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June 12, 2017

5 Ways Apps Are Changing Digital Visibility

Apps have become popular for their convenience and availability, but they're starting to eclipse other, more traditional forms of digital visibility. Businesses are being forced to rethink how they establish and maintain their digital presence in multiple areas, including:

  • Brand presentation. Firms need to ensure their brands are more visible, in ways that customers are more likely to see. This includes maximizing visibility across multiple channels to hedge your bets.
  • Customer communication. Brands are also rethinking how they communicate with their customers, such as through a customer service portal.
  • Service availability. Apps are also forcing companies to readdress how they make services (and products) available to their clients.

Major Shifts

What are the major shifts, and how are businesses responding?

  1. The replacement of traditional websites as “hubs.” First, websites have diminished as the go-to “hub” for companies. Users need to have a central online location where they can find information about the brand, exchange products and services, and engage with brand representatives. For the past two decades or so, traditional websites have served as this hub, and companies built outlets (including social media profiles and advertisements) that pointed to that hub. Now that apps have become more popular and easier to access than a separate Web browser, customers are using apps as a central hub. Many firms now offer a link on their traditional site’s homepage to download their app as a transition.
  2. The emergence of third-party online scheduling. One of the most convenient features of the Internet is the ability to schedule appointments and make reservations online. However, traditional websites require businesses to develop their own scheduling functionality, which is costly and usually inferior to a dedicated scheduling service app. In response, apps like Yocale have started to take over, and offer online scheduling services for a range of businesses. Companies can link to these services from their own website and apps, and thus save money while providing a consistent, high-quality experience for customers.
  3. The prioritization of third-party reviews. In a similar vein, third-party apps are becoming more trusted as a source of reviews. On their own apps and Web pages, brands can populate and moderate reviews as they see fit. Third-party review apps such as Yelp have a reputation to maintain, and go out of their way to clean their review pages to ensure legitimacy. In turn, Google and other search engines boost the importance of positive reviews in ranking their online search results, and brands understandably do more to bolster the quantity and quality of their online reviews.
  4. The rise of app collaborations. Apps are also collaborating more – with each other and with other brands – to improve visibility. Rather than rely on a catchall strategy like search engine optimization (SEO) to raise visibility and capture the interest of relevant populations, apps have started to offer their services through one another. For example, Google recently embedded estimates for Uber rides and the ability to make restaurant reservations within its Maps app.
  5. The increase in necessity for in-app content. Users are also requesting more in-app content because apps are easier and faster to access than traditional websites. In-app content needs to be optimized for the mobile experience: loading quickly and with interactive elements that can be easily engaged (such as large, easy-to-read buttons that can be clicked with fingers rather than a mouse). Fortunately, brands like Google are supporting in-app content by making it more visible in search engines; in fact, Google has introduced app streaming, which allows search users to preview in-app content without having to install the app on their device.

Where We’re Going From Here

Businesses that don’t yet have an app are starting to put together one, and those that lack the budget or interest to develop an app are finding ways to collaborate with apps that already exist. It’s unlikely that traditional websites will become obsolete within the next few years, but it won’t be long before apps become the dominant form of online visibility.

Edited by Alicia Young

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