With more than 150,000 apps now on the iPhone App Store, how do you get yours noticed, how do you create an app of real value to your target audience and what will the next generation of apps look like? 2ergo’s Colin McCaffery, Director of Products, who leads the team behind the development of the Guardian, Rightmove and Arsenal apps, explains.
There are four key principles to bear in mind when you are designing and developing an app. Too often these golden rules are sacrificed for novelty value, like the magnifying glass app or the spirit level app.
They may be quirky and experience a burst of popularity but these apps have no staying power and are not part of any long term customer engagement strategy that will build a brand or secure customer loyalty.
So if you want to build an app that resonates with your market, remember these principles of successful app building: Reliability, differentiation, functionality and delivery as part of an integrated mobile strategy.
This is paramount. Your app must be reliable, if it crashes and fails to meet a first time user’s expectations, downloads will suffer as will your customer reviews. The iPhone app store is a real democracy where user reviews often dictate the success or failure of an app, much more so that its position on the App Store charts
If an app has been well reviewed by other iPhone users and it has received 4-5 star reviews, the community of app buyers are more likely to trust it and download it than a 1 star review at the top of the charts
What makes your app different? Are you capitalising on the latest technology? Retailers are now starting to recognise the need to capitalise on recent changes that have taken place and developing full e-commerce solutions enabled by Apple relaxing its regulations on in-app credit card transactions.
Before, you would be progressed through to a mobile site to purchase goods but now you can go straight to check out through the app which is providing consumers with a much more seamless, user friendly experience.
If you look at the UK market more than 8 million people (16% of adults) regularly use the internet on their phone, a figure that rises to 25% for 15-24 years olds so it’s a sizeable market brands and media owners can’t fail to ignore.
Looking ahead, we’re likely to see more augmented reality included in apps, utilising the iPhone 3GS’s compass, GPS and camera facility to overlay the real world with a virtual world highlighting everything from your nearest tube stop to what in-store offers are currently running at the outlets within your radius.
The growth of m-commerce through in-app payment models and subscription models, with more and more retailers and media owners looking to exploit this channel, will also be hallmark of the new app era.
The iPad is also going to affect the apps market. The different user behaviour associated with this new tablet computer, which combines traits of magazine browsing and PC use, is an ideal medium for inciting impulse purchases and could one day be the preferred medium of the in-store magazine, allowing customers to flick through a collection and instantaneously purchase something online from the catalogue.
If you want to know what the building blocks are for a truly successful app with the ability to endure, think of the foundation stones that have made the facebook app such a mainstay.
It has achieved its status because it meets an existing need, serves a real purpose and is highly functional and is part of the everyday fabric of our increasingly interconnected lifestyles and how people choose to communicate and consume media.
4. Integrated Mobile Strategy
For an app to achieve success it cannot be launched in isolation, it needs to be part of a wider 360 degree mobile or e-commerce strategy. Any new app needs to be well marketed and publicised but to be most effective it also needs to be delivered in association with and as a compliment to a full suite of mobile communication solutions.
So an app that allows a consumer to track the progress of their delivery will be of most relevance if it is integrated with push notifications to tell you what day and time to expect the delivery and text messages alerts to tell you if delivery failed, in order to provide real benefits to the customer.
Looking at the success of the iPhone App Store, there’s been more than three billion downloads in just over 18 months, and their popularity is accelerating daily.
But amid the compulsion to launch an app to the market quickly, so as not to get left behind, marketers need to keep in mind the fundamentals for successful design and launch their app, supported not just by its own marketing strategy but as part of an integrated mobile solution if they want to see a return on their investment and secure it staying power.
But while over 14% of shipments are currently Smartphones, a figure that is predicted to rise to 25% by 2014 according to Portio Research, marketers need to think beyond the iPhone app store as there is an opportunity to reach millions more mobile users through a multitude of app stores and the growing Android market should not be missed.
But Smartphones still only capture part of the market at present and we are increasingly seeing organisations approaching us to develop not only apps but mSites (mobile internet site). mSites have the inherent advantage in being accessible to the majority of mobile users regardless of handset brand.
Recent developments in mobile browser technology have also meant that the mSite experience is much more akin to that of an application and you only need to look at the mobile version of Google mail to see this in action.
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