Do You Need an App for That?

Dave LawsonIs your organization considering developing an app to effectively connect with consumers via mobile? We’ve already provided insight into the best time to introduce an app, but today I wanted to delve deeper into whether you actually need an app.
The answer is both yes and no.
Yes, apps can be a great way to participate in your customer’s daily life, offering them a more relevant channel through which to communicate with you – and you to them. But, no, having an app is definitely not a requirement to participate in the mobile channel today. In fact, for many companies, it could be a complete waste of money better spent on other mobile efforts (like SMS, QR barcodes or the mobile web). Companies developing an app should be sure to focus on creating an app-based experience that provides real value for their most fervent/active user base. This value would come from an honest exploration of the essence of their market offering and brand position, which would lead to an informed position on the specific role an app should provide.

As I’ve said before, if you come out of the gates with the wrong experience, you risk losing your customer’s openness to allowing you access to them via mobile.

With this in mind, creating an app can be a high-risk proposition. First is based on the investment that goes into the app’s development. Essentially, you are committing to an OS or device type to develop for, you are developing solely for that effort (in a lot of cases), and you are travelling down the road to a finished product before you fully know if anyone will ever find or use your app as it’s intended to be used.

In many cases, it takes your attention/resources away from other possible efforts during the process. In the grand scheme of things, it’s that all-your-eggs-in-one-basket approach that is so risky. A good example is brands that 12 months ago developed only for the iPhone. Some of these brands came out of their development cycle and realized that 30-40% or more of their users were actually on Android after the app’s introduction. Mobile moves fast, and they were effectively developing for only half their audience by the time launch came around.

A second layer of risk stems from putting your future mobile relationship with your customer on the line. You have precious few chances to keep the trust of your end user with their most personal of devices. If your app experience disappoints, or worse yet, delivers a bad experience, your audience may be tough to win back on the mobile channel.

Brands can effectively mitigate that risk with diversification – figuring out ways to tie transactions into the experience (mobile buy-flows, couponing, etc.). Another way to diversify the risk is by leveraging a platform that can manage your content and presentation layers across multiple OS and devices, so you can do more with a build-once-use-anywhere approach (not just for mobile web but for hybrid apps as well).

Stay tuned next week for some tips on key things to consider when creating an app and more.

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