What makes an Application disproportionately (Wildly) successful than most others?
700K Apps and there-abouts on Android and Apple and yet the Pareto principle is more disproportionately applicable to the commercial smartphone apps than most of the other instances of Pareto. So, why do apps and services like Instagram, Twitter, Gilt, Tinder and Airbnb rise above the rest? What keeps users coming back to them?
Any casual reflection on the nature of most popular applications will through up the most obvious results-
There had to be a key Proposition buttressed by Design and Usability/ User Experience. Airbnb for instance is one of the best propositions for travel freaks. A clean, clutter free design and a smooth and free flowing intuitive user experience makes the application easy to use. The way i see it Applications on the cloud or Hybrid Applications which have limited footprint/ light weight device will be key to the user experience. Currently Cross Platform presence is a given, but what would truely be a wow would be cross platform integration – i.e the App on iPhone learns what you last did on your Android Tablet last. Currently this may not be a very easily comprehended scenario – but Apps would need to share intelligence across platforms to create a relevance in user experience. The main intent is to drive Scale.
All app developers aspire to higher degrees of social transmission a.k.a Word of mouth. Breaking this code – The willingness of people to spread your message and to reach and influence customers has an inherent DNA and a marketing strategy/structure which app makers need to take cognizance. Jonah Berger, associate professor of marketing at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania provides a construct to understand profusion and/or lack of it which can be applied to understand the exceptional flight of some apps amongst others which dont get downloaded. According to Berger, there are 6 key drivers to virality – which applies to Apps as well.
1. The ability of an App to make the user smarter and look better in his social circles is key to the App being recommended around social spheres of influence and affiliation.
Social currency is the idea that people are more likely to talk about something the better and smarter it makes them look, and the more special it makes them feel.
2. WhatsApp is to Messaging what Skype/Viber are to Video Conferencing – These are very powerful associations that drive the penetration of Applications in users.Very strong cases of positioning and occupation of the mind space.
Triggers —linking products and ideas to cues in the environment increases word of mouth.
3. Engagement and Involvement are key to building a relationship with the App. If there are any doubts, one has to reference the rise of Arab Spring – the critical role of Facebook and Twitter as beacons of people’s movements.
The more you can get people fired up, excited, or even feeling negative about something, the more likely they’ll be to pass it on: That’s emotion.
4. One has to only look at the multitude of ordinary no-ones who have now a voice on twitter or a channel on YouTube with followers. Applications with high “showcase” quotient of showcase have a high stickiness and re-use quotient with users.
Public refers to the idea that by making behavior more observable, so that it can be imitated, you make it more likely that your idea will catch on.
5. The oldest lesson in marketing is Proposition and a strong proposition is clearly the key value driver for the application. Without a strong proposition, the App doesnot stand any chance even if its great on design or interface.
When something has practical value—when it is useful—people share it with others to help them.
6. While this hasn’t exactly flown yet, a critical decider to success of apps is the real world integrations. I can think of Layar enabled apps that integrate the mobile with real world. The ability to wrap service layers around the app is intrinsic to creating great stories around the applications
And finally, stories enable you to wrap your product or idea in a narrative that carries your brand along for the ride.
These then are the 6 key factors driving application penetration and social transmission, thus the critical points distinguishing apps from blockbusters to one in the long tail.