Thoughts on entrepreneurship, startups, and tech.


What The App Industry Could Learn From The World Of Fashion

You do it mindlessly every day. Your daily choice of clothing is mechanical yet profoundly based on your reptilian instinct to resemble your tribe’s own persona and a contradicting inner calling to stand out from the crowd. Over time though, we all tend to become unsatisfied with our wardrobe, often influenced by our friends, sometimes by people we cross during our busy lives, what we see in the media and even influencers who are poised on stages everywhere. Yet popular fashion brands are probably the most influential component of our ever-changing dress trends and one of the prime cogs of our modern economy. They manage the incomprehensible feat of influencing people to replace perfectly good clothes with others that are practically identical by leveraging ancestral and sociological phenomenon with extraordinary brio. One can only be flabbergasted by the power behind replacing a jean for a jean or transforming a gothic fan into a hipster. Can this seemingly unstoppable force be transposed elsewhere?

One area that could benefit from this mysterious force is certainly the App industry. Too few applications and websites use rebranding or design makeover tactics to create additional traction and increase consumption (usage). If savvy branding can make people buy new clothes instead of washing and reusing old ones, then the jump ship movement on neglected web services and the volatility of apps can certainly benefit from a similar treatment.

Only experienced brand managers at leading fashion houses understand that continually renovating and reviving product lines is the key to growth. They dispense their wizardry steadily over the years to not sway their consumers and cunningly leave enough of their core identity to stimulate identification and brand loyalty. Management teams of software applications could readily benefit from identical approaches, one only needs to do a home screen capture once a year to see the churn. What’s scary is that most of it is provoked by apps that basically function similarly to their predecessor’s but with a new look & feel. Don’t agree with me? Ask yourself, are Flipboard, Slack, and Evernote that different than what was around a few years ago?

Of course, there are many oracles that dissuade founders to conduct UI/UX makeovers notably because it’s time and resource consuming but they then spin around and claim that the digital economy is the most readily adaptable to change because of the uncanny characteristics of modern day programming. Other experts write about how their internet industry is unique (consultants know this fairytale all too well) but unfortunately they have never worked elsewhere and most are not web pioneers who can rightfully talk about the evolution that has taken place over a few generations. There are countless practices and skills that are transferable between industries and one of them is most certainly capturing the emotional identity within all of us and using it to increase usage, consumption or visits or whatever is the foremost KPI of your service or product. And probably one of the best at this is the out-of-the-ordinary team at Basecamp who are not shy on makeovers and are constantly reinventing the wheel and although they don’t publish numbers, my bet is that they have a progressive and unfaltering growth as well as a very (very) loyal following.

If apps and web services want to increase their user base and stickiness they need to understand that people, just like animals, adapt constantly (seasons, food, habitat etc) and that all this talk about demographic based churn and usability habits should be put into perspective by glancing to the left & right once and a while. We are living in an era of perpetual change and ignoring it, especially in the fast-paced, virtual and deeply disloyal tech industry can put you quickly on the sidelines (latest obituary, Twitter).

Staying fashionable has more to it than meet’s the eye…