Investing in mobile is like the dating game. Are you getting what you want from expensive dates and shallow one-night stands? Or do you yearn for the comfort of a long-term relationship? Something meaningful, where you can settle down for good with your beloved user in the sought after neighbourhood of apps that make up the home screen of your better half?
And so we come to the campaign versus product conundrum.
The near 2 million apps available today show marketers have accepted the need to invest in mobile. But the trend of brands spending budget on short-sighted tactical apps, only to find them consigned to the app scrap heap after the first date, still remains.
Even the mighty Coca-Cola struggled. Of their circa 50 apps I counted in Apple’s UK App Store yesterday, almost 70% failed to merit a single rating. The Coca-Cola Heritage app, the Classic Adverts app, the ‘Ask the Magic Coke Bottle’ app; apps that no doubt were downloaded once, before being deleted from the little black book for good. For the same budget, Coca-Cola could have created a single cross portfolio loyalty application or a cool partner rewards program.
The answer is to adopt a product-centric approach to mobile. Roadmap your way on to the menu of user’s most prized and personal possession, then evolve the proposition and deepen the relationship. Easy.
So why isn’t everyone doing it? Well, you’ll need to do things differently. And with that come the risks.
To earn this coveted position on the device you need to develop an offer that adds value to your user’s life beyond the current campaign theme approved by the board.
Firstly, you need to land on a proposition with longevity, based on a sound strategic vision, not just a quirky idea linked to this year’s strap line. But strategic mobile thinking can be expensive if it doesn’t exist in-house.
Then there’s the higher development costs. Successful apps that live long and full lives in the app store have to be robust, they incur support and maintenance costs and they have to evolve with each new OS and device.
Finally, greater up-front investment requires sign-off from those upstairs. Once you get that sign off, then you really get nervous, after all, it’s your head on the chopping block if at the end of the customer engagement there isn’t a big wedding for management to buy a new hat for.
The best way to mitigate these risks is to follow four rules to mobile product development:
1 Ask what benefit you provide your customer? Remember, downloads are not an indication of success, it’s repeat usage. So provide a benefit that’s relevant via mobile; locality, immediacy, context, connectivity, continuity.
2 Roadmap. Have a bold vision for your product’s lifecycle. If budget is an issue, prioritise your features and devices then phase your roll out. Relationships are a marathon not a sprint.... or maybe they’re a few sprints with a bit of walking in between while you get your breath back.
3 Partner. If you’re moving in to a new area with your mobile offering, working with a partner adds essential ingredients, like expertise, content, or an audience that you otherwise would have to find from scratch. O2 partnered with Nike to offer Priority Sports. Nike accessed a network and O2 delivered tangible customer benefits beyond calls and data.
4 What’s in it for you? Don’t think of an app as an advertising channel. Have real KPIs for your application, not just downloads, actual business drivers. Will your product increase registrations, mobile payments, newsletters, brand affinity, social amplification? If so, how?
Now you can do all this and it still doesn’t guarantee you will be ‘the one’ for your customer. But don’t despair, there is nothing wrong with being the bit on the side after Spotify and Plants vs Zombies. By resisting the desire to churn out a safe little campaign app and by adopting a long-term product vision you can earn the ROI you want from your budget.
The trick is to plan and budget your proposal meticulously to come up with an offer they can’t refuse…you never know, true love could be just around the corner!
Senior Account Director
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