October 1, 2010, 5:10 PM

A sticky, time-travelling mobile app

Routine use is key to success with apps.

Lead Photo

The Who News app provides loads of content (left) and links to sellers of DVDs (right).

My favorite mobile app, the one I use every day, is called Who News. It’s all the news you could possibly want about the long-running British sci-fi television series Doctor Who, which chronicles the adventures through time and space of a benevolent alien known only as the Doctor. What does this Whovian app have to do with Internet retailing, you ask? It’s sticky.

Sticky is the lingo used by mobile tech folks for an app’s ability to “stick to” a smartphone user’s mobile desktop. So many apps are downloaded, used once or twice, and then deleted, or relegated to the third or fourth or fifth mobile desktop screen away from the home screen. Think of it like natural search results where every retailer wants to appear on the first page. In this case it’s the home screen; if not the home screen, the closer you are the better.

So you want to do something that makes users routinely use your mobile app, and thus keep it on their home screen or close by. The Who News app succeeds with me because of content. The app, which costs $4.99 (but retailers, don’t even think about charging for an app), aggregates the day’s Doctor Who news from 25 top Doctor Who web sites and blogs and places it in chronological order on the app’s home screen (see image on left). It boasts at least a dozen stories every day, sometimes many more. First comes a headline, then flick to a summary, and then press a button and it takes you to the complete story on the originating web site, all without leaving the app. It keeps me very informed and entertained.

You know what else it does? It helps sell DVDs. In the bar at the bottom of the screen is a button for DVDs; press that and off you go to a long, long list (the show aired from 1963-1989 and rebooted in 2005 to the present) of DVDs for sale. Press a DVD and the app displays a screen (see image on right) with product details and online retailers where the DVD can be purchased. You then click on the link to the web retailer’s DVD page and get the episode of Doctor Who you’d like.

So there you have it. The stickiest app on my iPhone. The question is; What can you do to make your mobile app sticky. My best advice is think content, fresh content, and plenty of it. In Who News, content comes first (it’s the home screen), selling second. You may need to integrate the two. One way or the other, just make sure it’s sticky.

To learn how to create great retail mobile apps and wrap your arms around everything m-commerce, attend the Internet Retailer Mobile Commerce Forum Oct. 12-13 in Chicago. Hope to see you there.

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