To Launch An App, Or Not?

How can brands decide whether launching a mobile app makes sense for their business and customer base?

With location-based services as the latest fascination, and iPad orders increasing daily, many brands are tackling the question of whether launching a mobile app makes sense for their business and customer base. We looked to a couple of thought leaders in the digital and mobile marketing landscape to help provide some perspective and thought starters for what brands should consider while evaluating this opportunity.

Jeff Swystun, Chief Communications Officer for DDB Worldwide, said that while the mobile marketing landscape is ripe with a deluge of apps, it might be best to have a more calculated approach:

“In regards to mobile marketing, we counsel caution because proof of effectiveness is not always there. There is the example of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit iPhone app, It was the 33rd-highest-grossing with 32,000 people paying $2 to download, netting $64k. Yet, one page of advertising in the issue makes $135,000. We are at an amazing pivot point where all channels of communication are valid and marketers must continue to ask three questions to plot their communications strategy: What do I have that is unique? Who wants and needs it? And what is the best way of getting the message to them?”

Companies considering developing apps may feel like they need to rush to market in order to strike while the iron is hot; applications feel like an instinctive and simple way for a brand to engage with a consumer in the mobile space.  That said, apps must still be evaluated for overall customer value and ROI if they’re going to make a positive impact for a brand.  They’re also only one way to engage with customers in the mobile marketing landscape.

At a recent panel held by Razorfish New York on the topic of search marketing, participants shared some specific insights around the evolving opportunity for mobile search – and for brands looking to make it easier for potential customers to find them. Some of the key insights shared by the digital shop and its panelists included:

  • Companies need to think out of the box.  Today, everyone has a mobile device yet it’s still challenging to reach consumers with messages.  Instead of just creating an application, ask a fundamental question which is what value we are bringing to a user? Will they use our application more than once?
  • For mobile, it’s important to focus on the consumer experience. People want to type less using a phone. The simpler you make the application the better it will be.
  • Mobile devices are the holy grail of advertising.  They offer marketers five different touch points:  sight, sound, motion, touch and location.
  • Privacy in mobile continues to evolve and will likely incorporate the best practices online. Mobile has not yet reached a level at which it requires privacy laws that are associated with other forms of technology.  Still, companies such as Google take privacy seriously, and its not in anyone’s best interest — users, advertisers, vendors — to jeopardize privacy.

With new technologies and platforms coming into the mobile marketing landscape daily – and potential apps on nearly every brand’s agenda – experts say brands should evaluate their potential relevance and value to both their business and customers against a clear set of criteria, prior to making the decision to launch – and how.  To this end, Jeff Swystun offers some suggestions based on the criteria DDB utilizes to evaluate new mobile technologies – which can also easily be adopted by other brands into the framework against which they discuss potential mobile engagement initiatives:

  • Ease of use
  • Makes lives easier
  • Engages people in dialogue and action
  • Appeals to clear groups of influencers who help grow adoption, and
  • Inspires people to be more creative themselves
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