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How to avoid making a digital white elephant

Jarman says that he never downloads an app unless they’re intrinsically linked to the purpose of a company.

“I only want to interact with apps when the app is core to their bottom line,” he says. “If the company values its app, it’ll value me as the user.”

These comments come at a time when the scramble for apps has largely subsided.

It wasn’t long ago that virtually every business in New Zealand was desperately clamouring to get an app, just to have something to talk about.

However, many of these apps are today collecting digital dust and have long been relegated to the recesses of memory (if they’re lucky).

Jarman says apps that stay relevant tend to become integrated into the life of the user because of what they offer. 

“Those one-off apps that everyone downloaded, like Periscope or Meerkat, didn’t get anywhere because they couldn’t get beyond the initial hype,” Jarman says.  

“Apps that can penetrate your life in multiple ways, be it your car, TV, watch or phone, have much more of a chance of sticking around.”

Over the course of the last year, there has perhaps been no app more hyped than Pokemon Go, but it has now pretty much faded from mainstream conversation.

However, Jarman doesn’t think the Pokemon Go story is quite over yet.

“It’ll never surpass the daily Twitter users again, but there are still those core users that present an opportunity,” he says.

Jarman says that one of the best opportunities for continued relevance lies in Pokemon’s Go’s extension onto the Apple Watch. 

“Pokemon Go is doing exactly what it needs to do: it’s spilling out over its app,” says Jarman.

“The whole point of it going onto Apple Watch is for workouts. So I can go for a 10km run in the morning, or I can go for a 10km run and catch an egg. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if you one day had a Pokemon Go app for your car that feeds Pikachus onto the navigation system.”

That sounds dangerous as hell, but as more cars become connected, there will no doubt be a fight for the dashboard, not dissimilar from that which we’ve seen in the mobile phone space.

And as connectivity extends to more devices and becomes visible in more places, it presents an opportunity for brands to also bleed out and reach audiences in new ways—and this is what Jarman spends his days doing at Sailthru.

“What we’re trying to do at Sailthru is create the small-town experience, when you have a guy at the store who says: ‘Hey Sam, we know you love lemonade and it’s 10c off this week’. We’re just trying to digitise that.”

However, this also carries the potential of creepiness. If personalised brand messages can be distributed via desktops, mobiles, dashboards and even fridges, then there’s always a possibility of making consumers feel uncomfortable.

Jarman admits this can be a problem in some instances, but he uses a personal, real-life analogy to explain how the creepy factor can be avoided.

“It’s no different than someone recognising you behind the counter and offering you the usual. That’s not creepy,” he says.

“What is creepy is if you went to a coffee shop and the barista said: ‘ Ah, Sam, I saw you in The Warehouse last week, and I saw you buying paper cups. You like paper cups? We’ve got them here.’”

Jarman says brands have to prioritise adding value to the user’s life rather than simply looking to make a hard sell when it comes to apps.

“If the value is there for the user, they’ll discount the privacy issues. But the value has to be there. We have already have the technology to do really creepy things, but if we can’t turn that into value that users instantly recognise, then all it stays is creepy. And value for one person might not be value for another person.”         

This story first appeared at StopPress
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