Mobile apps have proven to be a new tool that businesses can use to engage with customers in a variety of ways: providing information, as a customer relations management tool and to build a brand—to name just a few. An October 2013 survey of executives at companies with annual revenues of at least $250,000 conducted by Forbes Insights and Adobe found that they were using customer-facing apps for all of these reasons.
However, the most common use of mobile apps was to communicate with customers, named by 83% of respondents. Next was the provision of customer service or support (79%), the provision of information about a product (74%), facilitation of transactions (69%) and brand engagement (67%).
Apps clearly have a role to play in the path to purchase by allowing customers to access information about products and services at the research phase. But they also provide a means for brands to remain engaged with customers following their purchases, a useful way for companies to build loyalty. In fact, the highest percentage of respondents—31%—said the role of a mobile app during the purchase cycle was to retain customers. Twenty-eight percent thought apps played a key role at the purchasing stage, while 22% said apps were useful at the consideration stage of purchase, and 18% said they helped in creating early awareness.
Getting a return on investment (ROI) from a mobile app requires that resources be invested properly. Mobile apps face competition from a thousand other distractions offered by mobile devices—and are often limited by smaller screen sizes. A majority of those polled, 54%, named designing a user-friendly interface as the top challenge for using mobile apps. That was followed by supporting multiple devices or operating systems (48%), keeping apps in accordance with app store requirements (47%), not having the expertise to build one (34%) and lacking the fundamental understanding of apps’ roles in marketing (31%).