It really isn’t news that there has been a surge in the app economy globally. With the rise in the numbers of smartphones, marketer managers are scrambling to build an app for their brands, many without even figuring out their mobile web presence first.

And so far, marketers have treated mobile as a platform that serves to be a substitute to other existing platforms. Retail stores focus on creating a product catalogue, hotels let you make reservations, and so on. The emphasis has been, for the most part, on awareness and purchase. 

While this is essential, marketers need to keep an eye on the changing habits of users on mobile. It is the idea of constant distraction or alternatively, ‘continuous partial attention’ where we’re plugged into our mobile phone while carrying out other activities.

Whether it’s pulling out your phone to IMDB/Wiki what other movie that actor was in, or looking up prices and reviews online while in store, weather snapping and sharing pictures of live events or checking into TVs and Movies; we are at all times using our phones to augment our daily experiences. 

Marketers need to play into these user habits too. By creating an experience which complements the activity a user is currently involved, marketers are adding value. The integrated experience becomes greater than the sum of its parts. 

For example, an apparel store could build an application that complements the shopping experience in store. Instead of serving as a product catalogue with an ability to purchase an application, the app could allow the user to scan the barcode and save the item to a wish list, take a (branded) picture while trying out the item and share it with friends for an opinion and finally serve remove the need to carry around yet another loyalty card.  

In the UK, the Debenhams iPhone and Android apps are a good example of this. The app contains a barcode scanner that people can use to compare prices in other stores and take advantage of offers displayed via QR codes in store.

One recent promotion involved giving a free cup of coffee to customers who scanned the QR code in the shop window, but there are other ways these codes can be used. 

Another example could be an application for a hotel which will let you check in and check out on your mobile phone. Your (NFC enabled) mobile phone can become your key and you can settle your bills on there too which will include the reservations you made at the spa from within the app. You’ll never have to stand in queue at the cashier or reception again. 

The entertainment industry, especially TV, stands to benefit greatly from this. Whether it’s collecting votes for reality based shows, sending in questions for a talk show (for those that are live) or a simple trivia game based on the current episode, there are opportunities to add a layer of interactivity.

In fact, I foresee a future not too far away, where some shows may let users determine the outcome of a show based on votes for two alternate endings.  

The central idea here is the simple principle of adding value. By doing so, marketers are bringing the users closer to the brand. While it is important to focus on awareness and purchase, due attention must be given to the experience immediately before as well as post purchase. And with this marketers will be able to ensure retention of the users they’ve spent all that money acquiring.