By Tim Ocock, VP Business Development, Symsource.
Increasingly clients are requesting pitches to allow them to ride the wave of mobile applications.
In many cases that means the iPhone App Store, currently the most successful on-device application download channel, thanks to a combination of great usability, consumer education (when did you see a TV ad showing you how to download an app for any other kind of phone?) and revenue collection model for publishers.
But there are also now app stores for BlackBerry, Android, Nokia, Palm and coming soon for Windows Mobile.
Applications have several properties that make them appealing but more complex than the traditional mobile web and SMS campaigns.
But with the ability to build something truly integrated into the device (easily launched from the home screen, and aware of your location), taking advantage of the performance available (e.g. 3D graphics and game like features), and now app stores removing the barrier to downloading apps, it is feasible to get hundreds of thousands if not millions of downloads.
All these downloads mean the cost of acquisition per download is lower, but the cost of developing the app for the campaign could well be higher, as most platforms require applications to be written in C++, Objective C or Java - a different set of skills from the Web and Flash technologies typically required.
Since they cannot be updated as easily as a website or server based application, a disciplined approach to software engineering testing is required too, to make sure the quality is right on day one.
It's important therefore to understand the place of apps in your pitch strategy, i.e. when is it appropriate to pitch an app as opposed to a mobile web campaign? Here are our top tips for pitching a successful mobile app concept:
1. Make sure you understand the capabilities and limitations of the technology.
Mobile phone technology is changing fast, and varies widely from platform to platform.
For example, location awareness on Nokia phones depends on the GPS, so doesn't work well indoors, while neither iPhone nor Android support binary SMS, a staple requirement of many mobile Java applications.
There are plenty of exciting concepts involving location services, real world social networking and peer to peer messaging that really capture the imagination and make great pitches, but there's nothing worse than overpromising and underdelivering.
So pitches that aren't sanity checked for technical feasibility run the risk of being rejected right away if they are too optimistic about what the technology - is able to do.
2) Do something that can only be done on mobile.
There's a whole separate debate to be had about whether to optimise websites for mobile, or rely on ever increasing capabilities of mobile browsers to handle regular websites.
Regardless, an application that simply duplicates a web campaign isn't using the full potential of being on the mobile.
Look at your clients' products and services and brand values, and see what happens when you consider them in the context of being mobile.
For example, a running shoe company might offer a fitness journal application. A retailer could let you compare prices and make shopping lists.
This could ultimately lead to a new source of revenue for your client, and for you.
3. Build something useful, not a gimmick
An app is for life, not just for the holidays - or at least, if you're going to the trouble of making the app, why build something that users will quickly tire of and uninstall within a few days?
The impact of a mobile app that users want to keep is going to be felt long after any web or SMS campaign and ultimately will be seen as more successful by your client, so they are more likely to want to make more apps in the future.
If that isn't reason enough, then consider that all of the mobile app store channels solicit feedback from users - which can offer a pool of great concepts to pitch the next time around - but users will not be shy to let you know what they think of your app.
Over time your success will be measured by the reviews and the long term downloads ranking, not by the first day downloads.
A great example of a mobile application that follows these rules is the newly launched Mini Roadside Assistance application for Mini drivers.
Those users are going to be carrying that around with them permanently, which wins a lot of good will from customers, increasing their loyalty to the brand and buying great word of mouth.
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