(Sportswear biggies are jumping on the fitness app bandwagon as are many other business worldwide. But is the app caravan going in the right direction and adding value to customers?)
It’s a pretty much predictable game. But only once you have known. Over the last decade (and still continuing), there have been loud rumblings about people working on computers without requisite physical work and exercise and so leading themselves to be gulped by hungry lifestyle diseases. Well, the prediction should’ve been that technology itself will help cure this situation, having created the situation in the first place. But then, retrospectively it always feels that we should have guessed the course with ease.
In this context is the way that sports brands world over are redesigning their approach. This year, the world’s biggest sportswear company Nike launched a new version of the Nike+ app while others like Adidas and Under Armour both have made acquisition of running apps over the last few months. So, yes, it’s partly to put technology in aiding athletes and normal people alike work on their fitness but companies also get some brownie points, the most important being the personalization quotient that comes with the app. And it appears, that is more than just a quotient.
Why are companies buying mobile apps?
Well, before the question of personalization and Nike+ apps, this question should find its place. Business, as we know it, is different today from what it was a few decades ago. Businesses like to track things on an individual basis, businesses can no longer just release mass adverts and hope for customers to turn up and buy. Metrics have come up; metrics that are not just sales and revenue but a lot of intermediate stuff as well lying somewhere in the process of knowing about a brand to buying a product. A mobile app is a very important cog in the machinery that makes all these measurements. There are several reasons to the question, why a mobile app. One of the most important reason is a lot of people own smartphones now, a lot of more than those owning desktop computers. Also the discovery that people spend more time on their mobile phones. So, if you have an app, effectively, you are with consumers all the time.
What’s the most important reason then?
Reasons are always connected by strings, thin and thick. The most important reason in favour of mobile apps is the personalization game that businesses are compelled to play today. Brand loyalty was key in the past but today, though it still exists, consumers find it much easier to experiment with competitor brands and even shift loyalties. To prevent this, businesses are using the personalization card offering as much benefit to the end consumer as can be afforded. Mobile apps allows for greater personalization. If a particular customer checks out a shoe in a Nike retail store but chooses not to buy because it was too expensive, there is no way for the retail store or Nike to know that the customer was interested and tell him or her if there is a drop in the price. Things such as these are the basic a business can do through a mobile app. While launching the app, Nike boss Mark Parker said athletes want more than a dashboard and data, a more personal relationship. This is exactly creating a situation where the athlete, or any consumer for that matter, gets a very personalized and customized experience as if the company itself continuously working and applying its resources for that particular consumer.
How does personalization help a business?
Just look at the numbers. Nike built its app. Adidas acquired Runtastic for somewhere between 220 and 240 million Euros, Under Armour bought two apps MyFitnessPal and Endomondo for a whopping 560 million USD. The numbers themselves are enough to suggest the kind of business that these sportswear brands are expecting to generate through the app. Of course it could take a while. Nike+, for instance, offers preferential treatment to some users of the app to exclusive sneak peaks or even pre-orders to new product releases. Personalization, in that sense, can be a very subjective thing varying in application. But for the starters, personalization is when a business appears to be talking one on one to a customer, obviously through an app or an email or even a text message.
Is better user experience and customer experience equivalent to personalization?
Not at all. User experience, customer experience and personalization are three different things though user experience and personalization help deliver a better customer experience. And personalization can sometimes be counted as a part of a good user experience. In essence, the user experience is attached to one specific instant over one specific channel of interaction. A personalized message or notification can improve the user experience. Social login and Single Sign-On. The cumulation of all the user experiences across all channels over a period of time defines the customer experience, which is the pinnacle everyone’s aiming for.
Is it just fitness and sportswear companies going for personalization via owned apps?
Launch Google Play Store and search for a brand and you will find that the answer to this question is a big no. Every big business is going for apps because they know it is the best and fastest route to a consumer’s pocket. That’s where money lies, isn’t it? Bottomline is every business, small, medium, big or enterprise, owns an app of its own and is asking customers to use that app for better access to services and customizations. It is also true that this strategy tends to work better in a B2C scenario rather than a B2B environment.
Does this strategy always work?
No strategy always works. That’s the first rule in building strategies. Like already said, apps work wonders in a B2C environment but in a B2B setup, they only work well in certain use cases. It is becoming a fashion of sorts to have an app, and sometimes not having an app appears to be a sign of technological backwardness but apps shouldn’t be a high priority unless businesses are able to deliver value to the consumer through the apps. Nike and Adidas are able to add more value through specific personalizations and fitness routines which customers actually want. Let it be any strategy, unless there is value addition, it will not work even if the whole world is minting money on it.