Over 50% of Americans now own a smart phone and companies are scrambling to create apps that will allow them to access and connect with these consumers on an anywhere, anytime bases. It’s a digital gold rush with thousands of companies looking to extend their brand into the consumers’ everyday lives, but only a select few are doing it right.

According to Direct Marketing News (dmnews.com) the average smartphone user downloads 29 apps per year.   Yet only six of those 29 apps are used on a daily basis. The question is then: why those six apps?

Think about the apps you use the most, a vast majority of them encompass two functions:  make your life easier and/or entertain you.  Combinations and exceptions apply but if they contain either of these functions and perform in an efficient manner then you probably use them on a daily or weekly basis and don’t think of deleting them.

This is the key for new branded apps entering the market.  However, there is an additional function found in successful branded apps: make my life cheaper! At the end of the day consumers love that you make their life easier and entertain them, but they want incentives, so why not give them a monetary reason to visit your store.

A great example of this is the Starbucks app. First, it makes life easier by allowing a consumer to pay quickly with their Starbucks card. The app also allows the user to find the nearest Starbucks as well as track their My Starbucks rewards. Second, it provides entertainment by giving a consumer instant access to a free song of the week as well as letting a consumer send e-gifts to their contacts.   And, finally, the app makes a consumer’s life cheaper by allowing them to cash in reward points via the app as well as be the first to hear about and the first to be offered new specials, discounts, and deals.

The Starbucks app is a great example of a company integrating its brand into its consumers’ lives. It should be a guideline for brands looking to enter this space in order to initially connect with consumers or for brands that already have an app that isn’t doing performing well.