Did you watch the cack-handed attempts of the contestants to build a mobile app on Wednesday’s episode of The Apprentice?
Weren’t they dreadful? The apps, not the contestants. Come to think of it, both. For tens of thousands of pounds, the two teams came up with downloadable programmes that – wait for it – made a limited number of noises.
This was something that keyrings did in the 1980s.
The Apprentices broke the golden rule of mobile that we laid out in a previous blog (why, oh why, didn’t they read it?) – that good apps use the functionality of the devices that carry them (the eyes, ears and radar of the phone or tablet or, put differently, camera, mic and GPS).
We also explained a mobile revolution is sweeping the country, if not the world, and that’s changing the way people use the internet.
If you’ve already understood this and want to explore a mobile strategy – then read on. This is the part where we tell you HOW to implement a mobile strategy.
What technology should you go for?
An app, possibly? A mobile version of your website? Or how about an SMS system?
To state the obvious: the more interesting the mobile technology, the more it will be used after that initial download. In turn, more usage equals more value to the user, which equals greater feelings of positivity to your brand. It’s tempting to pick a technology at the first stage of your mobile programme – but don’t. There are three important steps you should take before developing the technology:
STEP ONE: examine your customers’ mobile behaviours
You need to know what sort of devices your customers use. There’s no point in developing an iPhone app if 50% of your customers are Android users and the other 50% have non-smartphones. One simple method of doing this would be to examine the mobile traffic to the website, using Google Analytics.
Case study: examine your customers’ mobile behaviours
E-Trade is a financial services business in the US that realised some customers were missing trading opportunities because they couldn’t be tethered to their desks. So it launched a successful iPhone and Blackberry app for people to make investments and trade on the go. The strategy was based on intelligence about the customers, who were twice as likely to use the mobile internet as normal consumers and were using Blackberries. E-Trades also released an iPhone app, which was also successful, although iPhone users were less transactional. Result? E-Trades found they attracted a whole new and unexpected customer-base with the app: long-term investors, who were not interested in trading but wanted to keep an eye on their investments when they had a spare moment. Kerching!
STEP TWO: set objectives
Customers must get as much out of any mobile technologies as you – or it won’t work. Therefore the two questions you should consider before going forward with a mobile technology:
What’s in it for your customers? And what’s in it for you?
The answers are likely to be that it will empower your customers with immediacy when they want information right away, as well as simplicity (phones have simple interfaces). As we’ve said, it’s worth bearing in mind that some of the best mobile technologies, especially iPhone apps, use the functionality of the phone (GPS, camera, mp3 player etc) to provide information that the technology can use by way of context.
For you, a good mobile strategy will increase sales and reduce costs. Increased sales would come from improved loyalty because of an increase in the availability and convenience of information about and relating to your products. It will reduce costs due to the removal of service people from the customer service process.
Consider the objectives some famous organisations are pursuing:
Case study: three uses of mobile
• Sales: Pizza Hut’s app makes it easy to add toppings and, as a result, orders on the app have been much higher on average than telephone orders.
• Customer service: Nationwide Insurance built an app that walks motorists through process of a claim right at the scene of car accident. The app tells you what steps to take including calling police, recording GPS location and taking photos of the scene. Nationwide gets claims with more complete info, saving time and deals with fewer calls from the scenes of accidents. Mobile apps that decrease costs connect customers directly with answers, removing service people from process.
• Loyalty: Bank of America’s app answers simple questions about, for example, the locations of cash machines and balances, which makes things convenient. These are nuggets of information for which you’d never go to the trouble of ringing the bank – so consumers are being informed about things they were ignorant about before. Information makes for an empowered consumer, which, in turn, leads to increased affinity to the brand.
STEP THREE: strategy
If you decide to go ahead with a new mobile strategy, you will have to answer questions like:
• Where will the info come from that fuels the technology?
• What internal systems does it need to touch and co-ordinate with (billing, customer service etc)?
• How will you publicise it (advertising? signage? media relations? social? customer email? iTunes app store?)
• When it is built, will you concentrate on reaching more people by supporting more platforms or by extending the functionality?
• How will you gather data from mobile users and use it to benefit business?
• Who will be responsible for the mobile technology?
• Is it a long-term commitment?
• If so, who will maintain it?
• Can you charge for an app (if an app is deemed the way forward) or is it free because it’s delivering benefits to the rest of the business?
• How will you measure those benefits?
STEP FOUR: now you can choose the technology 🙂
Having considered all of the above, you will have to consider what sort of mobile technology you are going to develop.
• Text messaging? – every phone supports SMS, everyone uses SMS, but it doesn’t allow deep interactions. Better for notification of short and simple info in either direction.
• Mobile sites? – basically a simpler, more usable version of the website (but, as I said in my preamble – they don’t really exploit the ‘eyes’, ‘ears’ and GPS so they don’t give mobile internet users the sophistication they expect and that their devices can deliver).
• Smart phone apps? – very modish but can be £20k-£200k to develop; can access mobile functionality, like GPS, camera, and link to other websites.
What do you think? Is it time your company built a mobile app?