Mobile apps are a good antidote to pathos-riddled marketing

Amid a plethora of mawkish ads and emails, an effortlessly rewarding app experience is a much more soothing escape from the stresses of the Covid crisis.

app mobile user experience

It doesn’t take a marketing expert to notice the onslaught of advertising brimming with we’re-in-this-together pathos.

A tweet from @henweb made me laugh over the weekend. He wrote, “So… do all brands now HAVE to make a ‘stay home’ Corona ad? Because I just saw one for cheese and I’m so confused. Can’t you just show an ad for your cheese??”

And it’s not only the TV ads. My email inbox is full of brands that just want to take care of me.

TM Lewin performed quite the gear change, going from “Sale Shirts 4 for £60” (received April 12) to “Dare to Dream” (April 14). In case you’re wondering, the copy included a quote from Martin Luther King (“We must use time creatively”) and went on to ask me, “When you look back on this time in isolation will you feel you used it well?”

Hang on, don’t you sell shirts?

The non-sequitur was complete when the menswear retailer added some recommendations for business books I might fancy reading during this difficult time. Toddler in bed, baby fed, video conferences done, now where did I put that Richard Branson book? In a departing whisper the footer of the email said “Sale Final Reductions”.

Brands pretending to be family and friends is the glacé cherry on top of all the crap everyone is dealing with right now. Brands can be useful, of course, but it takes more than hollow sentiment and a content exec asked to come up with a few ideas.

All the generic coronavirus ads are a waste of time and budget

And so, I have retreated even further into my phone, finding solace there in-between parenting. Mostly I have found myself using apps a lot more – browsing the Amazon app, the Nike ecommerce app, setting up my Sonos app, organising my Spotify, tracking my half-hearted run times on the Nike Running Club app, downloading the Nike Training Club app since they told me it was now free, trying to get a football fix through The Athletic, using a range of messaging apps to keep in touch with various friends, even downloading the Eon app to keep an eye on what I’m spending on energy (having never found the time before).

Over on Econsultancy we recently spoke to Grégoire Baret, senior director of omnichannel experience at Aldo Group, about how his company is dealing with the current crisis. One of his comments struck me.

“First,” he said, “we adjusted and simplified the overall ecommerce flow and set of services. Less cognitive load to focus on clearer, faster and leaner services. We tweaked and optimised key steps from the product detail pages to the checkout…”

Marketers on the new normal: Grégoire Baret

I think this partly explains why I have been escaping into apps. They generally place less cognitive load on the user than does a website. There’s less to look at, fewer menu and filter options visible, bigger text, limited video and sound, and everything you do comes with that satisfying haptic ‘clunk’ that a mobile operating system can deliver.

It’s balm for a fizzing brain in lockdown. According to Poq, retail app downloads on the weekend of 27-28 March almost hit the record levels of Black Friday 2019.

When we want to take time over our online shopping, really savour it, enter that trance-like consumerist state, the app is the natural destination. Of course, Amazon’s one-swipe purchase is proving invaluable as people seek to stock up on essentials or investigate home improvements – Amazon is predicted to report Q1 revenues up 22% on last year. Reliable product discovery and swift delivery count for an awful lot.

The rise of ecommerce apps

There are other reasons apps are having a moment. Many people are working at home on their laptops and so their phone becomes the escape device. And supermarkets – one sector where online shopping is new behaviour for a large proportion of customers – are seeing app usage increase massively.

As we keep trying to get our delivery or click-and-collect slots, it’s just so much easier to keep opening an app than it is to revisit a website in a browser – especially when you’re doing it in the middle of the night. In March, Walmart saw a 190% increase in monthly downloads of its ecommerce app in the US, according to App Annie.

But Nike is the brand and the digital exemplar in retail that I have to keep coming back to. Because yes, its apps are great, but what it really shows is that those brands with an integrated digital strategy are best placed to survive this crisis.
A shift to digital but with less resource

How easy it is for Nike to colonise my mind through its three apps on my phone. Email is great, of course, but it’s nothing compared to how effective mobile notifications can be. The Nike Training Club app pushes me weekly recaps of my activity, messages and tips from Nike athletes, invitations to live workouts, pictures of the latest sneaker ‘drop’, and some gentle coaxing to try a bit of yoga.

The Nike Running Club app has the same motivational messages in its inbox (one content stream is pushed to both apps) and reminds me of how long it is since I went for a run. Both apps have links to shop via their menus, but more important is the cumulative effect of all these upbeat and well-crafted push messages on brand consideration.

Many people are working at home on their laptops and so their phone becomes the escape device.

See China for some data here, where Nike saw an 80% increase in Nike Training Club workouts in the latest quarter. CEO John Donahoe remarked during a post-earnings conference call: “The strong engagement of Chinese consumers with our activity apps translated to strong engagement with our Nike commerce app.” Digital business in China grew more than 30% during the quarter.

It’s not just in retail where the chickens have come home to roost as far as digital infrastructure is concerned. Banks are pushing customers to their online services and apps, too, for example, and those with the slickest on-boarding and user experience will surely benefit from reduced call volumes and branch visits.

Econsultancy and Marketing Week’s third iteration of our Covid-19 Business Impact survey found that more than half of UK marketers (54%) admitted that ‘the shift online has exposed gaps in our customer experience’.

And, of course, getting UX right and providing the right level of service is the foundation for success on mobile. But when you can layer a truly useful content strategy on top, then it becomes something much more compelling.



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