Next generation apps for brands

Runtastic’s acquisition by Adidas this week is the latest in a series of fitness app purchases by sports apparel makers. It’s clear that companies like Adidas, Under Armor and Nike have recognized that as lifestyle brands, they need to be part of their customer’s smartphone lifestyle. And a simple store app isn’t going to cut it.

Another way of looking at it, is viewing the app as content marketing: Your running shoes aren’t advertised in an annoying banner in your running app — the whole app is built around your running shoes and the story that brand is trying to tell.

If simple catalogue & shopping apps were the first generation of lifestyle brands getting into the smartphone arena, these lifestyle-driven apps are the second generation.

Other markets that are seeing a similar shift include car manufacturers, where the app is becoming part of the smart driving experience. And of course the original Beats Music service was a prime example of a similar play, promoting a headphone brand with music.

What could other industries learn from this shift? Let’s look at one type of product I feel passionate about: bicycles.

A bike manufacturer could offer an app that helps me track speeds, plan routes or track maintenance interval. A smartphone connected bike could offer real value to riders and the first traditional bike company to figure it out will have a real advantage. There are plenty of bike tracking apps out there that are great targets for someone like Scott, Specialized or Cannondale to acquire. Currently, these brands typically only offer catalogue or store apps. But it’ll be next-generation bike apps that offer real utility and ongoing value to cyclists that redefine the playing field.

A similar shift to apps that help enhance the functionality and value of a product is starting to happen in a number of other industries — indie app makers would do well to figure out if they could position their apps as value-increasing add-ons to products offered by traditional leaders in their markets.