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Will Native Apps Have a Comeback With Pandemic?

Contactless, contactless, contactless.

That is the new buzzword ad agencies have flocked to in order salvage client accounts to save them having to pawn off their gold Addy Awards and keep from taking PayDay Loans as a client. Every commercial that was created after March 2020 touts a safe and socially-distanced experience that won't lead to customers dying of Covid when buying a $5 Chalupa Cravings Box from Taco Bell (which is arguably as harmful to the human body).

Kidding aside, this paradigm shift has stress-tested nearly every industry operating in the U.S. Specifically: food and retail. Now that masks are as common to pack as wallets and phones, and stores are doing take out or curbside only, the relationship between brick and mortar and the customer has changed.

With this change, new life has been breathed into faltering native apps companies created in hopes to keep up with competition. Brands clamored into the app space a few years back thinking it was the key to a larger market. However, most apps just sit undownloaded in their app stores or on the fifth page of someone's phone in disrepair as the daily use is comparable to the dusty Bowflex rusting in your garage. I'm speaking from my perspective, but never on my phone have I had a Chipotle, Target, or Starbucks app. I've always just ordered via the web or just went to the store itself. This is because the app would sit idle the vast majority of the time and take up space. Additionally, downloading apps sucks. I can just as quickly order and obtain a burrito from Chipotle as I can downloading and creating an account with its app. Many brands opted for mobile web experiences over apps as they saw native apps as additional money sinks due to the fact they can't reference the same exact code. Now, with Apple Wallet and better apps, the above issues are starting to improve.

Like with most things in 2020, though, the norm is shifting. With a fearful consumer base and the fact people still need to eat and buy shit from Target they don't need, I can see apps making a big comeback. There is simply less demand for the in-store experience. Thus, for transactions to occur, they will more likely happen through a digital interface rather than face to face.

With this said, I think it's a positive thing in the long run. I do say that selfishly as a product designer who appreciates employment. Hopefully it will also give brands a kick in the ass to optimize their archaic apps to remain competitive. Lastly, if apps can help prevent the spread of Covid and keep people healthy, that's the best thing for our communities and economy.

-A

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