Blog post

Is Mobile the Final Frontier of Brand Loyalty?

By Jennifer Polk | October 21, 2013 | 5 Comments

digital marketing

What’s in your wallet? Better yet, what apps are on your smartphone? Loyalty was once measured by the frequency of your store visits or the reward cards you carried. But plastic picture holders in your billfold have given way to photo sharing apps, and the day planner you once carried in your briefcase has been replaced by a calendar built into a native application on your phone. Although mobile payment has yet to replace credit, debit, or even loyalty cards, our phones do represent an extension of our wallets, even ourselves. They may also symbolize the last vestige of brand loyalty. According to a recent report, the average person with a smartphone has 26 installed apps. Even above average users, like the typical smartphone user in South Korea, only have 40 apps. For me, at least, that number remains steady due to limited free data storage and an unwillingness to part with favorite pictures, music or movies that are also taking up space. In fact, to make space for the recent iOS update, I cleaned up my apps, and ones that were seldom used or provided the same functionality as a mobile web site were deleted. The remaining 40 apps were categorized based on how often they’re used.

Before the purge
Before the purge

Just because an app gets deleted doesn’t mean a brand is written off altogether. But it does mean that brand isn’t top of mind when the phone is in a user’s hand and they’re looking to make a quick purchase or planning their next trip to the store. It also means that the digital marketer who is measuring the success of this year’s mobile program, building next year’s mobile plan and budget, and trying to solve for their conversion rate and ROI better look beyond downloads to find the answer.  Simply measuring downloads is not enough when 22% of mobile apps are abandoned after one use. Tracking ratings in the app store isn’t a silver bullet either. Just like most customers vote with their dollars, mobile consumers vote with their screen and storage space, rating apps when they’re highly satisfied or dissatisfied and simply deleting or not using the apps that are irrelevant or mildly disappointing. Mobile app analytics are required to get a complete view of usage and opportunities for improvement. Also consider fundamentals like consumers’ mobile behavior, app functionality and usability, and mobile marketing tactics and content that will keep users coming back on a frequent enough basis to ensure your app makes the cut next time they’re looking to free up space.

What are your favorite or most frequently used mobile apps and why?

Comments are closed


  • atul agrawal says:

    I guess I am one of the users who has about 26 apps installed and yet I keep deleting them to create more space when required.

    I assume it would be difficult to judge loyalty purely basis the app usage too. For example, I have used an app to look at mileage program of an airlines, but then deleted it when I needed some space. It no way means that I have shifted to another airlines. I still continue to use the same airlines, it is just that probably I do not use the app.

    In an age where storage is yet very much limited on mobile devices, I guess determining loyalty basis mobile app usage may a stretch.


    • Atul, thanks for your comment. You raise an important point that app usage alone isn’t a proxy for loyalty, at least not in absolute terms. Unless you’re a frequent traveler, you probably won’t use an airline app as often as you use a social networking app. But, when deciding which to delete, you made a decision that you could live without that airline app. This could mean the app provides little value to you outside of planning and booking trips and traveling, which is fine if that aligns to the way that airline views you in their customer segmentation. If, however, you were considered a high-value customer and the airline was motivated to keep their app in your phone and keep you engaged, the knowledge that you had deleted their app due to limited utility and limited space might cause them to explore other ways to deliver value to you, even when you’re not traveling (i.e., relevant content, offers).

  • Insightful post, especially around the measurement and analytics side.

    Part of the problem is that as soon as marketers get their heads around a platform, the market moves on. Right now we’re seeing a lot of discussion around Facebook and Twitter, but Instagram is getting more attention and soon it’ll be more about the likes of Vine and Snapchat (maybe! you never know for sure which horses to back).

    So the question is twofold, work out what’s working now and try to keep an eye on where it’s all going.

    • Thanks for your comment Phil. You raise a good point about the need for marketers to understand leading trends and technology of today and tomorrow, particularly those that are applicable for their company. This is the exact reason why Gartner publishes a Hype Cycle to analyze the viability and maturity of digital marketing technology.

  • Andrew (@mccauley_andrew) says:

    Not all Apps are designed to serve the same types of needs. It seems to me that single use apps, although clean, simple and often fun, are most likely to be deleted (e.g. the Zippo lighter app). These plus the ones you referenced this in your post as “provid[ing] the same functionality as a mobile web site” create a world of apps easy to delete. Mobile marketers should push beyond what can be replicated on a mobile friendly site and find ways to engage their audience in a rich and repeatable way. Find recurring activities; they can be utilities (e.g. Waze or Weather Channel), entertainment (e.g. Twitter, MapMyRun, Streaming Radio), or even work (e.g. Gartner’s event & research apps). The point is — create something that is repeatably useful and then you have a channel for engagement