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TV ads not the only – or even best – way to support apps

A new Macy’s television ad is one of the more significant investments a retailer has made in promoting a mobile application, reflecting an expected increase in marketing muscle behind retail apps this holiday season.

With big retailers pushing an omnichannel shopping experience, mobile apps are seen as an important enabler of cross-channel shopping. However, while big retailers are increasingly making their mobile apps the focus of national television campaigns, it does not take a large ad budget to effectively market a retail app.

“Macy’s is probably the most high profile case, but ABI Research expects to see a significant increase in mobile application activity by major retailers over the holiday period,” said Patrick Connolly, London-based senior analyst at ABI Research.

“Retailers are now attempting to adopt omnichannel marketing and advertising, which means the user should get the same experience and offers via mobile, Internet and in-store,” he said.

“Mobile is a great way to enable customers purchase the exact product they want, on whatever medium suits them best.”

Mobile advertising

While TV spots focusing exclusively on mobile apps are the exception rather than the rule at this point, many retailers are including a “download our app” call-to-action in their TV spots.

However, for retailers who do not have big budgets for TV advertising, there are many just as effective, and maybe even more effective, ways to promote an app.

“More and more TV, radio, and print ads will reference apps, or be entirely focused on promoting them,” said Chris Shuptrine, senior director of client development at Fiksu, Boston.

“For Fiksu clients, though, we’ve noticed TV ads are much less efficient than mobile spend: cost per download is about four times higher for TV spend compared to mobile spend,” he said.

“If driving app downloads is the goal, we would recommend focusing on mobile spend first and foremost.”

Chipotle used video to promote its Scarecrow mobile game

For example, mobile video ads can be a good way to drive downloads for an app.

Facebook ads are another popular method.

“Video ads are playing an increased role, as mobile users who watch 15 second videos are 10 times to 15 times more likely to download an app compared to users who click a banner ad,” Mr. Shuptrine said.

“Facebook spend continues to grow, we should expect Facebook’s mobile revenue percentage to be much more than the 41 percent it was in Q2,” he said.

Chipotle’s Scarecrow effort

One way to drive excitement around a retail app is to focus on a game or entertainment related experience.

For example, Chipotle’s recent Scarecrow game reached Top 15 Overall in the app store.

Chipotle created a professional short film to promote the app, which garnered more than six million views in two weeks on YouTube. This led to publicity in many large media outlets.

The chain supported the release of the video with paid marketing across multiple channels.

“By diversifying their promotion strategy and hitting multiple channels at the same time, Chipotle maximized its potential reach, which led to its Top 15 Overall ranking,” Mr. Shuptrine said.

Compelling user experiences

Providing app users with a specific benefit they cannot get via another channel is another way to ensure an app is a success.

Around the holidays, the benefit can be related to a promotion, such as Target’s Cartwheel app, which provides special offers and enables users to share their favorite deals on Facebook.

Moosejaw’s X-Ray app

Retailers can also offer unique holiday functionality in an app, such as Starbucks Magic Cup app, which allows users to send and receive virtual holiday-themed messages.

Another example is Moosejaw’s X-Ray app, which enables users to interact with Moosejaw holiday catalog to see what models are wearing underneath their clothes.

“Just getting a consumer to download and install an app is not a win, the App needs to provide true consumer value,” said Jason Goldberg, Chicago-based vice president of the commerce practice at Razorfish.

“Some studies suggest that less than 16 percent of all apps are ever used more than once after download,” he said.

“If you don’t have a compelling reason why your app is going to be among the 16 percent that consumers actually use, then your resources are probably better spent making your app more ‘sticky’ rather than promoting it.”

Digital promotion

Retailers frequently use their own circulars and in-store signs to promote their apps.

However, it is important to keep in mind the location of any signs as this can impact how effective they are.

“Window decals and signage in the decompression zone have very poor unaided recall and are usually ineffective, but well executed in-aisle signage, and messaging at the cash-wrap can be very effective,” Mr. Goldberg said.

Digital channels are another popular option for promoting apps.

The key here is to make sure any marketing does not disrupt the shopping experience.

“Many retailers will use a pop-up on their mobile Web-pages encouraging shoppers to download a mobile app,” Mr. Goldberg said.

“All too often that shopper came to the mobile Web page to use the store-locator, but after being side-tracked to download and install the app, the shopper discovers that the mobile app doesn’t have any store locator functionality that the mobile Web page didn’t already offer.”

Final Take
Chantal Tode is associate editor on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York