Companies who want to drive customer engagement or increase operational efficiency for field employees may think launching a mobile app is a foregone conclusion. After all, everyone seems to have an app these days. For companies who feel behind in mobile innovation, there is often a sense of urgency to get an app into the market as soon as possible.
It’s not hard to understand why companies are feeling the pressure. The proliferation of mobile technologies, devices and apps happened more quickly than even the most optimistic pundits could have guessed. In fact, in 2013 The Wall Street Journal estimated annual revenues of $25B for the app economy – one that didn’t exist five years ago.
Flurry, a leading mobile measurement and advertising platform, recently published an update to its five-year report from 2013. Apps are now responsible for 86% of mobile data usage; up from 80% a year ago, while mobile web browser usage has dropped from 20% to 14%. The app market is not only strong; it’s growing. Naturally, companies don’t want to be left behind.
However, not every app—simply by virtue of being an app—adds value to the company that develops it or to its intended users. According to Nielsen Ratings, more than 70% of mobile data usage is driven by the top 50 apps. Most apps languish, even if they’re well designed, because the business and user needs driving them were either not carefully considered or were in conflict with one another. Lacking a clearly defined mobile strategy or product roadmap can lead to an app’s failure to thrive in the marketplace. It’s here where technology-consulting services, from experts with a full view of the industry, provide substantial value.
Mobile is important. You need a strategic, holistic approach that evaluates and prioritizes business, technology and customer requirements to drive the solutions that address your mobile challenges, whether or not that includes developing an app. Your mobile strategy’s success (or failure) can have a significant impact on your business from both a reputation and revenue standpoint, so expert guidance on development and deployment can be invaluable. Taking the time to really think about your mobile strategy from the start requires patience, but a “just get it done” approach won’t yield the best results.
A mobile app is essential to remain competitive in today’s market place. But before you dive in, consider these questions:
1. What is the purpose of your app? How does it enable your users?
Mobile is a great way to provide custom content in a quick, convenient medium, but apps provide access only to the most critical or most-used content and functions. You need to know what is most essential to your users. Poor planning can leave both power users and those with more limited technical skills unable to do what they need. Clearly defining your user personas will ensure your app delivers all the functionality your users expect, particularly in less tech savvy industries or market segments.
2. How is your mobile effort advancing your broader business goals and in what context?
There must be some reason for users to engage with you on mobile. Your app should deliver something users can’t get from your website, in an email or at a retail store. Whether that’s streamlined functionality, speed, unique content or incentives such as loyalty or rewards programs, your app must be markedly different and enhance the relationship you have with your users.
3. Do you have the will to be successful and commit the appropriate assets?
It’s common for companies to develop an app and think their work is done, that their investment is finite. That is simply not the case. Mobile apps require regular feature, functionality, security and branding updates, to which careful planning, budgeting and a comprehensive roadmap must be applied. Your app will require dedicated development resources (either outsourced or in-house) so issues can be addressed quickly and not be added to an IT to-do list.
4. Are you realistic about the timeline?
As indicated above, getting the mobile experience right for your users will take time and careful thought. Be realistic about the timeframe for planning, design, and development. In addition, you need to prepare your infrastructure. An app can drive considerable traffic to your network and generate massive data and metadata that your network will need to process and possibly store, not to mention the security issues inherent in mobile platforms and always-on wireless access. Careful and honest assessment of your existing infrastructure will ensure that your app executes flawlessly.
Rushing too quickly into the app fray can lead to costly miscalculations and potential loss of revenue. But, with careful planning and an ongoing product development strategy, an app is a great addition to your business and will help you get ahead of your competition in the marketplace.