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App-y brands look before they leap

By Mike Anderson

December 22, 2011 | 4 min read

Mike Anderson, CEO of Chelsea Apps Factory, gives his top tips to brands looking to develop a mobile app in 2012…

Famed mobile analysts Gartner estimate that there were 17.7 billion app downloads in 2011. The Apple App store (the original and still the most populous of the app stores) now has a selection of over half a million apps for download. The Android Marketplace (Google’s competing store) is catching up fast. The impression among the brands we speak to is that it’s very easy indeed for anyone to get in on the action. That’s an impression we need to adjust, if not correct outright. As impressive as the statistics I’ve just quoted are, what we can’t know for certain is how many consumers download an app, trial it once, and then leave it to languish on their menu screens. If brands want to be able to offer their customers apps which avoid this fate, they could do worse than take the following tips to heart:

Know thy business case Assessing the opportunity or need which your app will cater for should always be the first step in the ‘development’ process. At Chelsea Apps Factory we are still occasionally approached by board-level execs who want an app because they want one – apps which start life in this way are always better for brand-building than they are for consumers (and they’re usually not much good for either). Start by sitting down with your best IT and marketing people – the best apps are rarely developed by a single department with a company.

Customer-centric scoping So you’ve made your case, and understand fully the purpose of your app. Now you need to design the thing – preferably by putting your ideal user at the centre of your thinking. Find out how, when, and where that user is likely to play with your app and how to take them on the best possible journey towards the end-point you’ve built into it. In general, consumers prefer apps with a single, clear purpose so limit the feature-set early on if you want to succeed.

Work with what you’ve already got It’s likely that you’ll have databases of customer information to hand when you start the design process - use this to tailor your app as it will save you time and money. Identify what platforms your customers are most likely to use; developing an app for iPhone when the majority of your customers use Blackberry is a quick route to failure.

Stand out from the crowd Given the breadth of competition out there at the moment, getting your app noticed can be the hardest part of the process. Look at whether you can tie your app into other marketing activity to give it a download boost at launch.

Stay loyal to the process Work closely with developers throughout the entire process - get involved and stay involved. Treat your app like a friend, check in on its progress and stay loyal, even once all the big decisions have been made.

Keep your app alive with updates Now that your app is alive and kicking, don’t forget to keep it updated. Timely updates will ensure that it doesn’t get overshadowed by the other 800,000+ apps out there. Consumers are open to receiving updates and don’t see app releases as one-off ‘events’.

The honeymoon in apps is coming to an end. Consumers are far more app-savvy than they used to be and they have high expectations regarding the usefulness and entertainment value of the apps they use, especially when those apps are provided by the brands they know and love.

Nevertheless, follow these tips and you can’t go far wrong – if app development isn’t as easy as it seems from the outside, it’s not as difficult as some developers make it look either.


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