Many companies have already opted to launch their own promotional apps, aiming to increase their popularity or – as is the case with many longstanding industry titans – to respond to competition from quick and tech-savvy newcomers and remain in the lead. Generally these companies place their brand name front and center and the app is bloated with functions even vaguely relevant to the products or services being offered. However, this leaves them vulnerable in the app marketplace trying to compete against already popular – and usually far more refined and feature-rich – apps and widgets.
"Many [promotional apps] are just ads posing as applications," says John SanGiovanni, cofounder of Zumobi mobile company. "You need something with real utility. It needs to provide compelling utility to the user first and foremost."
Statistics indicate that more often than not, first-time users remove branded apps very shortly after downloading and installing them. The reason, sadly, is obvious: promotional apps are just not useful enough to attract and retain an active audience of their own. Such apps lack usability and functionality and instead are focused too heavily on promotion and design for their own sake.
The three rules of thumb for developing a successful promotional app are quite simple (but what’s hard is to follow them). The app must be:
- useful to the company's core audience and address a specific need or needs;
- entertaining while providing relevant, engaging content;
- an enhancement to the company's products or services in some way.
However, as mobile developers our mission is not just to deliver high-quality solutions to clients but also to contribute positively to the mobile ecosystem by producing useful, compelling apps capable of enriching users’ everyday lives and benefiting businesses. We’ve already covered the key elements of such apps for the fashion, food service and banking industries, and we will summarize them by just saying: content matters. And the same goes for sports-branded apps.
To inspire you, below we cover the mobile experiences created by REI, Oakley, and Nike – companies whose apps are used by thousands of people daily because... (please see above).
And, here we go...!
Recreational Equipment, Inc., began as a group of 23 mountain-climbing buddies and is now one of the world’s largest sporting goods companies selling their own line of outdoor gear and clothing as well as other premium brand products.
REI Snow Report
REI's app lets skiers and snowboarders know where and when to get out and enjoy the snow. The app provides the temperature, amount of snowfall, number of open trails, snow depth at the base and mountaintop, and a five-day weather forecast – all the data one needs to choose an ideal slope. In addition, the app features an REI store locator to help lead you to further gear purchases.
Interesting fact: Initially, REI opted for just placement within an app that had been developed by Zumobi Mobile before the company chose to launch its own exclusive app. Both of REI’s apps are rated 4+ on Apple’s App Store and Google Play, and are showing similar figures to Zumobi for installs: 100,000 – 500,000 (Google Play).
Shop Outdoor Gear
In addition to a useful app, the company offers a convenient one – its official shopping app – featuring product specs, descriptive photos and videos. The app is highly rated by users: five stars from over 1,000 users on Google Play and there are almost 5,000 total reviews on the App Store.
REI's shopping app is useful even when you’re inside a brick & mortar REI retail store. By scanning product barcodes with their smart devices, users get full item descriptions and specifications, see available inventory and read customer reviews.
REI Visa Card
The benefits of having an exclusive-branded credit card with special bonuses for members is a little off our current topic, but if a business does offer one, providing an app for it can be highly convenient for users, making it easy to track recent account charges and credits, etc. REI, for example, offers one-touch access to card management and applying for instant credit. Users often comment favorably on the app's aesthetic appeal derived from its ‘mountaineering’ look and feel.
Considering all of the above, it’s not surprising that REI was recently awarded Best Mobile App for Ecommerce/Retail at the 2013 Digiday Mobi Awards.
Smartphone app review series
Besides launching its own, REI writes useful posts reviewing third-party apps that may appeal to its customers, such as those designed for kayakers and canoeists, hikers, travelers, bicyclists, etc.
Oakley, Inc. as a sports and lifestyle brand created for world-class athletes offers a market-leading product line that includes premium sunglasses, goggles, prescription eyewear, apparel, footwear and accessories.
Oakley Airwave Snow
This app embodies all the components of a successful app: it’s useful, truly entertaining, and it enhances the company’s product, namely, Oakley Airwave goggles, which are not only protective goggles but also provide a complete dashboard of information for the user. Pairing Airwave goggles with an Android or Apple device allows users to access smartphone features such as answering incoming calls and text messages, heart rate monitors and others.
With its 'Buddy Tracking' and 'Trips' features the app is useful even when not paired with the goggles. All that users need is just a smartphone to know where their friends are (who are also using the app). The 'Trips' feature allows for the tracking of speed, vertical ascent/descent, distance, altitude, number of jumps and day on the mountain.
Oakley Disrupt O-Gram
Oakley ventures into the entertainment realm with Oakley Disrupt O-Gram, an app that allows you to alter or “disrupt” photos with custom filters and share the results via Facebook or Twitter. To spice things up, Oakely introduced missions: Disrupt Your City, Disrupt Your Ride, Disrupt Your Sport – and offers valuable prizes to winners: five pairs of Oakley goggles and a grand-prize VIP trip to the Tour de France Grand Depart.
Oakley Surf Report
Already owner of a must-have snow report app, the company went even further and launched its innovative Oakley Surf Report. The app offers daily reports and forecasts, monitors coastal weather conditions and helps track swells, tides, winds and just about everything else one might want to monitor about breakers worldwide. The app has been noted not only for its high functionality and intuitive interface but also for its artistic graphic design.
Nike, Inc., a household name in sports, is an American multinational corporation that designs, manufactures and sells footwear, apparel, equipment, accessories and services worldwide.
Any list of successful apps would be incomplete without mentioning the popular series of Nike apps for various sports: cross-country, track, golf, soccer, basketball – and many others. With 1,000,000 – 5,000,000 downloads (Google Play), Nike has obviously been successful with the idea of a virtual personal trainer. Nike apps help to motivate people to start training, get the most out of their regular workouts, and encourage users to continue with their exercise routines over the long term.
Not just brands
In closing, we’d like to note that not only brands but any sports-related businesses can benefit from launching a high-quality, feature-rich sports/lifestyle app. For example, a football team can increase fan loyalty and inspire users to check in on club activity on a daily basis if its app provides access to schedules and rich media material quickly and easily.
Azoft, for example, has developed such a solution for the Real Madrid soccer team, providing access to soccer news, player statistics, and team announcements. The app also contains rich media: video, photos, etc. and additionally it generates revenue for the team through the sale of merchandise and lottery offers, over a safe and secure money-transfer subsystem.
Another good way to promote a sports-related businesses through the use of a mobile app is by offering fans ways to keep track of tournaments and championships, such as the UEFA European Championship.
Image & video credits: REI, Oakley, Nike, Cuker Interactive.