Ten brand apps that get the customer experience right

by Kristen Nicole

Not all apps for brands are created equal.

You know a company is doing something right when you have a higher affinity for its brand based on your app experience. Combined with other points of integration - such as social network applications, online services and experiences with those brands in the real world - iPhone apps extend brands to consumers while they are on the go. Everywhere is an ideal place to reach them.

Here is a look at 10 brands that take into account who their customers are and what they need from a mobile app, ensuring that the customer is still receiving a valuable resource and not just a marketing ploy.

Money

The Chase Mobile banking app is free and offers much of the same functionality as its website, giving access to statements, payment options, schedules and history, and integrated bill pay. Access customer service with one click, and search for local ATMs.

CNNMoney does more than act as a resource. Here you can read breaking news, watch videos from the website and customize a personal portfolio of stocks you would like to follow.  The app is free, but would become more useful if integrated with other iPhone feed readers or stock-related apps for avid users.

Shopping

MasterCard’s free Priceless Picks app notes your GPS location and presents a map of local retailers. Promotional offers from partners display the price of their products. You can post your own locations, which are viewable by other app users. There is no keyword search, and the app’s recommendations are limited to your immediate GPS location.

Keep your reading list full with the Barnes & Noble B&N Bookstore app for the iPhone. Search for books, music and DVDs or browse through new releases and recommendations. You can also find stores and reserve items for store pick up. Each item shows price details with discounts for online users (handy for the e-reader crowd), an overview and user reviews.

Gap StyleMixer combines community features, enabling photo uploads to share your personal style. Filter items by gender and type. Match items in the app’s Fitting Room. You can also find local stores through GPS or search term, and receive special offers to use in stores, as you cannot purchase items through the app itself.

Target has become a one-stop shop for many, so its free iPhone app is useful for searching products, locations and receiving sales ads.  Purchase items directly through the app and receive recommendations with its Gift Finder. Find local stores and map your way to the nearest location.

Whole Foods Market Recipes is a great way to find locations and meal ideas. Several search filters help you hone in on great recipes, each designated with special diet needs such as vegan, dairy free or gluten free. Add recipes you like to the Favorites tab. This app would be more useful if ingredients could be added to Favorites as well.

Entertainment

Comcast Mobile App is a nifty way of tracking all its services, from digital voice to cable and Internet. Check messages, view contacts and call logs, view trailers and TV guides. Have calls forwarded to your iPhone and set reminders for programs of interest. This free app is valuable to customers with more than one Comcast service in their home.

Animal lovers may appreciate Purina’s free app, called Petcentric Places. Find local dog parks, lodging and vets, among other things. Share, rate and comment on pet photos from other app users. This app is a great example of how a brand can offer a valuable service to customers without advertising to them directly.

EA’ SIMS games are great time wasters, and these have extended to the iPhone as well. The SIMS 3 app costs $6.99 but it is worth it if you like the SIMS. Custom-create avatars, design their houses and help them achieve their goals. Up to three games can be stored at once, adding dynamic to the mobile version of The SIMS 3.