App Development: Be Where Your Customers Are
Develop, Launch And Maintain Awesome Mobile Applications development And Keep Your Brand Front-And-Center On The Devices Your Customers Carry With Them Everywhere
Expand the reach and reputation of your brand by providing value beyond just your website: serve your customers and reach new audiences by launching your own smartphone and tablet Apps in iOS and Android.
Contact Enlightenment Media today for ideas and quick quotations on App development. We offer you that rare combination of experts: marketers who get technology, and techies who get what you're doing in your marketing
If Your Business Doesn't Market And Serve Via Apps, You Are Missing Out
Americans spend an average of 4.7 hours a day on their smartphones [Washington Times, Feb 2015]. Pretty much the rest of the 24 hours, the device and its notifications/functions are still within easy reach!
25% of smartphone owners ages 18–44 say they “can’t recall the last time their smartphone wasn’t next to them.”
The growth of smartphone and tablet users, and concurrently the increase in the time people spend using them, are still accelerating. In the next 5/6 years, smartphones and tablets will add as many internet users as in the previous 30 years! [Creative Strategies, Feb 2015]
That is still not all that many people... it's estimated [emarketer, November 2014] that it will take till 2018 for over half of the world's population to be online.
So, developing Apps is not just a short term fad to consider paying lip service to. It's a macro-trend in how people use 'computers' and the internet... there is no time to lose in developing your organization's capabilities in App development, and the competitive advantage is still there for the taking.
Not having an App will soon be like not having a website. Not appearing in App Store search results will be like not ranking in Google.
"We have to have an App... we don't care what it does"
We have actually heard these words, or variations, on multiple occasions. Sometimes for senior management or marketing departments, keeping up with trends is the main reason to dive into App development. While this is not the recommended, strategic mentality, we certainly agree that NOT having any App development capability, or not even having any plans to get into Apps, could be a risky strategic decision in itself.
So, assuming that your service and marketing mix WILL contain Apps sooner or later, it's good to keep an open mind about what kind of purpose your ones might serve.
Here are some ideas for functionality to build into your branded business app:
- Look at where your users' experience is in some ways limited in a normal web browser: an App should deliver content and functionality that exceeds the normal website.
- Find ways to deliver useful value to the user when using notifications and alerts.
- Consider how to build in video and audio - it's not an eBook reader after all!
- If it's an App for a smartphone, you probably want to provide easy ways for users to phone you to complete tasks or checkout.
- Consider ways to provide information relevant to the user's detected device type or location.
- Are the functions of the App going to be obvious to the new user, or need explanation? (Tip: if you think you need to train the user how to use it, it's better to go back to the drawing board and design an App that is self-explanatory!)
- You cannot assume the user will be connected to the internet the whole time. So you will need to figure out how the App continues working even when it's offline.
- In what ways can you make the experience fun, even addictive?
Here are some further questions to consider:
- How will users be able to feed back and get support, through the App itself?
- Will you allow users to customize aspects of presentation? This might be important for accessibility, e.g. choosing higher contrast colors or bigger text
- Are your intended functions computationally demanding or require big downloads? Slow apps will be highly off-putting to users.
- Will users need to log in? Can they use the same registration credentials as in their website customer account? Or social media logins?
Don't forget about market research. It's no good coming up with amazing App ideas... if your competitors' apps already do those things and more!
If you want to research what the top free and paid apps are in any category, for any device, check out App Annie charts. If you want your app to be discovered in its own right and bring in new users, you'll need to assess the competition and best categories to target.
How Apps Help Your Digital Marketing
With your App(s) up and running you'll truly be able to say you have a comprehensive digital marketing strategy in play. The wider variety of devices and users your Apps can service, the stronger your overall brand position will be - and the bigger the space you put between yourself and the next competitor.
Businesses active in App development benefit from...
- far wider brand exposure than you get just from your website
- higher perceived value in your brand, higher switching costs, greater loyalty of regular customers
- higher rates of discovery and adoption from new users
- additional sources of revenue from premium/paid apps
- a stronger core of expertise so your company grows with the evolution of mobile technologies
- a new source of ratings and feedback so you learn from your market
- highly improved PR profile and attraction of reviews and mentions
- chances to establish reputations around both convenience and security
While we would never say you should make technology and marketing choices just to appear "up to date", for sure the companies which lag behind in App capabilities are quickly seeming "out of date"!
In traditional desktop (Mac/Windows) software, it's hard to know exactly who is using your programs and how. But with Apps, the whole ecosystem has been designed to make sure developers and brands can understand the data and usage patterns.
After investing in your App development and launch, you won't want to miss out on these insights.
With dedicated App tracking tools you can get insights from the following data:
- Competitive app store ranking vs competitors, in terms of keywords, categories, ratings, and downloads
- Which of your site pages or advertising campaigns drove App downloads
- How users of your app share links or interact with others (social / email etc)
- Which segments of users are more or less active, including patterns of repeat usage
- Which parts of your App are most used or seem to cause usability problems
- Zoom in on individual users to discover device and customer-related info
Top App tracking systems include Mobile Action, Mixpanel, Localytics, Liquid, and AppsFlyer.
