” Husson claims. “But more often than not, branded apps don’t deliver real mobile benefits and engage only a small subset of customers.

“It's about time marketers connect their apps to their marketing and CRM systems to personalise and contextualise the brand experience. Marketers should launch fewer but smarter apps.”

2. Apps offer real engagement opportunities

Yes, acknowledges Husson, but only for a minority of apps, according to Forrester’s App Engagement Index.

Husson believes that several of the most engaging apps - Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat, Twitter, and WhatsApp - either don’t have or only recently introduced mobile advertising offerings.

“Marketers must identify the overlap between the most engaging apps and the most popular apps among their brand’s customer base,” he says.

“Then they have to mix content and context to tell a story that is relevant to customers in their mobile moments.

“It will not be about ads but about sparking a conversation instead of broadcasting a marketing message. Marketers should select the most promising partners evolving their apps as marketing platforms.”

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3. Consumers download many apps

Yes, but they spent most of their time in few apps, Husson argues.

On average, UK and US consumers use an average of 24 apps per month, but each person spends more than 80% of their time on just five apps.

In the US, the top five apps represent 28% of time spent on all apps.

“Time spent on mobile apps is concentrated among few apps, skewing massively toward messaging and social media apps - not gaming, as is commonly assumed,” Husson says.

“Marketers should borrow their way to their customers’ home screens by partnering with the few apps that command the majority of consumers’ mobile prime time.”

4. Mobile apps have replaced the mobile Web

“Yes, apps offer the best and most engaging experiences, but the mobile Web remains a fantastic acquisition tool and strong driver for m-commerce,” Husson adds.

“It’s a choice, not an ideological dispute. And it's likely you’ll have to deliver both.”

5. Mobile apps generate huge amounts of money

Yes, Apple’s App Store revenues were up 41% year-on-year, but Husson believes that make no mistake: Monetising apps is a challenge for the majority of developers

“And no, Apple’s business model is not about apps,” he argues. “The $10.7 billion Apple generated from app sales looks impressive, but bear in mind that this is a cumulative stat since 2008 and a small percentage of its total revenue.

Husson believes that if monetising apps is not marketers’ primary goal, they should learn from the most profitable app publishers by quantifying their marketing goals, exploring new app business models, and mastering acquisition costs to recruit loyal users.