New research reveals some important steps that marketers can follow to make the most of the engagement opportunities through branded mobile apps, a key branding tool of the digital era.

Research led by Dr Lara Stocchi from Flinders University in South Australia and Dr Nina Michaelidou from Loughborough University (UK) illustrates some of the essential aspects that encourage consumers to engage with branded mobile apps.

In their article recently published in the Journal of Marketing Management (“The rules of engagement: how to motivate consumers to engage with branded mobile apps“, by Lara Stocchi, Nina Michaelidou, Naser Pourazad & Milena Micevski) the authors introduced a research framework outlining the key features that branded apps should have in order to trigger consumer engagement.

In more detail, the framework shows that the general level of consumer involvement with apps underpins two sets of perceptions of the benefits that the branded app offers. These benefits reflect the different motives for engaging with the app as consumers experience them, and include a mix of utilitarian (i.e., security, usefulness and ease of use) and hedonic motives (i.e., interpersonal utility, attachment with the device and entertainment). This range of motives leads to two key behavioural outcomes, which are the willingness to pay for the app (including in-app purchases) and the willingness to recommend the app.

Over the past decade, the number of apps available to consumers has continued to grow, along with the tendency to spend time on mobile devices using apps for a variety of purposes (e.g., accessing music, lifestyle coaching, shopping, productivity etc.). This has placed apps, especially branded ones, at the heart of current marketing strategies for all sorts of organisations. In fact, the use of apps linked to existing brands as well as apps marketed as independent standalone offerings continues to be a cost-effective way to reach large masses of consumers.

At the same time, however, frequent and seamless interactions with consumers do not necessarily mean high margins. Competition for consumers’ attention and screen time has also increased, with industry reports suggesting that consumers often end up using only a few favourite apps.

The Journal of Marketing Management article by Stocchi, Michaelidou, Pourazad and Micevski has dealt with some of these issues through a combination of qualitative (via focus groups) and quantitative research (via online survey) capturing the views of UK consumers. The key findings that emerged have been translated into simple guidelines for the management of branded apps via the provision of benefits that consumers can experience, satisfying their personal needs.

As apps become more and more embedded in the life of consumers, making products and services available ‘anytime and anywhere’ and functioning as ‘brand in the hand’, understanding which outcomes could be achieved and how, represents a key area for knowledge development and managerial interest. Dr Stocchi and Dr Michaelidou, together with the team involved in this article, continue to investigate these aspects and are currently exploring likely differences in the uptake of apps across different cultural settings. For further information, please contact the corresponding author Dr Lara Stocchi.

Read the original research article: Stocchi, L., Michaelidou, N., Pourazad, N. & Micevski, M. (2018). The rules of engagement: how to motivate consumers to engage with branded mobile apps. Journal of Marketing Management, 34(13-14), 1196-1226.

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Lara Stocchi

Lara Stocchi

Dr Lara Stocchi is Senior Lecturer in Marketing at the College of Business, Government and Law at Flinders University in Adelaide, South Australia. She is an experienced researcher in two key marketing fields: consumer buying behaviour and consumer memory. Other areas of research interest include branding and the measurement of brand performance, and digital marketing (consumer perceptions of mobile applications). She published in several high-rank marketing journals and is Associate Editor for the Journal of Consumer Behaviour.

Disclaimer: Any views expressed in this posting are the views of the Author(s), and are not necessarily the views of the JMM Editors, Westburn Publishers Ltd. or Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group.