"Apps are here to stay and they are changing the face of all businesses, big and small."
Apps are applications or programs designed to run on mobile devices for the benefit of users. Apps are distributed over App stores, where they can be downloaded to users’ phones, tablets, music players or computers.
Apps were born in 2007 when Apple launched its first iPhone, but they were not initially part of Apple’s grand design. Developers were cracking the iPhone’s operating system (iOS) and developing apps for users by ‘jail-breaking’ their iPhones before Apple opened its official App Store on 10 July 2008, with about 550 apps. By March 2012, there were over 550,000 apps and 25 billion downloads.
Android is a strong contender, with 56% of market share in mobile phone sales in the first quarter of 2012. App potential of non-iOS smartphones grew because android apps run on a variety of devices while Apple apps are only for Apple devices. Google Play Store achieved 25 billion downloads with 675,000 apps in late September 2012.
The growth of mobile devices and apps has been exponential. By 2015, 91% of the top 100 global brands had an app. 79% of smartphone owners wake up and check their apps within 15 minutes.
In Appvertising: How Apps Are Changing the World, Stephen Molloy provides a comprehensive view of the app industry with advice for companies, entrepreneurs and developers. There are interviews with industry experts and in depth examples of apps, making this an interesting and informative read.
Together we win
"Apps are produced with a unique win/win formula which benefits the user, the developer and the brand."
Consumers are more likely to have a smartphone with them at all times than any other accessory. People have embraced smartphone apps to save time, increase productivity and be entertained. Traditional ‘dead time’ like commuting and time spent waiting in queues are now filled with apps. There are apps for every purpose including banking, navigation, eBooks, music, news, information management, healthcare, and of course, communication.
Traditional industries such as music, movies, retail and travel are being disrupted by apps. Using the smartphone’s built in functions like GPS, cameras, wireless communication and cloud services, businesses such as Airbn, Uber, Facebook and Alibaba have been able to leverage the power of crowdsourcing to solve problems for consumers without carrying any assets of their own. It is said that a London taxi driver needs to memorize 25,000 streets while an Uber driver just needs a smartphone.
Entrepreneurs and developers who have good ideas and skills can develop an app relatively easily and affordably. App stores are cost effective platforms to market and promote apps.
App stores stand to gain from the sales of apps. For example, Apple charges 30% for each app sold on its app store. Apple realized quickly that apps also help to sell iPhones and iPads, and is supportive of app developers.
Appvertising – the next big trend
"The communication medium of the future is mobile and the advertising medium of the future is apps."
There are two key trends in smartphones with huge implications for marketers and businesses:
- Mobile internet traffic exceeded PC internet traffic in 2014.
- Customers are increasingly using their smartphones and tablets to search for information and take immediate action.
Mobile app advertising, or ‘appvertising’, is the use of apps to deliver branding, messages, content or functionality to reach target audiences using mobile devices or platforms. This is a way for companies to leverage the growing mobile platform to sell more products and services and generate a greater ROI for their advertising dollar. Examples are the Pizza Hut ordering app and Coca-Cola’s ‘Spin the bottle’ app.
86% of smartphone users multi-task with other media such as TV, music, video and the internet while using their smartphones. Therefore, the key to effective appvertising is interactivity in order to attract the attention of the consumer. It is also important to provide a seamless advertising message across all media.
The key types of appervertising to date are:
- SMS text-based advertising
- Location-based advertising
- App-embedded advertising
- Mobile display ads
- Click-to-call ads
- Social network mobile ads
How to create successful apps and promote them
"Ask anyone who has developed a successful app and they’ll tell you that it didn’t happen overnight."
Finnish computer game developer Rovio Entertainment had created 52 failed games and was facing bankruptcy before the remarkable success of Angry Birds. The eventual success was all to do with persevering, promoting and updating.
Here’s some strategic approaches for creating an app:
- Is there a market for the proposed app?
- Do similar apps exist? Are there ways to do it better or address a different niche market?
- Is the app suitable for the global market but customizable for different countries and cultures?
- Does the app empower its users and expand its value the more it is used? An example of such an app is Evernote.
- Identify trends in behaviour and create technologies to wrap around that. For example, there are preferences towards a rental economy and ‘on demand’ services.
- Decide on candidates for the development team.
- Learn how to delegate and project manage app development.
- For an app to be successful and be featured on the App store, it must be of high quality, which can be measured by:
- Ease of use.
- Achievement of specific functions such as saving time, saving money, increasing productivity, or entertaining and informative.
- Keep the app file size small (below 20MB) for ease of download over mobile data networks.
- Icons and colours form the critical first impression. 51% of app themes are either blue or black. Try different colours to stand out.
- Dive deep, not wide. Develop for one version first (iOS or Android) and get the experience right before applying to other platforms.
- Avoid apps that are too complex.
- Design the mobile experience based on the ‘Hook Model’—a four steps process to build customer habits.
- The first two weeks of the launch in the app store are critical. Be prepared with marketing strategies.
- Price it right – understand how pricing will affect demand. Consider the freemium model, price adjustments or even free downloads.
- Listen to feedback and keep tweaking and updating for target users.
- Obtain insights on app performance using developer.yahoo.com (Flurry Analytics).
- Cross promote to introduce new apps.
- Keep evolving and innovating. Roll out different editions. For example, Angry Birds has Seasons, Friends and Space in their series.
- Never give up, and be willing to start again.
Even though it seems there is an app for everything, in reality it is just the first generation of a new technology. Predictive personalisation ranging from retail to healthcare, mobile commerce and augmented reality are some of the emerging trends that will influence future app developments.
Do you have an idea for an app that can leverage these trends?