To app or not to app

With app usage in decline, yet development costs remaining high, many companies are shunning their own branded applications in favour of alternative messaging experiences that already rival push notifications whilst also offering the much sought after in-app resolution. We explore whether this change signals the death of the app, and which messaging journey should be your priority. 

App decline

It’s no secret that both application production and app use is in decline. Apps had their place in business-to-consumer ecosystems once. Websites were often designed with desktop usage in mind with mobile as an afterthought. This made accessing a company’s website a clunky and disengaging experience. Today, sites are not just designed to be responsive. They are often designed to be mobile-first. App usage has therefore started to decrease. It’s true we are on our phones more than ever. But we are using fewer and fewer apps daily. Now that mobile sites rival applications in terms of consumer experience, companies are paying less attention to application development. Given that apps can be expensive to manufacture and maintain, many start-ups are now seeing little value in producing them at all.

Desire for in-app resolution

It’s also common now for messaging channels such as Facebook Messenger, RCS and Twitter DM to have their own ‘in-app browsers’. These allow users to open websites without leaving the messaging application. This is an unsurprising development. Users routinely report disdain for having to use multiple apps to achieve resolution to a problem or make a purchase. Messaging channels have therefore worked hard over the past few year to keep users in one place.

Smart button replies and the ability to ask agents questions (essentially outsourcing the task of scouring a website to the customer service agent and having them retrieve the correct information within the conversation) and the ability to store booking information or tickets and vouchers without the use of another application are all extensions of this trend. This has further led many companies to abandon apps altogether. Instead, they are utilising existing messaging channels to create messaging experiences that mimic push notifications, whilst also enabling in-app chat with little to no development.

With so many features now natively supported in messaging channels, it’s no wonder that many businesses are in essence piggybacking off of them instead of continuing or starting their own app development. But whether this will work for you is entirely dependent on your business model.

Death of the app? It depends.

The production of apps will certainly continue to slow. However, those with well-developed apps that provide genuine value have a unique opportunity. With RCS, iMessage, FB Messenger, WhatsApp, Twitter DM or even SMS, businesses will have the ability to include deep links in their messages. These can either push users to the app (if installed) or to the App or Play Store to install it.

What’s more, some industries such as the financial sector, travel industry or gaming and entertainment companies, who have particularly unique or dependent offerings in their app experiences can use messaging channels to complement their app usage, in the same way that push notifications are used currently. In a nutshell, if you have a worthwhile app, your other messaging channels will be a great way to drive traffic to it and increase usage. An omnichannel strategy that includes both push notifications and rich messaging channels in combination will cover all bases and skyrocket engagement and sales.

If, however, you do not yet have an app, or are considering cutting out the expense of managing it in favour of something more efficient, then rich messaging channels may be a great replacement. After all, your users will almost certainly have these apps already on their phone. Without the need to download anything additional, you are lowering the barrier to entry to communicate directly with consumers.

Alternative strategies to consider

Are you now considering moving to existing messaging channels over your app communication? Or looking for ways to effectively communicate to your customers without the expense of application development? Here are a few ways you can take advantage of these channels to do so:

  • Use web chat, Facebook Messenger or Twitter DM as your go-to customer service channels. Direct users to these channels for speedy resolutions that are six times quicker and cheaper than phonecalls.
  • Get users to opt in to receiving marketing via SMS at the first port of data capture. This way, you can keep them updated with news, sales, promotions and events.
  • Ask users for their preferred channel to send alerts, reminders and notifications. For example: appointment reminders, booking confirmations, receipts, delivery alerts or e-tickets. Using rich channels to send these will also give users the chance to engage in 2-way messaging. This will enable quick resolutions to any issues, such as the wrong address. They can also quickly ask questions and make additional purchases.

Remember, push notifications are still highly effective one-way messages. If you already have an app that your customers respond well to, in-app chat may be a great way to achieve 2-way communication with your users.

Omnichannel considerations

One thing to look out for with your omnichannel provider is that they support automated back-up channels. With your customer preferences more diverse than ever, and a base that may be split between app users, and non-app users, it can be a headache to send multiple messages to mutliple channels. With a system such as Comapi’s Branch, however, you’ll be able to send just one message, to the customer’s preferred channel automatically.

For example, Anne is an app user who has kept her push notifications on. Barry is also an app user, but he turned his push notifications off. Clara is not an app user at all. They have all made a purchase during a flash sale one morning. Acme Inc uses Comapi’s Branch to send one message informing them their orders have been dispatched. It arrives as a push notification for Anne, an SMS for Barry and a Facebook Messenger alert for Clara, all with a single click of a button.

Want to find out how Branch can work for you? Contact us for a custom consultation.