Mobile apps as marketplaces


3 minute read
Alumni: Kieron Gurner

Alumni: Kieron Gurner

UX & Design Lead

Digital Insights

App technology and culture moves quickly, from the explosion of published apps in recent years, to the changing sales techniques employed by app publishers. Now a messaging app, WeChat, is experimenting with selling smartphones to its customers with resounding success. So can we have mobile apps as marketplaces?

Apps as retail partners

At the end of last year, WeChat messaging app launched an experiment to see how well they could utilise their app as an “m-commerce” tool, partnering with Chinese smartphone manufacturer Xiaomi. The result was the sale of 150,000 smartphones in less than 10 minutes.

The increased use in communication apps is obviously rich ground for sales, and this early example of the potential selling power of apps could have is bound to cause even more excitement amongst the big and small tech players to get themselves into messaging and social apps. When you consider how loyal communication & social app users are to their chosen platform, this makes a lot of sense, as these platforms can live or die by the investment that their users put into them.

Mobile use up 115% over last year

Following this news, the mobile app analytics company Flurry announced that mobile use has increased by 115%, compared to last year.

Leading the figures is a massive 203% increase in messaging and social apps, with utilities and productivity apps jumping 149%. These point to people using their devices less as novelty devices, and more as integrated tools for managing their lives.

With this knowledge that people are getting more functional in their app consumption, we’re sure to be seeing a lot more monetizing strategies from social apps in the near future, especially if more businesses across the world can make a success of this tactic.

The future of in-app sales

The WeChat example is impressive because of its volume, though it shows a potential for apps to move away from monetizing themselves through app sales and in-app purchases, and more as conduits for physical sales of products.

Apps can be leveraged to establish strong connections with an individual customer, and if your app makes life easier or gives them enjoyment, then there’s no reason why they won’t become loyal customers of your brand, and those you recommend.

Thinking about apps in this way might seem premature until there are more examples, but with this example, and the increase in engagement with messaging and utility apps in particular, show a willingness for people to bring app usage into their day-to-day routines. Combined with the pace of change in mobile, it won’t take long for this kind of in-app selling to become status quo.

We’ll see a growing number of businesses playing with these kinds of marketing in 2014, maintaining hard-won users, whilst attempting to convert them into non-digital customers as well.

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