April 08, 2017

  by Nigel Hollis

A couple of weeks ago while skiing at Park City in Utah, I checked in to my return flight with Delta while riding up the Super Condor lift. The experience reminded me that when well-designed apps really do make life easier, and that a positive experience is the best way to build a strong brand.

I have to be honest that in days gone by my attitude toward Delta was not positive. Given the choice I would actively avoid flying with them. Memories of chaotic connections, lost luggage and old planes had undermined any affinity that I had for the airline. I treated with disdain claims made by the CEO in the seat back video which told me how much was being invested to improve things; I had heard claims like that before. And then I was forced to fly the new Delta and the experience really was different.

It was easy to reject claims made about the airline when my experience was at odds with them. But the funny thing is that those claims remained in my head, and when confirmed by experience helped confirm that Delta had improved for the better. My predisposition to choose the airline again was probably more positive than if I simply experienced the new service without any anticipation that things might have changed. Today, when Delta is one of the airlines offering to get me to the same destination for a similar price then I will be more likely to choose it.

However, the affinity I now feel for the brand is a weak force compared to logistics and pricing. In this context the app has relatively little influence on my choice, it is simply one more element that helps create a positive experience, one that might encourage a repeat purchase if the circumstances were right. However, I can think of one app that has proved to be a direct money maker for the brand and that is the Hilton app.

A couple of months ago my wife’s flight was delayed and she arrived back in Boston too late to catch the last coach back to our house. Within seconds of her call I had checked her into the Hilton at Boston Logan using the Hilton app. The process was horribly easy given that money was changing hands. There was also no question about whether I would search for a better deal, the app need was immediate and the app a simple and convenient way to satisfy that need.

In cases like this the app is far more likely to influence behavior than a loyalty program ever did. Convenience always wins and the pay-off is immediate. The one caveat to this is that the app has to work. It needs to be well-designed and simple to use, because if it is not it can prove to be source of discontent not satisfaction. I have deleted apps in the past simply because they did not work well and my opinion of the brand in question is undermined as a result.

So what apps improve your brand experience? How important are they to shaping your brand predisposition and purchase? Please share your thoughts.


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