By Peter Gough, founding partner, ORM London
Mobile is a big opportunity for many brands as it can alter the way users interact with content and open up another revenue stream, as such it’s unsurprising that many marketers that don’t have a mobile presence feel that they should have one. But jumping into the mobile space without taking the time to think about who your mobile users are and what you’re trying to achieve is a mistake. Brands should be bold with their strategy, not just assuming that optimising their existing site for mobile will be enough, instead they should have a cohesive long term plan and invest in the mobile channel that’s right for their business objectives. Brands also need to make sure their mobile channel fits into their whole marketing strategy and not remain a silo channel.
Who are you audience and what do you want them to do?
There are a number of things to think about when considering mobile as part of your marketing strategy. Many brands simply think ‘we need a mobile site’ or ‘we need an app.’ But they should step back from the technology and think about who their target audience is and what they want them to do in order to achieve their objectives. Doing some research into your audience and their behaviour should help you make a more informed decision, for example what are the most popular handsets used by your target demographic and what kind of apps are they using on a regular basis.
What functionality do you need?
There’s little point in developing an app if you’re not going to exploit some of the hardware features they offer such as location, in-app alerts or a rich UI interaction, especially as a mobile website potentially offers a larger market reach and lower entry costs. For example North Face realised its customers, as hikers, were likely to be out and about and giving them a tool to track their hiking routes as well as find their nearest North Face store would be useful to them as well as supporting the brand and sales. An app was an obvious choice as they could make use of GPS. But if your customers simply want to find more information on your products or buy online, actions that don’t need the additional functionality an app offers, then going for a mobile website would be a better option.
Looking to the future
Companies should also consider that with time their business, their customers’ behaviour and technology is likely to evolve. When devising a mobile strategy it’s important to look at the long term. Creating a mobile channel is an investment in your audience and therefore you continually need to update whatever channel you use and provide new, relevant features. Updating a mobile website is easier than updating an application but both do need to be updated regularly. If a customer has decided to download an app they’ve also invested in you – giving you space on their smart phone and time – so you need to make sure to return that investment by updating the content and functionality as technology moves forward. So many applications get downloaded only to be used once and never again, make sure there are compelling reasons for your customer to return.
What kind of app?
If you do decide to create an app, rather than a mobile site, there’s the additional decision of choosing whether to go for a native app or a web or HTML5 app. HTML5 is the next generation of the HTML markup language and supports rich levels of functionality only seen previously in native software or apps that had to be installed on a PC or smartphone. HTML5 supports many of the user interactions, such as drag-and-drop, that users have come to expect from traditional software applications. These new web apps are, as the name implies, online and always connected, but a key innovation of HTML5 is that they can work off-line as well through local storage.
Again technical capabilities come into consideration in deciding what format to choose. If your app relies on hardware-driven performance, a slick user interface with responsive interactions, then a native app would be better. But if you wanted a data-driven enterprise app that works on several different platforms HTML5 may be the more practical solution.
Promoting your app is also a consideration. If you’re targeting a wide audience then a native app, which you can promote through an app store to give you reach, would be better. However, native applications limit you to a particular handset/operating system so you must consider this if you wish to have a broader reach. If you don’t charge for your app, and therefore you don’t pay a fee to the app store owner, there are no negatives to distributing an app through an app store as it’s a trusted source with a large audience. If you’re targeting a smaller audience, or you’re an established brand that already has marketing clout, such as the Financial Times who’ve recently developed an HTML5 app, then a web app could be more appropriate.
Mobile offers a plethora of opportunities to truly engage with customers but deciding what mobile channel to invest in can be daunting. Research your audience and take advice from a mobile specialist to help you develop a plan that’s right for your business. In summary, keep your audiences expectations as well as your own business objectives front of mind to guide your decision. The right channel might not automatically be the most fashionable or cutting edge.
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