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What Marketers Can Learn From Three Mobile Apps

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The holiday gift-buying season is in full swing, so I thought I'd provide a quick-and-dirty rundown of mobile shopping apps that understand their customers and can inspire you to create a better app for your company.

1. Shutterfly (Internet-based image-publishing service)

A quick review: The Shutterfly app is pared down so that you are not overwhelmed with other choices or clutter. With a few simple clicks, items such as pictures, knickknacks, and gifts are ordered and shipped wherever you want them to go. You can quickly upload photos directly from your smartphone within the app and place an order using these images. Shutterfly picture orders consistently come out looking very professional (and arrive in a timely manner for a reasonable price).

Shutterfly's app has created a simple way to do complex things. Printing pictures, creating keepsakes, and managing your photographs sounds hard, but this app has made it incredibly easy.

Marketing Takeaway: Keep it simple. Ask yourself, "What do my customers want most when they access our app? How can we help them do that task easily?"

2. Etsy (an e-commerce-based website for handmade and vintage items)

A quick review: I can't say enough good things about Etsy. It provides a platform for selling homemade, handmade, and vintage items. I have ordered many items from the Etsy mobile app. It is so well-organized, providing a highly efficient method of searching and finding exactly what you want.

You can search using specific keywords or using the nifty categorization (vintage, handmade, men, women, kids, etc.) that they have built into the top nav. The app allows you to follow others and "favorite" items that you may want to purchase at a later date. You can have conversations (private messages) with various sellers, asking them questions or providing feedback on their products. The integration with PayPal via the app is seamless, giving you a variety of ways to pay for your order.

Marketing Takeaway: Offer personalization. Let customers personalize the app to make it best suited to their specific needs.

3. Starbucks

A quick review: Who doesn't need a little coffee to get through the holiday shopping season? Starbucks is my guilty pleasure, and the Starbucks mobile app gives customers the ability to indulge when they need to. They can easily pay for all things Starbucks-related via the app, including gift cards and other nifty items, or simply pay for their coffee at any Starbucks location. You can easily manage your Starbucks card, track your purchases, and reload money to your card(s), as well as keep tabs on any rewards you've earned and find a local spot to enjoy your favorite latte. Also, the Starbucks app frequently offers freebies for your downloading pleasure.

Marketing Takeaway: Offer freebies. The app will notify you that a free app or song is available. So, what can your company offer for free now and then as a reward to engage your app users?

No two apps are created equal, and no two people will feel the same way about a particular app. Preferences and needs are varied. Ease of use, security, and reliability are big factors in the success of mobile apps. The three apps I discussed have these qualities, and then some. Which is what makes them my personal faves.

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To find out more about what makes a great app, check out the following infographic by Dot Com Infoway.

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Courtney Bosch is a content manager for e-learning and events at MarketingProfs, managing content for seminars and virtual events.

LinkedIn: Courtney Bosch

Twitter: @courtneybosch

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