After spending a few hours digesting the Mobile Web Apps World 2010 event in London, the following three things really stuck with me: 1) Hard as it seems to believe, mobile apps are still in their infancy, 2) We’re on the verge on customer data becoming a real lever for success, and 3) Mobile’s an exciting place to be . I’ll delve into each one and give specific examples of where I saw this covered.
Speaking on the panel, James Connelly from Fetch Media called out that mobile apps have been around for ten years or so. They have – but it’s really the smartphone explosion over the past three years or so that made it a serious playing field attracting the best developer’s attention. To consumers, the mobile device turns from a mainly communications (call/text/MMS) tool with a few bells and whistles (games/camera), to a serious content consumption device plus communication device. “There’s an app for that” becomes common terminology. When have you chosen a phone because of its call success rate or audio quality, rather than its UX, web navigational speed, or being the prominent platform of choice for your favourite apps? We still aren’t truly in a place scientifically assess what makes some apps successful, and some not.
With the intent behind the app itself: there were more than a few disaster stories of big brands creating apps “just to get their footprint on mobile devices” or marketing managers not knowing where mobile fits in their mix, or how they should think about them vs. mobile web sites. With the execution: An example was a large banking establishment releasing an online banking app as they feared falling behind their competitors if they didn’t; one issue – the app was horrendous. It was slow, cumbersome and had unclear security settings which meant from a customer experience standpoint they actually went backwards. It’s only now that we’re really beginning to see what constitutes success, and what’s causing the car crashes.
A mobile smartphone device is like a gift from the heavens for developers and advertisers alike with their ‘always-connectedness’, locational tracking ability, wealth of contact store, ease of deployment, tracking capabilities, plus the fact that it’s still a market that has yet to mature. A huge factor in the ongoing importance of an app relies on its relevance to the user; where will Angry Birds net out vs. Facebook in a year’s time? When will Foursquare open up vouchers, offers, and even a dating service to others who are checked into the same location? Andrew McGrath gave an insightful overview of how Orange thinks about their customers throughout the entire development lifecycle where he called out applications that died before making it to market – customer data doesn’t have to be ongoing analytics, it can begin with pre-dev customer insights.
Shaun Gregory had an entire session dedicated to the topic where he ended with a couple of slightly scary numbers: 90% of the UK sends a text each month, and that 62% respond in under five minutes. Measuring the impact of your work and tweaking it real-time will play an increasingly important role. However, with great power comes great responsibility – when it comes to customer data I’ve yet to really see the perceived user benefits weighed up against the privacy trade-off and where that lands. Maybe it’ll take one very visible mistake to bring that to the fore.
Exciting place to be
Well, how many times have you been shown an app and just had to download it right there & then? How much money could you potentially make off your app? For large organisations, how does mobile fit with your overall digital strategy? For one-off developers, how can you create something truly unique and magical that harnesses power of the device in a way that no one knew existed? There are more questions than answers, which leaves the door wide open to developers to create success before any kind of formula around discoverability, engagement, and monetization becomes a lazily accepted, de-facto standard. How will mobile translate onto the iPad/Slate category? A true open canvas in one of the hottest places to be.
If you’re a mobile developer or simply an avid lover of apps – what are your thoughts on the three topics above? Anything in particular you see as core to the success of mobile apps?