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Your Company Need a Coherent Mobile App Plan

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So you want to go mobile. Now what? Like any other technology play, simple desire isn't going to get you there. You need a plan and you need to know what you hope to accomplish by going mobile -- whether that plan involves your employees, your customers or both.

From a marketing perspective that means more than simply building an app and throwing it out on the market because it's the thing to do. As Jason Gurwin wrote recently for the Harvard Business review, building a mobile app is not in and of itself a mobile strategy. Gurwin says too many brands treat a mobile app as an advertisement and as he asks, who really wants to download an advertisement?

The answer is not many people. If you are seeing your mobile app as just another channel for spreading your message, you are not using mobile correctly. You are just spreading a message that nobody really wants to hear using a different vehicle.

So what  should you be doing? As Scott Liewehr pointed out at the Gilbane Conference in Boston this week, "recognize relevancy as strategic." It would seem obvious that you want to be relevant, but an app that's an advertisement is not relevant to most of your audience, and you're deluding yourself if you think it is.

That means the app needs to be useful and well designed, and as Tony Byrne said at Gilbane during his keynote address, you have to think about how this app affects your relationship with your customer. "How does our company come off on this device?," Byrne asked. "Tablet owners are an important constituency for web publishers."

That's why Liewehr says it always comes back to good content, not necessarily a single message like one big ad that runs on every channel, but a core focus.

Last year at the Western Mass Pod Camp, I watched a presentation by Dave Wieneke. He talked about how Hyundai gave away an iPad last year with the purchase of its high-end vehicle, the Equus. But they didn't stop there. They included the car's owner's manual as an app.

They gave customers the device because it was cool to own, and set them apart from their peers in the market, but they also included a *useful* app. And it wasn't just useful to Equus owners, this app also provided Hyundai with information.

Every time an owner looked up something in the manual, it gave the car maker valuable feedback regarding what people were looking up and possibly what parts were faulty or needed replacement more often than they had imagined.

That ability to track data in this fashion is not a typical use of apps, but it shows there is so much more potential here than many companies realize.

Clearly Hyundai put some thought into this one, combining the device and the software in a creative way and that's what you need to be doing as well.

Don't just throw out an app, because as with any channel today, there is lots of competition and lots of noise, and you need to find creative ways to help your customers, while at the same time reinforcing your brand messaging.

It's not easy, but neither is any marketing in this day an age, where there are new rules and new ways of interacting with the buying public. The tablet and smart phone markets are clearly growing and you need to find ways to take advantage of this approach, rather than just throwing something out there will-nilly and hoping for the best.
Photo by dougbelshaw on Flickr. Used under Creative Commons License.
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