Mobile Apps and Content Marketing-A Match Made in Heaven

Nielsen data supports what most already know: apps are in. In fact, their research indicates that, in the U.S., Android and iPhone users 18 and older spend 65 percent more time on apps today than they did just two years ago. How much time? On average, it adds up to 30 hours and 15 minutes a month.

That fact hasn’t missed the attention of CMOs around the country. With content marketing increasingly becoming the go-to tactic for 21st century marketers (with 93% of B2B marketers using content marketing in 2014 according to the Content Marketing Institute), the marriage of mobile apps and content marketing certainly does seem like a match made in heaven.

It’s a point that hasn’t been lost on John SanGiovanni, co-founder and VP of product design, at Zumobi, a mobile media and advertising company in Seattle and New York. In fact, while some still think of mobile as best used for short-form content, Zumobi thinks there is a place for long-form content as well.

This shift, SanGiovanni says, came from an “aha moment”-the realization that for many large organizations, such as major airlines or banks, a large, opt-in audience is already in place. Apps become “the perfect channel for user engagement and branded content,” says SanGiovanni, who believes that includes long-form content. Anyone who has ever used a Kindle app to read a book on an Android or iPhone device would agree.

“We used to think about mobile as little, bite-size or snack-size pieces of content, but, the truth is, when you’re trapped in a doctor’s office or sitting at a bus stop, that’s a glorious time to consume long-from content,” says SanGiovanni. For brands-large and small-that spells opportunity.

“I challenge brands to ask their target audience what channels on YouTube they subscribe to,” SanGiovanni says. “Interestingly, a very large percentage of those channels tend to be from brands-whether a Coca-Cola, a Nike, or movie trailers.” Yet, he notes: “A lot of that content is nowhere to be found inside the brand’s own app.”

Of course, as brands flock to mobile and attempt to engage audiences through their own apps, they will face stiff competition. And, despite the fact that most consumers have downloaded dozens of apps,Nielsen data suggests that they regularly use just a fraction of them-87% of English-speaking U.S. mobile app consumers indicated that they used fewer than 10 apps on a daily basis-55% said they used between one and four.

What makes apps enticing? Nielsen’s research indicates that the fun-factor drives consumption. Most pointed to leisure or entertainment (53% of smartphone users and 59% of tablet users), or recommendations from a friend (48% and 44%, respectively) as top reasons for downloading an application.

Facebook and YouTube are the most popular mobile apps says Oliver Roup, founder and CEO of VigLink, a platform for content-driven commerce based in San Francisco. What this means for content marketers, he says, is that it’s crucial to reach consumers on mobile channels. “One increasingly popular method is through influencer through digital content.” That aligns with Nielsen’s data indicating that recommendations drive app usage. Of course, just as with any form of word-of-mouth marketing, the user experience has to be positive to drive future engagement, and future word-of-mouth.

“Once the influencers drive traffic back to the brands through mobile or social links, the brands then need to support the experience,” stresses Roup. “Mobile conversion rates still remain far lower than desktop due to small screens and pages not optimized for mobile scroll.” In addition, he says, “not all brands have the mobile presence that they should at this point.” He points to Nordstrom as an example of a brand that has developed a seamless mobile experience for consumers through its mobile app.

The challenge before brands: connecting with consumers in their space-mobile-in ways that not only provide value, but also deliver that value seamlessly. It’s a balance between form and function. In an increasingly crowded playing field, those who can achieve that balance will be able to claim their share of a multi-billion dollar market potential.

(This post originally appeared in EContent Magazine.)

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