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SXSW 2013: When it comes to apps, ratings don’t lie


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Making a good app is not an easy or cheap or particularly fast process. While this is not what clients want to hear, in the long run, it’s the right thing to do to make sure the app you’ve invested in is a useful tool for your customers instead of a brochure of your services. If you rush the production of an app just to get it out there, you could be doing much more harm than a delayed release of a product that has been carefully and thoughtfully engineered. You put something sub-par in the app store, you will be found out, and the negative ratings will reflect poorly on your brand and your perceived ability to follow-through on your brand promise. An effective app must do the following:

  1. Make your customers’ lives easier. Walgreens discovered that allowing users to use their phone’s native camera capabilities to scan bar codes and order prescriptions was a useful time-and-energy saving service they could provide. In addition to earning major kudos from customers and great ratings in the app stores, they also have noticed that push notifications and mobile refills increased the likelihood that medications were taken on-time, contributing to the overall health of their customers.
  2.  Lead the customer back to your core product. The example from this morning’s panel was from Black Entertainment Television’s music countdown show, 160 & Park. The goal of the app created by BET was not to achieve a certain number of downloads or obtain a certain number of email addresses. The show already had a loyal following, and huge numbers on Twitter. BET realized that the investment in digital technology would be a success only if it could lead viewers into a deeper relationship with the television show itself. So the 160 & Park app was created as a part of the live viewing experience rather than a stand-alone experience. Users log on while the show is in progress and are able to see other users that were simultaneously logged in across the country, and could actually participate in the show by asking questions which would be read on the air.

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The BET app in particular illustrates a trend we’ll be seeing more and more in 2013 and beyond: apps created to work in tandem with other activities, also called co-viewing. Already there are apps meant to be used alongside tv programs, apps meant to be used alongside video games, and tablet apps meant to be used alongside mobile apps. This is a multi-tasking society we now live in, and smart brands are actually using this trend to enrich the things their users already love (but won’t devote their full attention to).





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