What Marketers Need To Know About Mobile Apps
By Optism Team, Jan 20, 2012
Note: This blog post was written by Peggy Anne Salz and originally published in the Permission Marketing Briefing Room hosted by Optism on the MobileGroove website.
From brands and agencies to Millennials and veteran observers, I encourage each to give their take on the issues and opportunities around mobile — specifically permission-based mobile marketing. Today we take a step back and look at the Big Picture and examine the questions posed in an even bigger debate going on in the industry: what is the value chain? And, more importantly, what is the value of apps?
Who better to ask than Martin Wilson? Martin recently published a critical look at companies’ obsession with delivering iPhone apps (a condition he terms iSyndrome). In it he also urges companies to think through their decision carefully because an iPhone app doesn’t deliver the same value to every customer segment.
For a start, it ignores much of the youth demographic and fails to reach many regions across the globe for whom a simple feature-phone is the only phone. The reaction to his post and how comments via Twitter (and retweeted by mobile experts and influencers including Tomi Ahonen) was tremendous.
I caught up with Martin to ask him to update us on iSyndrome and discuss the wider implications for mobile marketers. In 2008 Martin founded Indigo 102, a leading independent consultancy built on a passion to drive the mobile internet environment. Martin has just come out of stealth mode with a new venture sharply focused on helping clients with branch networks publish content in a consistent, branded and managed manner across platforms to engage consumers.
So is the value chain broken?
It’s a tough one to call, but Martin (based on his first-hand experience inside mobile companies and first-hand experiences dealing with marketers) points out that biggest challenge for many is to “understand and recognize that there is a value chain in the first place.”
Another problem is the “continued obsession with control.” As Martin puts it: Many providers within the value chain are just simply trying to control all aspects. “I think the whole opportunity for the value chain is to recognize that partnering will bring the best of breed solutions to the market and it has to be the way forward, for the directory publishers, media owners, ad networks through to the operators.”
What is iSyndrome?
iSyndrome: a symptom, characteristic, or belief, that building an application = mobile strategy.
What are the signs?
Where you see individual and organizations following oversimplified mobile strategies focused on short-term results rather than long-term value, you see a company stricken by iSyndrome.
What is the solution?
There isn’t one. It depends on variety of factors including the nature of your business, your target audience/customer base and the priorities you have set in your business plan. But we can say that a mobile strategy requires a company to do much more than transfer a fixed online service to mobile (squeezing content or services onto a small screen, for example).
Martin argues that an app alone is not the answer. He also reminds us that recent reports document a massive percentage drop-off in the use of mobile apps once users have downloaded and installed them on their devices. In short, the novelty wears off.
“The other challenge in the iPhone is [developers] build these showcase services that arejust not sustainable. They put all these very cool features in, such as augmented reality, but at the end of the day the mass audience can’t use them.” The upshot: disjointed development and isolated investment. “And very little strategy and strategic thinking that’s been applied to it.”
Marketing via an app misses a large part of the audience. However, marketing that adds value (using messaging to put contextual inventory in front of people who have opted in, for example) is on the money.
Anything short (such as non-contextual messages) can short change users. “When they are mobile, immediacy is often critical. So if these elements [such as banners] are slowing down the experience, they do hinder and they can actually be quite harmful.”
As Martin sees it: messaging covers all the bases.
“Apart from its natural usage as a peer to peer communication tool, I view the core opportunity around notification and permission-based marketing.” It’s also extremely important for marketers to balance how they integrate messaging in the scheme of things. ”It’s not a broadcast capability; it’s very much permission-based and incredibly powerful.” The right application can “add significant value to the consumer and enhance the brand expectation or the experience for the individuals that are receiving them.”
Is Was 2011 the year of the mobile Web?
Let’s just say we’re going to see more emphasis on mobile. in the U.K. alone less than 3 percent of organisations have a Web and online presence that can be viewed on a mobile phone. “That has got to change.” Martin reports more companies are weighing the pros and cons of an app strategy vs. a Web strategy, and choosing the later.
To this end Martin founded The Mobile Web Company (no surprises there!). The aim of this specialist mobile marketing and services company is to support organizations, allowing them to deliver a “consistent, relevant and managed mobile Web presence that will offer value to an audience.”
Apps or Web? It’s a discussion that will be with us for along time. In fact, it’s the topic of a recent panel I moderated during the phenomenally successful M-Days in Munich ( a record 3,000+ visitors). There we came to the decision that it’s not either/or. It’s likely both depending on your business objectives. But that is precisely the point. It is a decision companies and brands should discuss and make based on what they want to achieve and the audience they want to reach. But a presence – on the phone or on the Web is not enough. The combination of context and conversation – adding messaging to the mix in the form of an opt-in notification, alert or an exclusive tip about offers/events that match the information the person has volunteered – is where the value is.