Do I Need an App?

If you work in digital marketing, you have probably been asked about an app before.  Like Facebook followers, apps have an unnatural fascination for CEOs – they all really want one!  But that is not to say that an app is not the right thing for your business.  Mobile is critically important for most organisations, particularly if your audience is global, so its a question you should consider carefully.

To help you work out if an app is right for you, I have laid out the pros and cons of having an app in this week’s blog:

Benefits:

  • Flexibility: There are a number of features of apps which are easier to implement in an app rather than on a mobile site: for the right business, geo-location is a great opportunity
  • Design: Your developer will be able to produce a much more interesting and intuitive design for an app as opposed to a mobile website
  • Functionality: Not only will it look better than a mobile site, it will have better functionality.  This leads to a better user experience….which leads to increased revenues
  • Quicker: Mobile apps are quicker than mobile websites, so in an age where the consumer is becoming less and less patient, quick page loads are very welcome
  • It’s in front of you: The theory here is that if someone has downloaded an app then they are far more likely to use than a mobile site of your competition

Challenges:

  • Expense: Apps are not a cheap addition to your online presence.  It could be argued that this is an investment, but it’s likely to be an investment of a five figure sum
  • Expense (again): The creation of the app is not where the costs end, it is where they start – maintenance costs and software updates are necessary for a successful app
  • Needs Promoting: Not enough people are just going to stumble on your app to make it a success, so you will need a promotional plan to support your app launch. Not free I’m afraid!
  • Your Website: A lot of organisations have invested heavily in responsive websites, so where does your app fit in?  Does it replace your mobile website or does it compliment it?

There are other factors that you need to consider before you decide on an app (such as would the app satisfy a particular need for the consumer that the website cannot achieve), but hopefully this should get you asking the right questions.

Have you developed or marketed a successful app?  What made the app successful?  Would you recommend them to other businesses?  Leave a comment and share your knowledge!

Windows 8

Windows-8

Windows-8

This week I am going to take a look at Microsoft’s new operating system, Windows 8.  You may have seen the TV adverts showing off some of its features, but should you believe the hype?

When you start using Windows 8, it becomes clear that the platform is designed for touch screen technology.  It has large icons which can be personalised, and responds pretty intuitively to finger movements.  However, the challenge for Windows 8 is to deliver an operating system which can cater for PC, tablet and mobile but without taking too much functionality away from any of these devices.  Developing a mobile and desktop operating system is not unique to Microsoft – the Mac OS and iOS are becoming increasingly blurred (and has attracted its fair share of criticism too!).

I have used the PC and mobile version of Windows 8, and it takes a little time to get the basics right without using touch, i.e. using a keyboard and mouse.  However, it must be remembered that humans are on the whole pretty wary of change.  Even if Windows 8 is better, it certainly is different so it will take some time for users to adjust.

What operating systems are hoping to achieve is the possibility to start a piece of work on one device, and for the user to change the device but still work on that piece of work with a seamless transition.  An uninterrupted experience would be a huge step forward from the user’s perspective and there is no doubt that Windows 8 is capable of doing that.

Windows 8 has been designed to be web developer friendly.  People are well aware of the benefits of apps on their mobile devices, but Windows 8 will allow apps to be developed for PCs too – if you use Google Chrome, you will know how handy apps can be on your computer.  This is a big deal – making Windows 8 easy to develop means that programmers will be keen to work on it, a key factor to the success of any operating system as it means a constant stream of new content.

So, what does the future hold for Windows 8?  I think that it will be a success – it has gimmicks such as facial recognition like the X-Box, and is easily developed by programmers.  Initially the success will come from consumers – it is much easier for consumers to adopt a new operating system but businesses will be a lot slower to take it up (due to the time, cost and complication of introducing new operating systems).

The challenge for Windows 8 will be how quickly it can persuade people to leave their current operating system behind – if they can do this, expect to see Windows 8 on a screen near you soon.

Have you used Windows 8 yet?  What did you think?

Mobile Marketing Strategy

Mobile phones

When mobile marketing is mentioned there is often a sharp intake of breath from the room, with everyone thinking ‘this is going to be expensive’!

However, mobile doesn’t have to break the bank. This year is a perfect opportunity to start looking at your mobile strategy, because the growth in people using mobiles to access websites is likely to keep increasing.

From a marketing perspective, it’s easy to see why mobile is so attractive. The devices are virtually all on, always next to their user and content is easily shared. In addition, the analytics for mobile are accurate and powerful, with some packages on par with Google Analytics.

