Are New Apps Like “Getting Another Flier In The Mail”?

I was helping to run a user testing session yesterday for a startup I’m helping out. Early on in the conversation, when asked if the woman would consider showing the app to her friends and getting them to use it, she replied, “Sometimes people are overwhelmed with all the apps, and you know, it’s just like another thing. It’s like getting another flier in the mail.

My God, how right that is! And none of us, in the business of creating apps, thinking about apps, marketing apps, sees that from day to day.

Remember when Foursquare launched, how open the whole app field seemed? I recall actually thinking that it was bold of them to launch a whole business around an app.

But somehow in just the space of a few years the app market has become so crowded that now being asked to buy in to another one is like getting another flier in the mail.

It’s funny because nobody would ever say that about new websites – Oh my god, I just can’t bear to look at another website! But there’s something different about apps. There’s a different level of buy-in that comes with downloading something and keeping it on your phone’s screen.

Each app requires a bit more of an emotional relationship from the user than a website does. And maybe people are getting emotionally maxed out on apps at this point?

Anyway, from a business perspective, if I were launching a new company right now, I would look for other ways to reach my audience than (or in addition to) apps.

I remember reading a book on an airplane once called Zag, the entire premise of which was “in business, when everyone in the industry is zigging, you’ve got to zag to have any visibility at all”.

Apps are definitely a zig right now. So what’s your zag?

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Jeff Ribeira

In answer to your question, yes. However, I’d add that while apps in general may be the zig, zagging doesn’t necessarily have to mean doing something different than an app altogether (although it is definitely an option). I believe there is still plenty of functionality/creativity out there for growth both in and out of the app world that allows for a person to do some pretty serious zagging.

Here’s another recent blog post discussing the subject of mobile apps:

John Geraci

Jeff – I agree. As soon as I hit “post” on this, I thought, “of course there is still room to zag within the space of apps…” But the point is that to the general public, apps are coming to be seen as one big “zig”. Differentiating your app/business/innovation from that so that it isn’t perceived as noise (or even as an annoyance) is the challenge.

Stephen Peteritas

Playing devil’s advocate here but could the zag be old school business with legit in person customer service?

John Geraci

Stephen – to be fair I think there are all kinds of solutions to the problem. As Jeff said, there are even solutions that are apps themselves.

I personally am finding myself attracted to business ideas that have, as you say, “old school” elements these days. And that may be a reaction to the overwhelming noise of new business innovation/experimentation in the app/web sector. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t still LOTS of opportunities in the app space, or that any new idea doesn’t need to take into account apps and such.

Adriel Hampton

Ouch! Like a lot of new technologies, one of the challenges here is that (despite what Wired says) you can’t just throw away all those bookmarked and memorized URLs because you’ve got a bunch of apps on your phone. So we’re layering, which is a time and emotional energy sink.

Kathleen Ely

MY problem is that my phone only has so much desktop space so I can only put on a limited number of apps. I just got it about a month ago. I hope my next phone allows apps to go on the SD card.