I recently spoke at the ANA Mobile Marketers Conference held in San Francisco. The event was focused on how brands are using mobile to engage with customers and create a better understanding of the mobile landscape with a sea of apps that is over nearly 2 million strong across iTunes and the Google Play stores.

I was asked to speak about best practices for building customer loyalty in branded apps. This topic is near and dear to my heart, especially from my days running digital marketing for a large CPG company. I was always amazed how quickly my brand management colleagues fell in love with the idea of building an app for their respective brands, especially at the expense of other more proven search, display, and social strategies and tactics.

Whatever the ultimate response was, the app discussion was a great way to engage and have a broader discussion about our overall digital strategy as well as where, how, and why we were making investments across our portfolio of 17 brands. Here are a few thoughts I shared during my ANA presentation – the entire presentation can be found on Slideshare.

branded apps

Think about the apps you used this morning, from the moment you woke up to when you arrived at your office. If you’re like many folks, you have a routine and probably start your day checking the same apps.  App utility is incredibly important and well-designed apps with a single killer feature are probably among the first three apps you open each day.

Successful apps must have high utility value – what makes people come back – day-after-day.

I regularly checked the weather on my iPhone, via the pre-loaded weather app – until I saw Yahoo!’s new weather app. Oddly, Yahoo! Also provides the weather feed in the pre-loaded weather app, however, the design of the new Yahoo! Weather app was an order of magnitude better. The new app has a simple interface with the current temp in big letters as well as the days high and low. The app also uses local landmark images from my city that match the forecast. That simple visual cue tells me what’s happening outside my door. As I swipe down, I can get detailed hourly temps, wind speed, sunrise, and sunset times.

I used the Yahoo! weather example to highlight two huge success factors in app development. Successful apps must have high utility value – what makes people come back – day-after-day. Successful apps need amazingly beautiful and simple design. Pixels on a mobile device are at a premium so the best, well thought-out interface designs will always win in a mobile world.

Utility and design may not seem like obvious things to consider on the path to building customer loyalty in branded apps but they are. Ultimately, when you are considering building a branded app, consider what value the app is providing your customer that they can’t get from another channel. Ask yourself if what you are presenting in the app has what it takes to bring repeat visits on a daily or monthly basis. These key attributes are just some of the product and design considerations Kenshoo considered when building the Kenshoo Anywhere app. We listened to what our clients said where their most important campaign details they always need, especially while away from their desks and we built a mission specific app focused on delivering essential campaign detail in the palm of their hands. If you’re a Kenshoo client, download the app from the iTunes store and let us know what you think!

At the ANA event, I shared several other insights about app development and things to consider when building branded apps – far too many for this blog post. If you’re interested, I encourage you to check out my presentation on Slideshare.  And if you’re still interested in hearing more, you can always reach me on Twitter @dougchavez or via email at Kenshoo. I look forward to hearing your thoughts.