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How do you make your business's mobile app stand out in a crowd?

Say your company has an innovative new product, and a slick video to prove it. This would seem to be a perfect fit for a mobile marketing app to get that news out to people.

But mobile users getting bombarded by information will tend to ignore apps touting new products or services. The best mobile marketing apps provide something of value to a customer, based on interactions and/or a history with that customer.

Building Value Through Providing Service

One example of an effective mobile marketing app comes from an insurance company. The app uses a smartphone’s global positioning system and a simple, clean user interface to let teens check in with their parents to let them know where they are.

The app meets the needs of teens who don’t want to be seen calling a parent, but gives parents a bit more peace of mind. So in terms of pitching a product, it’s not much of an app, but in terms of providing a useful service while also building brand awareness, it’s a great app.

Notice how this app builds value via interaction. The parent learns something useful by virtue of the teen’s use of the app and GPS data. It’s a case of generating content with mobility, rather than pushing the same information to everyone. Think of it this way: mobile users don’t care about standard information -- they need interaction to reveal what they need.

One way that interaction happens via a mobile app is by posing questions or presenting choices to pinpoint preferences. Some mobile apps also interact by crowdsourcing -- such as apps that tell you where everyone is seeing the lowest gas price at the pump.

Location, Location, Location

Good mobile marketing apps also increasingly make better use of GPS and other technologies to be more location-aware. This is a work in progress, but getting better.

For example, companies such as Walgreens, Starbucks and others have optimized mobile apps to work with iPhone’s Passbook app -- a digital wallet function -- so that when you drive up to a Starbucks or a Walgreens, Passbook presents you with your loyalty card for that merchant.

The next frontier will be to harness geolocation inside of stores. Envision a mobile app that knows which aisle you are walking through in a store, and from buying patterns, can remind you of things you might need from that aisle.

Location awareness at this level may sound far-fetched, but it’s being worked on today. You may recall that in March, Apple acquired a company called WifiSLAM whose technology aims at geolocating within buildings. There is huge potential for mobile apps that can tap this level of location awareness and pair it with purchase history data. There is a powerful interplay of mobile apps, geolocation, and customer history that can be tapped here to deliver value.

Mobile marketing apps that are more targeted and location aware are necessary to appeal to today’s more connected consumers. Analyst firm Forrester Research is calling this trend the “perpetually connected” consumer. Forrester’s data shows that 22 percent of U.S. online adults are already far along on this shift. Using mobile apps to push standard promotions isn’t going to cut it with this growing segment of the public.

So what should an effective mobile marketing app look like?

  • It should be focused on delivering unique value to the user.
  • It should be driven by interaction and knowledge of customer-specific interests, not by standard information or user interface design.
  • When needed, it will use precise geolocation as a means of delivering value.

There certainly are other valid techniques for mobile marketing, but these three characteristics should get you thinking about ways to market to consumers by providing them something they value.

Title image courtesy of Gunnar Pippel (Shutterstock)

Editor's Note: We're coming to the end of our look at the mobile digital experience. Read more features on the topic here.