Successfully stand out: how apps generate attention

A mobile app is a powerful advertising tool - if it is used correctly. It should constantly push itself to the fore; but in such a way that the user does not perceive it as a nuisance, but as an enrichment, finds João Bruges from Merkle.

João Bruges von Merkle
Vendors need to stay close to the pulse of the latest features to stand out from the sea of mobile apps (Image: Merkle)

Hardly anywhere is the line between fascination and weariness as narrow as in advertising. This is especially true for advertising in mobile apps. It is according to a Statista survey conducted in Germany although accepted by more than 60 percent of users as part of free information offerings, is usually perceived only as a necessary evil - especially if it is omnipresent and neither funny nor informative.

Advertising with apps works in a similar way to advertising in apps: mobile applications should create proximity to customers and, at best, encourage them to make a purchase. In order to achieve this, they must not just be downloaded, but also used. So they should always draw attention to themselves. That alone is difficult enough. In addition, it is important not to get on the cell phone owner's nerves. How can that work?

Flattering without falling annoying

Only those who are fundamentally interested in a manufacturer's or retailer's offer download the app. Nevertheless, the download is often the only thing that happens. Even the smartest and best-performing app often leads a sad existence as an icon in the back of the screen. One way to bring it back to the forefront of interest is to give users a good reason to open it. For example, providers can use e-mail to draw attention to goodies that are only available via app. Sweepstakes, bonus points, or discounts are conceivable.

It is crucial that users receive real benefits from the opening - only then will they feel flattered rather than harassed. The following technical means, for example, fulfill this condition. Some of them have been around for a while; however, they are still used so rarely that they are still considered insider tips.

App Indexing - Access through the Back Door

If only the user knew what he knows! Often, the information they need is already in their pocket - but they've forgotten it's there. App indexing increases the chance that the user will find it again quickly.

App indexing makes the app's content accessible to Google search crawlers. If a user searches for a cashmere sweater, for example, his app from the leading knitwear supplier will hopefully show up among the results - provided it is indexed and search engine optimized. For the supplier, offering the same content on the app as on the website and directing potential customers to the right place via a so-called universal link opens up double the chances of winning.

Widgets - the constant companions

But why wait until the user searches for something on his own initiative? After all, you can remind them of the app's existence even when they're using their phone for something else entirely. The best way to do that is with a widget - a mini-application that is connected to the app and can be placed directly on the phone's surface.

For the widget to end up there, however, it has to offer something that the user of the cell phone considers useful. This could be current weather data, for example, or daily new cooking recipes tailored to the respective diet. Static information, on the other hand, is less suitable for this purpose.

Insider tip: Functions that take over routines

It is particularly promising to relieve users of tedious routine tasks. This is exactly what the short application sequences do, which have been available for Android for quite some time and recently for iOS as well. They are called Instant Apps on Google and App Clips on Apple.

Both are able to handle standard processes independently. These include managing a visit to a restaurant, starting with table reservations, ordering and paying for drinks at the bar, and settling the bill - or even renting an e-bike at the train station. Instant Apps and App Clips do not have to be explicitly installed. They respond to suitable NFC transmitters, including visual codes or links in e-mails and messages. To enable them to complete payment transactions, for example, they should be able to access functions such as "Log in with Apple" or "Apple Pay".

So far, only a few app owners are taking advantage of this opportunity. The others are missing out on various competitive advantages. To stand out from the sea of mobile apps, providers must keep their finger on the pulse of the latest features. After all, even the most beautiful app is useless if it is not used regularly.

* João Bruges is a Senior iOS Developer at Merkle - a dentsu company.

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