By Oisin Lunny, chief evangelist, OpenMarket
Apps, as we know them, arrived with the iPhone 3G. The App Store was opened on 10 July 2008 with an initial 500 applications available to users of Apple’s flagship mobile device worldwide. Needless to say, apps were a runaway success.
As of last year, the store featured over 2.2 million apps, and since its 2008 release, the App Store has generated over $70 billion in revenue for developers across the globe. The term app has also become a popular buzzword and in 2011, ‘app’ was awarded the honour of being 2010’s “Word of the Year” by the American Dialect Society.
When apps first launched, they revolutionised the way consumers viewed their phone: from essentially a device to make calls listen to music (if you think about it the first original iPhone was really just an iPod phone), to an always-connected mobile computer. It’s when the phone’s ability to make calls started playing second fiddle to other newer features: GPS, camera, video recorder, and streaming.
But nearly ten years later, apps are struggling to keep us excited.
As consumers, we are experiencing an increasing amount of app fatigue. They have lost the newness and novelty that heralded their arrival, and expensive branded apps often drown among the ones that are already out there. With some many apps on the store, it is perhaps inevitable that so many seem to do exactly the same thing.
And most apps get downloaded once, kept for a very short while, and then get deleted. It is said we only frequently use between six and 10 apps, and the rest either get buried in files and rarely troubled, or removed entirely. After all, there is a limit to how much space we have on our devices.
But the real reason? Customers are tired of brands that just sell to them. I have wondered if KFC really needs a standalone app, and how many consumers are buying diamonds via the Cartier app.
The most successful brands will, instead of investing in an app, focus on how to be there when it matters most; through empathetic interactions via an application that has stood the test of time these past 25 years, SMS. The future lies in relevance. Those companies that capitalise on empathetic interactions, at those moments that matter, will drive the best loyalty among their consumers.
A brand that can offer assistance won’t be forgotten. Indeed, it is this type of interaction that creates brand loyalty. When it comes to choosing between two brands that offer the same service, we’ll go for the one that has improved our lives, helped in some way, or made something easier to do.
Step in Rich Communication Service (RCS) messaging which has just got richer, more intelligent and more intuitive to enhance customer engagement. Signifying a new era of brand empathy, RCS business messaging is set to transform the way that companies talk to their customers, and no apps are necessary.
With RCS business messaging, brands can instantly connect to billions of mobile users who have already opted-in to SMS messages from businesses, while for phone users, it is the easiest form of rich messaging; no installation, no setup or logins. RCS is text messaging for the smartphone age; it gives brands more control over their communications and gives customers a richer, smarter, more app-like experience, all from their SMS inbox.
Will this kill off apps? I believe, yes – most of them.
As consumers, we’ll keep those six or seven apps that we use daily, but the days of brands pumping huge amounts of money into developing an app that can neither be found in an app store with millions of competitors nor serves any real purpose to consumers is set to be a thing of the past.
Brands are finally understanding that they can’t just sell and that the very personal relationship we have with our devices means a sales-push is a turn-off. Our devices are not just a sales channel for brands.
This appsolutely marks a shift; brands have to help consumers get things done, when and where it counts.