I did say that mobile doesn’t need to break the bank. You should be able to build up your mobile strategy piece by piece, and here is where you start:

1) Understand what your current level of mobile use is – the first step should be to see what number of visitors use mobile devices, and what devices they are. There is no hard and fast rule as to what the proportion needs to be before you start your mobile strategy – that will depend on your market, your website and the budget you can allocate to mobile.

2) QR Codes – these are a really good way of starting to meddle in mobile. These are codes which convert off-line activity to on-line, where behaviour can be tracked more accurately. There are some great examples of this being used with direct marketing, but there are also a lot of fails. You need to think where the user is likely to see the code – if they are at home or in the office, they are likely to have access to the internet. If they are on the London Underground, they will not (Google Olympus QR Code Fail!)

3) SMS and MMS Marketing – the average text is opened within 4 minutes of it being received, so response rates can be very quick – they enable effective campaigns to strike while the iron is hot! An SMS campaign should not break the bank too – if you decide not to use a short number (e.g. 88112), that is a saving of £5-10k per year, so most of your cost is in the text itself.

4) Mobile Website – this is basically an abbreviated version of your website. It will have less menu options for the user, but will render well on a small screen such as a smart phone. These can be as simple or complicated as you would like, it entirely depends on the needs of your business. But before you invest, actually look at your website on a variety of devices – how does it look and how easy is it to get around. Many content management systems, e.g. WordPress, automatically generate mobile versions of all of its websites, so this should save you the cost.

5) Apps – if a large proportion of your customers are viewing your mobile website and your content is forever being updated, then an app might be the answer for you. The growth of apps has been astonishing – the Apple Store has 650,000 for you to choose from and Apple users alone has downloaded over 300 billion apps. However, to have an app takes a lot of investment – costs can be upwards of £20,000, most of which is in the design and production of the website.

So, before you start briefing your agency on your new app, I recommend that you build up your digital strategy. Start with small campaigns and small costs and build it up your mobile presence, taking your learnings from every step of the way.

What do you think of mobile? What tips would you give to people starting out? Leave a comment and let me know!

Apple v Samsung

Apple v Samsung – the saga continues….

Apple v Samsung

Last week a decision was made in the case of Apple v Samsung in the war for smart phone users.  Apple won its patent court case against Samsung and has been granted just over $1 billion.  So is that the end of it?  It’s not even the start of the end!!  Samsung have already filed their appeal. 

This clash of the two top players in smart phones and tablets has been a very public dispute, but what are the key points of the case so far and what questions are still not answered?  Here’s my take:

Why did Apple bring this case?  Apple is almost unique in software manufacturers in that it has never licensed its technology.  As such, with the design and usability being the only reason to buy an iPhone, they are going to defend their USP fiercely.  It is this which allows Apple to charge premium prices for the iPhone. 

Why did Apple win?  There were two key pieces of evidence to support Apple’s case.  Firstly, a senior Samsung executive sent an email to the smart phone design team giving the direction to make the products more closely remember the iPhone – banged to rights!  Secondly, an email from Google appeared telling Samsung that their current portfolio was too close to the iPhone. 

$1 billion is a decent settlement, right?  No!  Apple originally filed for $2.5 billion, so they have only got 40% of what they asked for.  Also, given the fact that the case was fought in America, Apple’s home turf, this settlement is not seen as an overwhelming endorsement of Apple’s case.

How can Samsung appeal?  Intellectual property cases are notoriously complex, and documents released by the court show that procedures that the jury had to follow were not followed correctly.  This is a good basis for the appeal.  There is also an argument that the jury should be made of intellectual property experts to fully understand the issues of the case, so an appeal looks very likely. 

Why buy an Apple product?  Apple have admitted that Apple and Samsung products are very similar, so why would consumers pay more for an Apple product?  There are reasons why people would – it is regarded as a cool brand, and they are often innovators in the mobile market, so people want to be associated with Apple.  But if you can get a similar product for less, does the power of Apple’s brand outweigh this?

What happens next?  Well, it’s pretty clear to me that the appeal will be granted and we start all over again.  But there are broader questions to answer. 

  • Will a final settlement in Apple’s favour mean that Samsung will raise the prices of their products?  Will they take on Apple head-to-head at the premium end of the market? 
  • Apple prides itself in being a pioneer for new smart phone and mobile features.  But are they features of an Apple phone or are they features of a smart phone?  Should ‘pinch to zoom’ be classified as an Apple feature or have they just pioneered a feature which is reasonable to use on all smart phones?  This is a particularly poignant as Apple claims that rectangular phones with smoothed corners are an Apple design, and not to be copied!

The case has highlighted a number of issues, but the really interesting questions for marketers are still yet to be answered.  I will be tracking the case and providing updates ongoing, so make sure you check back soon.