It can be hard for marketers to step back from their focus on pushing marketing messages for a moment and think about delivering true utility to their customers. But with an increasingly cluttered online world the brands that are coming out ahead are the ones who are delivering what customers need, rather than what their marketing teams want to say.
There has been an explosion of branded apps in recent years as we move to on-the-go devices like smart phones and tablets. Consequently, companies have been trying to bridge that gap between the customer and their products wherever, whenever, 24/7. The result has been a plethora of apps designed to sell, sell, sell. A staggering number of apps are downloaded once and are never used again, but some of the best apps are the ones that provide something that the customer actually wants and needs. Useful apps, or utilitarian apps, are the way forward for the brand looking to the future.
Here are 5 of the best apps that go beyond the hard sell and deliver utility to their customers.
1. Walgreens’ Prescription Services
The US pharmacy chain has developed an app with a range of useful features. Customers can refill their prescription by scanning the Rx label and pick it up from their preferred location, as well as transferring their prescription from another pharmacy with a simple scan. They have a pill reminder so you don’t forget to take your medication, and when you go into the store in person, you can bring up the in-store map to help you navigate. For a customer, having a store that feels like it is on their side is surely going to inspire loyalty.
We know new parents need diapers, and many of them will choose Pampers. But what anxious parents-to-be also want is information about the development of their little bundle of joy. This is what the Pampers Hello Baby app aims to deliver. Everything you could possibly need to know about the growing baby is here: week-by-week information about its size and progress, images and 360-degree models, a personalized calendar for your own pregnancy, and – of course – links so you can tell your friends and family what is going on in that busy bump!
This Irish tax company wanted to make life quicker and easier for people doing their taxes so they developed the Red Oak Snap which allowed users to record receipts of expenses and collect them in one handy place for use in their tax returns. Of course, the app would generate leads for the company, but the purpose of the app aligns well with the ethos of the company: utility and simplifying life for the client.
The best utility apps support the company’s business aims, but are genuinely useful to the customer. REI’s ski and snow report does just that: it fits perfectly with REI’s adventurous, living-life-to-the-full image whilst providing a great service for all those adventurers who want to know the best time to grab their boards – at the touch of a button.
Supermarkets have designers and even psychologists who work on store layouts that will take you past as many products and impulse-buys as possible. So why would a supermarket purposefully make life easy for customers to navigate their way around the store? That’s exactly what Meijer, a regional market and grocery chain that has two hundred stores in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Kentucky, has done. Their Find-it app lets you enter your grocery list – and then it will plot your most efficient route around the store. You can also clip digital coupons, collect reward points, and even save recipes. The store designers might not be happy, but you can bet their customers are.
If you are thinking of designing an app for your brand, try thinking beyond sales and think what your customers actually need. Putting customers first and delivery utility before profit will bring long-term benefits and may very well increase sales longer term.
Now it’s your turn. We would like to know what brand-created apps you are using on a regular basis? Share them in the comments section below.
Originally published Jun 06, 2014, updated Aug 07, 2020