The role of mobile apps as a primary interface between consumers and businesses is shifting away from walled gardens to more flexible OTT environments
While Covid accelerated the importance of mobile and contactless experiences, consumer behaviour over the past five years suggests the mobile app is no longer the gateway to a better customer experience.
For most customer-facing enterprises, some of the most sought-after real-estate is on customers’ smartphone screens – making it a hotly contested arena. However, apps are looking increasingly redundant, even at a time when all businesses are digitally transforming to meet the needs of today’s connected consumer. For brands to have any hope of growing their mobile market share with loyal, long-term customers, not only do they need to capture consumers’ attention, but they also need to ensure clients and shoppers are being served in places convenient to them – which no longer seems to be inside an app.
According to Simform, the average person has 40 apps installed on their phone – but 89 per cent of their time is split between just 18 of them. That means less than 50 per cent of apps installed are being actively used, so brands that are dependent on in-app comms to engage with customers are likely not performing too well.
Simply put, customers don’t think in channels, so neither should brands.
Global research carried out by Statista with smartphone users indicated that the majority of respondents had a clear preference for receiving communications from organisations and service providers via email (46 per cent), SMS (24 per cent) and phone (24 per cent) – suggesting that today’s consumer wants to communicate with brands via multiple channels and through easy methods convenient to them.
By comparison, the use of established social media platforms’ in-app messaging applications for engagement is relatively low, at 11 to 12 per cent. If popular social channels are not being used to communicate through the app with hosts, it’s no surprise that less well-established brands in other verticals such as retail or hospitality struggle to engage through this channel.
Similarly, research by mobile consultancy Heady uncovered a number of significant customer pain points specifically around mobile transactions, which go some way towards explaining why people are increasingly eschewing mobile apps in favour of other methods to interact with brands. It showed things like mandatory app installs to try a service before being able to make a purchase are viewed by end-users as annoying barriers to consumption rather than fast routes to gratification.
While data overall shows people do still download apps (according to Statista, 230 billion apps were downloaded in 2020), it also illustrates they just as quickly delete them, often after just a single use. The uninstall rate also jumped significantly in 2020 compared to 2019.
This is bad news for app-first brands – who are not only missing out on revenue growth opportunities but also alienating customers for the long term.
Going forward, companies must find solutions that look at engagement through the lens of the customer. Omnichannel mobile marketing and digital contact centre models are key to addressing this change in customer behaviour and expectation, offering consumers the personalised experiences they love while enabling businesses to differentiate themselves from the pack through exceptional customer experience. It’s a world away from the closed mobile app environment.
With large tech providers streaming single-use apps to your phone or actively nudging developers to store parts of their apps in the cloud, together with evidence that customers prefer the immediacy of chat apps to engage and buy from brands, we may have just entered the beginning of a future where installation becomes obsolete and the border between website and native app is blurred. This is a future without apps, and it promises to be one of ultimate simplicity and elegance.