By now, most of the U.S. population is relying on at least a handful of apps for their daily lives. We use maps and GPS apps to navigate and calculate the best routes to our destinations. We use social apps to communicate with our friends and loved ones. We even use apps that offer a digital interface for real-world needs, like transportation and ride-sharing apps that summon drivers to carry us around. The world recognizes the sheer power apps have, and as a result, many new businesses are emerging that exist only in app form.
But what most people don't realize is that apps are taking over the digital world. As we become more reliant on them, we become less reliant on older forms of information retrieval and communication--like traditional web browsers or search engines. The conventional tools of the online marketer are about to become outclassed by the burgeoning developments of the almighty "app," and it's time to prepare for it.
Increasing Hardware Favoritism
The devices we use to communicate and connect are constantly evolving, and it's clear that they're evolving in a specific direction. From desktop to laptop to smartphone to tablet and now to wearable devices like the smart watch, our devices keep getting smaller, less reliant on analog entries like those from a mouse or keyboard, and more integrated with the world around us. All of those factors increase the practicality and necessity for individual apps, rather than a blanket interface like a web browser offers us:
- Smaller screens require easier navigation and data entry. Apps are well suited for this because they can be easily customized for this type of user experience.
- Users require more immediate answers. Because we require information and functionality on-the-go, we need a more immediate system of access, and apps provide that to us.
- Online access is no longer a barrier. Because we're connected to the Internet 24-7, the hunt-and-retrieve style of the old web is no longer relevant. Apps offer a more integrated form of software and information.
Increasing Attention From Search Engines
Google and other search engines are paying close attention to these technological trends, and they're doing their best to push it along in development. For example, Google is already indexing apps much in the same way that it's indexing traditional websites. Companies that offer an app, particularly one that's popular or well-reviewed, tend to rank higher in searches and also get more visibility for their app download in mobile searches.
The Death of Traditional Websites
Eventually, the pressures from user demand and the will of large tech firms are going to force apps to become the new digital medium of choice, universally. Gradually, websites will begin to lose their luster, and users will rely on apps and device-based functionality to handle all of their requests. For example, smart watches could use voice-based searches to find immediate answers for users. Any question that can't be immediately answered could be routed to an appropriate app that can handle the job. In this scenario, the user gets an answer or a solution without ever relying on a traditional web browser.
Web browsers and websites are so ingrained in our culture that it's difficult to imagine them ever going away completely, but it's bound to happen. The infrastructure might still exist, but it will no longer be accessed readily by the majority of consumers. Instead, it will only exist to feed information to other applications, and at that point, regular website updates and design changes will become wholly unnecessary. Even then, updating an app might be just as effective.
How Soon Will It Happen?
This isn't a change that's going to happen next week, or next year, or even this decade. Websites are too familiar to too large a portion of the population for this transition to happen overnight. However, I would imagine within 10-20 years, the majority of connected consumers will rely exclusively on apps or immediate tech functionality for all their informational or functional needs. It's hard to predict the path or speed at which technology develops, but it is an inevitability, and it's highly unlikely to happen in the next couple of years.
How Can I Prepare?
You have some time to play with before apps take over the world of marketing and communication, but that's no reason to procrastinate. If your business doesn't yet have an app, it's time to develop one--even if you feel that it's not completely necessary in the moment. It will put you ahead of the competition and make the transition easier when it finally happens. Then, try to gradually improve the functionality of your app, and spend less time working on your website.
Pay attention to tech and marketing news, and adapt your strategy accordingly to keep up with the changes as they roll out. You'll thank yourself in 5 or 10 years when the rest of the world realizes the change is happening, and they have to play catch-up while you start reaping the benefits. In marketing, it's never about how well you perform in the moment, or how much you prepare for a single campaign. It's all about how flexible you are and how well you adapt to changing circumstances--and this is your chance to do so for the coming era.