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Apps focus: What are the biggest challenges facing app developers and marketers, and are brands being lazy about apps?

In the latest in a series looking at the issues surrounding app development and strategy, The Drum speaks to app developers to discuss the challenges facing app developers and marketers, and whether clients are being lackadaisical in implementing apps as part of their mobile marketing strategy.

What are the biggest challenges facing app developers and marketers in 2012?

Adam Levene, CSO, Grapple
One of the biggest challenges facing marketers is ensuring an app is discovered. With over 700,000 apps in the Apple App Store alone, it cannot be relied on as the only method of discovery. Marketers must give as much consideration to launching an app as they do in creating it. Our application for Premier app, with over 1,000,000 downloads, is one of most downloaded apps within travel, despite a penny never being spent on marketing. By leveraging owned channels effectively, Premier Inn has been able to convert customers accessing PremierInn.com on their mobile browsers to download the app. This simple execution has been responsible for over 80 per cent of downloads to date.

Gary Boon, managing director, Shout Digital
App developers and marketers need to challenge their clients. Many may want a new app, but simply because it’s the ‘buzz’ thing to boast. Are they doing it for the right reasons? Is an app really the answer? With some 10,000 apps being released daily, a new one, without any forethought about what extra it will add to end-user experience will simply sink without a trace. It has to do something useful, perhaps location-based information for example. Delivering bog-standard brochure content is no longer acceptable and the land-rush to just have an app by delivering a ‘low-hanging fruit’ solution is over. Once you have something you know is different, the right thought processes and planning has to be in place for it to cut through the rest and actually be downloaded. There are a lot of great apps out there which simply don’t get noticed.

Mark Hadfield, senior planner, Weapon7
One of the biggest challenges currently facing app developers is patent rows which are hindering, rather than helping, innovation. Another challenge is app fatigue: the market is completely saturated with apps, so as an app developer the difficulty is grabbing the attention of your target market in a crowded space.

Fragmented platforms - the different codes with different capabilities - are also time consuming and costly to developers.

James Hilton, CEO, M&C Saatchi Mobile
On average, 500 apps launch on a daily basis across the major mobile operating systems. This presents one of the largest challenges – how does the app get noticed? Being a large brand will certainly help but in the majority of cases knowing how to promote the app to the target audience is often overlooked.
 
Further to this, one of the biggest challenges remains; why an app should be developed. With the markets becoming increasingly saturated, there needs to be a real reason or benefit for a user going onto the app store, downloading the app and using it. We are no longer in the days of novelty marketing apps. If all companies want is for it to be used once, in one scenario, then success is easy. For ongoing use however, it needs to offer real value to the user.

Are brands being lackadaisical about implementing apps into their mobile strategy?

Gary Boon, managing director, Shout Digital
I don’t necessarily think brands are being lackadaisical. There are some great brands who take on board the right advice from the right people, who are able to use apps to extend the brand reach and user experience in creative, inventive and insightful ways. Conversely, there remain many more successful brands who’s mobile strategy remains almost non-existent. I believe this is as much to do with the fear of the unknown as it is a lazy or couldn’t-care-less attitude. I’m sure there are scores of brand leaders out there who are desperate to be educated in the importance of quality mobile presence, in whatever form that may take, but are probably frozen by fear of getting it wrong.

Rob Bamforth, technical director, Reactiv Apps
We have noticed that some brand managers are not aware of the benefits that an app can bring to their company. There are over 1bn smart phones on the planet and by 2014 mobile internet is expected to takeover desktop internet usage.

Fifteen years ago, people were questioning why they needed a website and that is what is happening with apps at the moment. As apps evolve, more and more brands will be implementing apps into their mobile strategy but the brands that don’t embrace apps now will miss out. Big brands make apps, but apps also make big brands, for example Instagram and Angry Birds.

James Hilton, CEO, M&C Saatchi Mobile
Not from our experience. Often, trying to convince them why an app isn’t the justifiable initial route for their mobile strategy. Now that much of the hype has past, brands are being far more pragmatic in their approach to mobile. They understand that they need it, but have to be presented with the pros and cons for each route. If a mobile app fits into the strategy and delivers value to the brand and the user, we recommend it. If it doesn’t, we assess what the best options are.

This article is part of a wider feature focusing on app development and strategy, published in the 28 September issue of The Drum. As a subscriber, you can download a pdf of the magazine for free to read the feature in full.

Mobile image via Shutterstock

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