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Offline Partnerships Drive Mobile App Success for Brands

Offline partnerships and ecosystem integrations are helping savvy brand marketers position their mobile apps in front of audiences at opportune moments. 

According to data from the newly released BRAG (Brand Relative App Growth) Index, offline partnerships that included presence and promotions with sports teams, games, athletes, and music artists delivered above-average app install volumes in 2021. 

To develop the BRAG Index, teams at Digital Turbine and Apptopia combined online surveys of mobile phone users with install volume sourced from Apptopia’s Performance Data. Based on those two data sources, they developed two growth metrics: growth potential (reflecting top-of-funnel demand) and BRAG Index (comparing an app’s end-of-quarter install volume against its category peers).

Understanding how awareness, consideration, and intent correlate with app growth potential is top of mind as brand marketers place heavy investments into mobile app development this year. According to Business of Apps, simple app development can come with a price tag of $16,000 to $32,000, while the cost to build a more complex, custom application can easily top $100,000. With so much money on the line, it makes sense that brands would be looking for insights into what makes certain apps more successful than others.

“By far, the biggest surprise [from the data] was the growth achievement coming from brands that executed partnerships,” says Digital Turbine Chief Marketing Officer Greg Wester. “From Klarna in retail, to News Break in news, multiple apps — with little brand equity — wisely used partnerships to catapult the growth of their peers.”

Using partnerships to drive mobile marketing

Tapping into a partner’s fan power is critical to mobile success. Digital Turbine found that partnerships with organizations that did not have fans—like corporate partners—did not convert installs at the same rate as partnerships with groups that did have fans, like sports teams and music artists.

For Chick-fil-A, a top performer in Digital Turbine’s research, that meant launching a local campaign and giving away free chicken sandwiches when home sports teams win their games. One requirement to redeem the prize: users must have the Chick-fil-A mobile app downloaded onto their phones with location services turned on.

Another effective mobile growth strategy, particularly for multi-location brand marketers, involves product-led growth. Data from the BRAG Index shows a correlation between app features designed to make the mobile experience more valuable to users on each return visit and increases in app install volume. As interest in cryptocurrency has skyrocketed, apps that are building a Web3 experience are also outperforming their peers.

Top-performing multi-location brands found mobile success by launching integrations with Apple Car Play (Dunkin’), creating mobile loyalty programs (Taco Bell), and developing mobile check-in features that turn smartphones into key cards (Planet Fitness). Within the shopping category, Nike was among the top performers in intent. Broadly speaking, Digital Turbine found that installs of apps in the food and drink sector grew as more restaurants opened for business and the general public became more comfortable with the thought of going out to eat last year.

Tracking brand movement

Wester says the BRAG Index confirms that brand marketers need two different but related things for success — a way to understand what different tactics really make a difference and a way to understand how brand-building efforts impact user awareness.

“Our inaugural BRAG report starts to peel the onion on these issues as we start to uniformly track brand movement, oversized UA success, and the strategies that are moving both,” he says.

Wester says each of the marketing strategies identified as being used to create transformative growth in mobile — offline partnerships, mobile ecosystem integrations, and new product features — is related to the shift away from saturated targeted ads to more contextual placements.

“Traditional ‘intent-based’ display media is increasingly challenged by saturation and issues such as IDFA. In this environment, new channels will become increasingly important. Blending elements of promotion, discovery [and] sampling, and product-led features with social or network effect benefits will become increasingly important,” Wester says. “For multi-location, regional, or city-specific brands, affinity-based partnerships in relevant markets were some of the tactics the report found as effective.”

Stephanie Miles is a senior editor at Street Fight.

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