Google Analytics for Mobile Apps
The free Google Analytics system doesn't end with your websites. There are powerful tracking tools that you can integrate within your App, and then reveal the usage data there within your main reports. This is particularly useful when you want to track users interacting with your systems across their different devices.
Mobile App Promotion
One issue commonly discovered by businesses new to App Development is that purely technology-focused development providers can't help your App become popular.
Creating nicely working software is not enough. It's essential to plan how you are going to create visibility for your Apps in a crowded marketplace.
Enlightenment Media offers you a special combination of left and right brain skills. We will support you with a team that's aware of marketing strategies as well as details of programming.
When you talk to us about App development you will see we are not just talking to you about code and platforms... we want to ensure you have a successful marketing plan that fits with your overall marketing strategy. Our unique Full Service approach ensures you are supported in promotion and visibility as well as excellent technical implementation.
App Maintenance and Support
Although your initial App development should be run as a project with carefully managed timescales and budget, the launch of your app is not the end of the resources you will need to plan for.
Firstly, you'll need a carefully managed launch, on the marketing side to promote visibility and usage, on the customer support side to help users figure out difficulties and collect bug reports or improvement suggestions, and on the developer side for hot fixes and technical planning.
So just for the initial launch, for anything more than the most simple App, it is worth keeping much of your initial development team intact and running a second time-controlled project to manage the launch and roll out the first updated version.
After the launch, your App should not be a "set and forget" affair. Like your website, it should be a place of continuous incremental improvement, as well as listening to both objective (analytics) and subjective (user feedback) sources of ideas.
So, plan to support and maintain your App. The most critical area is in terms of security. If you discover bugs that threaten the stability or security of the App, of course you have to move to fix these as fast as you can. In some cases, the frameworks or libraries that your App was developed on will cause you to have to produce such updates.
Next, it is highly likely that you had to make some compromises and scope limitations in your original App development. You should be maintaining a backlog of improved design and functionality ideas from your initial project, as well as actively gathering tickets from customer support and direct user feedback.
With this queue of ideas, you will need to plan on a certain frequency of rolling out improvements into App versions. As with website development, there will always be a mixture of design, content, and technical type improvements, so be sure to keep all bases covered in your team.
"more frequent updates tend to be associated with with higher ratings from app users in iOS App Store and Google Play" [Business Insider, Feb 2015]
Regular version releases are not just a good software development discipline: the frequency helps your marketing objectives too. App updates are a good way of keeping your brand visible to infrequent users, when the notifications pop up on their device. Frequent App updates will show that you are active and notifications around updates can provide you a way of communicating innovations and offers, and asking for users' feedback/ratings.
Finally, no App lasts forever. The novelty of an app is highly important to its success, and as time goes on it is likely that many things will change (faster than you expect), such as competing options, users' expectations and device capabilities, changing software or app store platforms, and the product/service goals from your own business evolution.
For all these reasons, at some time you will have to consider mothballing or pulling an old App and launching a completely new alternative in its place. For this reason, your regular software development cycles should always keep an eye on where you think you are in the overall App lifetime, and build up ideas and eventually plans around the future all-new-development project.
Develop for iOS (Apple) or Android?
First off, don't assume that Apple comes first. Yes, the iPhone kicked off the smartphone revolution, and the iPad the tablet revolution, but now the cheaper and more various Android devices have more than caught up.
Apple has always dominated more in the developed US and European markets. In the rest of the world, it's been a different story, where less regulated intellectual property around phone and tablet hardware, and a demand for cheaper devices, have driven a much higher adoption of Android. For example, Android has a 77% market share in China, and it's the same story in Brazil and Russia.
What about the choice of apps for users? Android devices can install apps from a variety of app stores, not only Google's Play store, but even that one main store now (as of the end of 2014) has more apps available than Apple's App Store.
Taken together, these factors mean that you can't assume your App should only be for iOS, or even that it should be developed for iOS first and Android second.
Here are the questions to consider:
- Do you already have data (e.g. web analytics) suggesting a strong iOS vs Android preference among your customers?
- Are there any technical reasons why your App ought to work better in one or other platform?
- Is your App going to be cheaper or faster to develop in one platform? This might be the case if you have already got a reliable developer or agency specializing in one or the other, which can in itself be a valid reason for preference.
- Which countries and languages are you targeting? Look at market data for those regions. Similar considerations apply if you are targeting particular age groups.
- Is the app highly important to your customers' interactions with your service? If so, perhaps the answer will be simultaneous development and release, since you don't want to exclude half your users.
Enlightenment Media can offer you both iOS and Android development: we'll discuss the above questions and more to make sure you receive the best advice in the light of your marketing objectives.
You don't need whole teams of programmers or rocket-science technical knowledge inside your company to build up an App development capability. What you do need is an awareness of the opportunities and appreciation of how Apps will create a synergy with your marketing strategy.
Contact Enlightenment Media today for a quick turnaround evaluation of how Apps can contribute to your business growth strategy.