Mobile Apps Will Decide Your Product’s Success

My home theater system recently stopped working and I found myself in the market for a specific piece of relatively complex consumer technology: a new receiver. A new home theater receiver is not an insignificant purchase. Surprisingly, the major factor in my decision had nothing to do with price point or technical specs. Instead, I chose a receiver that featured an intuitive mobile app that made the technology easier and more delightful to use.

I bring this up because apps like this are actually changing business models. The first few apps out there might have been gimmicks, but they have evolved into so much more than that. They are becoming the remote control to the Internet of Things. Apps are no longer an accessory; they’re a necessity.

There are currently 1.3 million apps available on Android alone. The options available create a competitive market, especially when you consider 90 percent of apps are downloaded and never used again.

Mobile apps have been playing an important role in the product experience for some time now. Consumer expectations around product apps are expanding to include even the most complex goods and industries. These consumers want new and innovative ways to use products, and the right product apps can provide that. A good mobile app can simplify the complex, and this is what companies should aim to do when developing theirs.

Mobile Apps Can Make Or Break A Product

Companies have focused on mobile more as an avenue for buying their products. After all, 82 percent of the time spent on mobile is spent on apps. With online retail sales reaching $345 billion in 2014, it’s no surprise that companies focus on pushing their products via mobile.

But these companies are missing out on a growing market. Apps aren’t just a sales route, but rather part of the overall product. For many products, they will be a major part of the decision to purchase it.

Take the Apple Watch, for example. Smartwatches are less popular wearables, with only 2 percent of U.S. consumers owning one. Asked why they were not planning on buying one, 83 percent of respondents in a MarketSight study said that it didn’t have the functionality they needed. Right now, 47 percent of users are using their smartwatches to track fitness. As a result, the smartwatch has previously been pushed into a niche area, mainly aimed at fitness buffs.

However, this could change with the release of the Apple Watch. Some estimates indicate that the Apple Watch could account for 73 percent of all wearables by 2018. It comes standard with 14 apps, which allow for everything from email to remote-control capabilities for Apple TV. Without these apps, the watch would be nothing more than an expensive timepiece. It’s the apps that sell the product.

Mobile Apps Can Create Simplicity From Complex Features

It was the app that drove my decision to by a new receiver because it was able to make something that was previously complex simple and easy. When people get apps, they’re looking for one of two things. They want an innovative new way to use an old product, or they want to do something that was never possible for them to do before. A good app creates this experience.

Uber is a company driven by its app. They’re hyper-focused on it and continuously updating it to provide new and innovative options for their customers.

Uber’s app has changed the business model of the transportation industry, using real-time data. Allowing customers to track their driver’s progress or get an estimated time of arrival for the ride are features that would not have been possible in the pre-mobile era. And the company makes a point of matching supply with demand, meaning they can coordinate pricing surges when demand is particularly high or create special discounts and partnerships when the market calls for it.

DriveNow is a similar car rental service, which is a partnership between BMW and Sixt. With DriveNow, the customer can locate, rent, and drop off a car, all through the convenience of an app. One major innovation is that DriveNow is  ahead of the curve by creating an app for the Apple Watch. The Apple Watch will even act as a key, allowing consumers to open the door with just their watch.

DriveNow’s app permits adding new features to their customers that weren’t possible before. The ability to rent a car without having to wait in line, make a reservation, or stick to regular business hours is a competitive differentiator that gives DriveNow a distinct edge in the car-rental market.

These two companies use their apps to simplify complex tasks, allow customers to use new features available in their products, and even change their business models in order to maximize both customer satisfaction and their own sales.

Let changing customer expectations around mobile product apps be an inspiration to your brand. How can you meaningfully integrate mobile app content and functions with your product, utility, or service? How can you leverage mobile touch points to engage consumers throughout the purchase path? And how can your app extend the usefulness of your product and increase its value and relevance? Aim for apps that perform an integral, delightful, convenience-enhancing service for users.