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September 6, 2012

Mobile Apps Fuel Consumer Engagement — A SPN Exclusive

It’s kind of a no brainer.

Mobile app development is the future of marketing. It’s also what some would call the perfect marriage of technology and marketing.

More and more, consumers are interacting with brands online using their smartphones. According to, roughly 50 percent of U.S. adults own smartphones. Another survey from ABI research indicates more than 45 percent of smartphone-using adults say a branded app
influenced them to make a purchase from their mobile device.

This reaffirms what cutting edge mobile marketers have known for a while now – consumers respond well to branded mobile apps. Let’s take a look at a few companies who really got this right.

Five Branded App Success Stories

1. Domino’s Pizza – In 2011, Domino’s Pizza tapped into what is a commonly known fact among mobile developers: mobile users love to play games. The iOS app, affectionately titled, “Domino’s Pizza Hero“, was developed specifically for iPad devices as another take on Domino’s training program “Pizza School.” The app turns the pizza ordering process into a game. Users can select toppings, and virtually walk through all the steps in the pizza making process. Afterward, users can have that same pizza sent to their front door.

2. REI – One of the world’s most beloved outdoor recreation apparel companies recently stepped into the world of branded apps. How? The company built an app geared toward its most passionate customers: skiers and snowboarders. The app essentially allows viewers to locate and track the weather and snow conditions at their favorite ski and mountain resorts. The app covers everything from new snowfall, to open lifts, to open trails for cross-country skiers.

3. Zippo – Zippo, a premier maker of classic American lighters, tapped into the mobile market to engage users through nostalgia. The app not only lets users purchase Zippo lighters with both new and vintage designs, it also educates smartphone users on the effects of smoking. Interesting tidbit: as smoking continues to decline, more Zippo lighters are being purchased than ever before. Some would argue the app plays a big role in new sales.

4. The Karate Kid – It’s no surprise the film industry is taking full advantage of the branded mobile app trend. During the promotional campaign of The Karate Kit reboot, promoters released a game based on the new movie. Each level focused on a different theme from the film: courage, patience, endurance and will. This app was proof that building game-focused branded apps is one of the most effective ways to reach potential customers.

5. ZipCar – With the recent shared car rental phenomenon that is ZipCar, a mobile app seemed like a logical next step. The concept behind the app is simple: make the ZipCar service easier to access and use for current and potential members. Members can easily access reservations, make vehicle reservations and locate nearby cars. Members’ smartphones can also act as an electronic key for each rental. The app was such a success with customers, Time Magazine named it one of the best Travel Gadgets of 2009.

The reality is, mobile app engagement is becoming more consumer-centric than ever. The majority of today’s mobile phone users are also app users. The smartphone market is driven by app culture. So, to say mobile apps don’t drive user engagement is overlooking the nature of smartphones, and what makes them “smart” in the first place.

The evidence for mobile app-driven user engagement is, at the very least, overwhelming, if not completely obvious. Smart marketers know this, and companies on the bleeding edge of mobile engagement know this as well. The jury is in: today’s shoppers love their apps.

Joseph Baker has worked in the business world for more than 10 years, specifically in management. He has led development and management teams, and implemented budget reductions both professionally and as an independent contractor. He is also an avid blogger and Inbound Marketer, with published topics ranging from social media trends to search media metrics and algorithmic trends.