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Ten out of Ten Surveys Are Needed to Inform Brands About Apps


by on November 11th, 2010

I am going to make a sweeping statement. There are, in my opinion, three kinds of market research findings. The first, is where the findings are, to bowdlerise Basil Fawlty, the bloomin’ obvious (Ninety nine per cent of heterosexual men fancy Angelina Jolie*); the second, where they are surprising, challenge the established view on this, that or the other or else contribute in some way or another  - however humble – to the breadth and depth of human knowledge (Swindon is the UK’s most ignorant town, claims QI survey).

And then there is the third category: the research which ought to be filed under category (a) but which prompts such a wide outpouring of astonishment from certain quarters that you would think that the research in question was up there with the discovery of penicillin or the Crick/Watson work on DNA.

The research I have in mind has just been conducted by Harris Interactive – for EffectiveUI – which found out that (amongst other things) 69 per cent of the 781 US mobile app users who responded to its online poll said “if a brand name mobile app is not useful, helpful or easy to use it results in a negative perception about the brand” and that 73 per cent “agree that they expect a company’s mobile app to be easier to use than its website”. There are other percentages dotted around, but in general they all combine to the following truism: that apps which are simple, inituitive and relevant to their audiences will enhance the brand, and those which aren’t, won’t.

I have immediately placed this app into category 3, not because of any fault with the diligent market researchers and the research they have undertaken, but because around the globe, in the offices of numerous brands which shall remain nameless, the cry will go up: “Really? Hey, Zac, take a look at this!”

When it comes to advertising, many brands are surprisingly stolid, conservative beasts, wary of new media and thus somewhat slow in identifying how those channels may be used to market their wares. At the same time, they can have their collective fingers right on the pulse of the cultural zeitgeist, which can make for a somewhat peculiar transposition. The attitude to apps is a good case in point here. Brand executives rapidly realised the potential that the confluence of Apple’s App Store and the iPhone was something special, largely because they’d all bought iPhones and downloaded Pocket God and Flight Control; what they didn’t necessarily bear in mind was that not everyone has an iPhone – in fact, more than 90 per cent  of folks don’t – and therefore that the app for Uncle Tom Cobbleigh’s Surgical Stockings may not be reaching its intended audience.

To reiterate: there is absolutely nothing wrong with the research. Indeed, it – and other percentage-laden consumer research – is essential, to persuade Zac and his colleague that if they do go the app road, then they should tick the simple/intuitive/relevant/boxes above. And then make it for the Android as well.

*I haven’t actually found that particular survey yet.  But it’s probably true.

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2 Responses to “Ten out of Ten Surveys Are Needed to Inform Brands About Apps”

  1. Anders Borg on November 12th, 2010 at 5:33 pm

    Interestingly this is obvious to the average user (or at least the modestly educated and “non-religious” user), so maybe marketing teams need to get out more.

    Maybe you and others could help companies arrange informal meetings with individuals rather than people in a group. Group dynamics tend to kill the voice of those that have the really good opinions. I’m allergic to focus groups for that reason.

    Also, marketing teams should in my opinion generally spend more time actually meeting the market (their direct customers as well as (read: must also) the customers’ customers) instead of only doing fancy Flash animations and spend all time in a non-average environment (their office and their clique of colleagues and friends). I intentionally exaggerate of course.

    If you are a phone provider, you can’t ask an operator about customers’ opinions, as that has gone through multiple layers of filters to adapt to what the operators really want. That’s the same as let’s say Coca Cola would ask an ad agency about what customers want. The thing they want above all else is to keep Coca Cola as a customer, so don’t expect them to rock the boat.

  2. Windsor Holden on November 15th, 2010 at 10:24 am

    A number of good points there Anders – particularly the observation about focus groups :-)

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