Goshen News, Goshen, IN

September 29, 2013

TECH TALK WITH MIKE: Utility mobile apps rise above direct sales concept

By MIKE GINGERICH
COLUMNIST

— An interesting trend in mobile apps is the rise of apps that simply provide utility. They do not seek to sell more of a product, but instead offer value free of charge in areas of need. It’s a unique concept because the apps are not without significant cost for development and maintaining by the companies creating them. The interesting longer term result, however, is that they do create greater brand affinity and ultimately increase sales for those companies. Let’s dig into three specific mobile apps doing this.

Sit Or Squat App

A unique name and a unique app. From Charmin, this mobile app helps people find clean restrooms while out on the go. It uses input from fellow users who “rate” the cleanliness of public restrooms as good “sit,” or as needing improvement “squat.”

As a free download from the iPhone and Google Play (for Android) app stores, this app can be valuable to families traveling or visiting a new city. The map it pulls up shows pins with a roll of toilet paper as the icon. Green means “sit” and red means “squat.” An interesting feature is Facebook or Twitter integration, in case you want to share your experience with your friends. I’m not sure, but that might be too much information for friends. One downside is ratings are based on people using it. So if your location hasn’t be “reviewed,” you could be out of luck in finding a close restroom with ratings.

What Knot To Do App

Outdoors sportswear company, Columbia, offers a mobile app for iPhones called “What Knot To Do.” This app is designed to be a handy app for the outdoorsman. Columbia figures you’ll have a mobile phone with you when hiking, climbing, etc., but you may not remember how to make a certain knot. The free app offers categories of knots and a visual guide to creating the knot. With more than 70 different knots outlined, this utility doesn’t sell anything, but offers outdoor enthusiasts a connection with sportswear producer Columbia every time the app is accessed for help.

Clorox myStain App

Ever wonder how to get that unique stain out of your shirt? Have you been in a restaurant and suddenly found yourself “wearing” a bit of your meal? The Clorox myStain App is ready to assist. This app is available for iPhone and Android devices, as well as offering a mobile version for all other phones. With an enormous amount of searchable stain types, it covers the gamut. What’s unique is that the solutions offered include ways to get stains out that do not include Clorox.

Why Free Utility Apps?

The question begs to be asked, why offer a free app that costs a company money to build and maintain, yet doesn’t sell anything? Companies realize that more and more the one constant fact is that consumers have their mobile phone with them. The thought process, backed by research these companies have conducted, is that by offering helpful apps and utilities connected to their brand name, companies earn loyalty, trust and top-of-mind awareness. It is like earning credits that will be redeemed for purchases at a later time. By being helpful and offering value related to their product area, but beyond their specific product area as well, companies are finding ways to expand their reach and connect with their target consumer.



Mike Gingerich leads the Social Application division of web design company, Digital Hill Multimedia (http://www.DigitalHill.com). He is a co-founder of TabSite.com, a leader in Facebook fan page tools for businesses. TabSite offers brands the power to boost Facebook marketing with contests and promotions. For more information on TabSite, please visit www.tabsite.com.