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What digital marketers need to know before developing a mobile app

"More users will likely connect to the internet via mobile devices than desktop PCs within five years," proclaimed the Mobile Internet Report in December.

With stats like this, devising a marketing strategy for smartphones is vital. Now is the perfect time for digital marketers to create their own branded app and capture some of this growing market.

But first, they need to consider what type of application will best suit their creative and business goals. They might want to build a mobile application from the ground up, or they might already have a website or desktop application that can be extended to the mobile space to increase revenues.

Question the value of a multi-platform app

Is being on multiple platforms a feature that would be sufficiently valued by a customer to make it worth the effort of porting and testing it across many different phones?

It might be enough to choose the most popular platform and then revise a product a few times before rolling it out to other mobile platforms. But it is important to make sure the application fits the platform.

Think about the unique functionality that users enjoy on the iPhone, such as the ability to tilt or shake or rotate content or functionality in an application. To touch and pinch or wipe and grab content on-screen. Elements such as these are key ingredients for success.

Market research

The majority of app developers don’t pay for market research before they design and build their apps, usually because its something they’re building for fun. But if a business expects to drive revenue through an app, then this kind of research is inexpensive and improves the likelihood of creating hits rather than misses.

Determine who the users are

Real thought needs to be given to who the ideal target customer is, making sure the features of the application help them achieve some type of goal.

Once the app provides real utility to the people using it, brands can weave in all types of marketing messages and they will not only be tolerated but also welcomed. This is how brands create real relationships with their customers.

Promote the app

Most app discovery comes from word of mouth among customers, as well as people searching app stores for something to download. Therefore think about how to facilitate word of mouth marketing and generate ways to market the app. Be ready to experiment – some ideas will work, others won’t.

For every relevant, memorable app there are probably a dozen others that fail to entice and engage consumers. When it comes to ensuring usage, make sure the app is designed as part of an overall digital marketing campaign.

With support from other media, apps are both more likely to generate immediate attention and more likely to have staying power. Consumers simply need to be reminded – by TV spots, print, e-mail, or banner ads – that the apps exist, and that there’s a good reason to use them.

Don’t forget the fundamentalsUltimately, digital marketers should apply the same strategic planning that works for any communication effort:
Identify the need or opportunity
Segment the market to determine who will benefit from it
Set the goals and objectives needed to be achieved
Determine the tactics – in this case the mobile app – to achieve goals and objectives
Measure and evaluate the results.

While the time is right for a mobile app, entering into the medium without a well-thought out strategy could end up costing a business a whole lot of money.

By: Russell Berry on 15/02/10
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Russell Berry