How does app development compare to other marketing strategies?

From consumers to marketing directors, mobile is the word on everyone’s lips at the moment. And it’s not difficult to see why - it’s estimated that by 2014, mobile devices will have overtaken PCs. Mobile devices are not only more portable – they’re more personal and customisable too. Living in people’s pockets, they provide the ultimate communications platform. With mobile comes a wealth of almost limitless opportunity for brands to get straight to the heart of consumers and ultimately increase brand engagement.

But is developing a mobile marketing strategy worth the time, effort and investment for companies? Does mobile live up to the hype? How much impact can a killer app make?The Drum caught up with leading agencies in the world of app development and mobile strategy, posing a series of questions to discover just what it is that’s got people talking, and why developing such a strategy might not be just prudent – but actually essential for the future of your brand.Sarat Pediredla, Partner, Hedgehog LabThe great thing about app development is that it actually complements most major marketing/PR strategies. Social media for example, can be enhanced by having a branded app that brings together the social media conversations and enables them. Direct marketing takes a different dimension when you can start sending push notifications and messages right to a user's pocket.James Clarke, Thin MartianThere aren’t any other strategies. If you segment them, you’re missing a huge opportunity. Take websites for example – if your company still talks about a ‘website strategy’ and a ‘social strategy’, it needs a new marketing / PR team. This applies to apps too. They should be considered fundamental to a brand, just like websites or in-store display collateral. If it’s using app styled HTML5 with websockets, it can be both ;)Simon Jones, Head of Online, IntermarketingIt’s another channel for communicating to consumers and should be viewed as such in the broader sense with social media and not be treated in isolation.Graeme Hastings, Creative Director, Science Creative LtdScience Creative merge mobile app development with Social Media by developing Facebook Apps. This allows existing social media assets and plans to be integrated. For example if your brand has a Page with a lot of fans you have an instance audience for a Facebook App. A social app on Facebook moves your customer interaction beyond the transmit/broadcast marketing strategy and allows two way direct interaction with your fans/followers.Gemma Oversby, Head of Business Development, Storm IDSocial apps and Mobile apps (and indeed desktop web apps) are similar in the sense that they deliver well-defined, encapsulated chunks of features – the ‘app’.Apps don’t design themselves in the same way as promotional websites now do – they need to be carefully sculpted like a tailored campaign. You also can’t create value by adding more features, you need to remove and improve features more than ever. The key to success for apps is the clear vision and definition of those features and then nailing the execution based on the channel of delivery. So the emphasis on product definition is paramount for app development. Once you have a product defined if we take the technology and tools out of the equation (another article needed for that!) one of the biggest differences between native mobile app development and any web based development (social or otherwise) is around testing, publishing and maintenance of the apps.We have found that once created the web app, mobile app and social app all have different shelf-lives which tends to impact on how we approach development.Typically we build web sites with ongoing maintenance and updates at the forefront of our minds – any corners cut arrive in the post at some point...so don’t cut corners – use suitable coding patterns, cover your code in tests, refactor often, etc.However, social apps need to adapt quickly and often have short lifespans, with huge viral growth potential and rapid evolution needed to react to that. We approach these with rapid development in mind knowing that we are building up a coding debt that we never have to repay – or only repay if there is a huge protracted response which justifies the effort.For mobile apps, testing the app thoroughly before release usually means it can just sit there for a long time without any noise at all. The maintenance and support is low because you have to eradicate as many bugs as possible before release. This is similar to the approach for desktop software and requires solid coding frameworks and a great test team (bristling with mobile phones!) Ryan Hall, Joint Managing Director – Client Services & Experience Design, Nice AgencyMarketing, PR and social media are all incredibly important for building a relationship and communicating brand messaging as part of an integrated approach, as are applications.By creating an engaging application for your consumers, offering them added value and a reason to interact with your brand further strengthens this relationship – even more so than push communications. With applications the user has opted to download and install a brand’s app – in some cases even pay for the privilege. This opens up a direct channel between the user and the brand enabling constant awareness and for the brand message.

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