Consumers expect greater value and functionality from company-specific apps, according to new research, and these “brand apps” now play a crucial brand affinity role for nearly half of consumers, who say a positive experience with a brand app translates into greater loyalty.

A new study from mobile innovation agency WillowTree, The Brand App Experience: Value, Purpose and Brand Loyalty, examines consumers’ usage of brand apps, the expectation for value, and the impact their experiences have on brand loyalty.

Brands apps are specific mobile apps designed to extend the brand experience beyond a company’s core product or service offering

The survey found that brand apps are commonly used by consumers, with 67 percent of those surveyed for this study saying they’ve downloaded brand apps. The most popular categories of brand apps are banks, restaurants and retailers, which rely heavily on the ability to drive frequency and loyalty.

How brand apps power purchases and cultivate brand loyalty

But, in order to drive loyalty as well as engagement, the apps must meet the expectations consumers have for the user and app experience. The majority of consumers expect high value from the app experience and want a specific set of features: 65 percent of consumers expect promotions and exclusive deals, 59 percent expect loyalty programs, and 50 percent expect the ability to make purchases within the app.

“The brand app is much more than just another marketing channel—it is the cornerstone of a brand’s relationship with its customers.” said Tobias Dengel, CEO of WillowTree. “Our relationships to apps are deeply personal in nature, and an app’s quality and usefulness acts as an indicator of how much a brand cars about us. The brand app can no longer be a check-box item, especially in an extremely saturated market.”

How brand apps power purchases and cultivate brand loyalty

“This research definitively shows the consumers expect brand apps to drive their loyalty, and that poor apps have a direct negative impact on a brand’s perception as a whole. Exclusivity, loyalty programs and convenience (e.g payments) are some of the features users clearly expect,” said Dengel.

The impact of these consumer expectations is make-or-break for brands looking to establish and grow brand loyalty

When asked about experiences with brand apps, respondents who had positive experiences said they were more likely to make purchases, sign up for loyalty programs, use the app regularly, and increase their loyalty to the brand.

Consumers who said they’ve had a negative experience said they would make fewer purchases, not recommend the brand to others, and become less loyal to the brand. Others stated they would delete the app altogether.

How brand apps power purchases and cultivate brand loyalty

“The ability to foster a positive experience has enormous potential for brands looking to drive engagement and loyalty,” Dengel added. “It puts brands in a critical position to understand the role that the brand app plays in the customer journey and in the customer relationship and the value they can build into these products to avoid joining the vast ranks of deleted apps.”

Additional findings from the report include:

  • 68 percent of consumers said that when they are loyal to brands, they download the brand’s apps
  • 43 percent have deleted as many as a quarter of their brand apps, and 22
  • percent have deleted more than half of their brand apps
  • 51 percent of millennials also said that a positive brand app experience would make them more likely to purchase from that brand consistently, compared to 47 percent overall and 35 percent of Boomers

Read the complete report here.

WillowTree surveyed over 1,000 consumers in the U.S. in March 2018.

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Richard Carufel

Richard Carufel

Richard Carufel is editor of Bulldog Reporter and the Daily ’Dog, one of the web’s leading sources of PR and marketing communications news and opinions. He has been reporting on the PR and communications industry for over 12 years, and has interviewed hundreds of journalists and PR industry leaders.

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