It's 2018. There are 3.5 billion unique mobile users. 50% of the time people spend on digital media is in apps. If you do not have a mobile strategy in place, you are really late in the game. But even if you do have one, you may need to adapt it.
What is "Mobile Strategy"?
A mobile strategy is a plan for how your business or brand should be discovered and experienced by customers - new or existing - on their mobile device.
In previous years, companies simply tried to move the web or desktop interfaces to mobile and adjust the form factors, creating "responsive" websites. Then they created mobile website (not the same) and recently more and more companies are adopting the "mobile first" approach, developing mobile apps with the idea that these apps will be the primary source of interaction with the brand.
There are several important benefits to building a mobile app for your business, as opposed to a mobile website, such as establishing a direct marketing channel to your customers, increasing customer engagement and fueling growth. A mobile app is more than just having your brand available and visible on mobile devices. A mobile app can actually grow your business by introducing new and/or complimentary services that bring in new customers, new partnerships or new lines of business.
Why do you need a mobile strategy?
According to Forbes, you cannot afford to not have a mobile app. That is, if you want to remain competitive, visible and relevant to your customers. Your customers are on mobile, and they are becoming increasingly accustomed to getting things done on their device, using apps.
Where to start?
Which mobile app is best suited for your business depends on a number of factors, primarily the type of business - what you are selling, and to who - as well as your company objectives and your budget. Start drafting a mobile app brief to help organize your thoughts. A good brief starts with your business objectives and discusses the target personas and the problem you are trying to solve, the business model, etc. An app brief also serves as a skeleton for your mobile strategy. You may want to brainstorm a few ideas and write several different briefs, as quick drafts, and weigh them against each other.
If you have the resources to invest in developing a mobile strategy in-house, go ahead. However, it's often beneficial to consult with an app development agency that has specific experience within your industry and can provide richer insights about competition, risks, feasibility and costs.
The most fundamental question to ask, and keep asking even if you have a published app on the store is: what are your company's business objectives and how should a mobile app meet those business objectives?
Your business objective may be to generate more sales, improve customer service, save time for your employees or increase brand affinity. Whichever objective you set forth, you should define how to measure success. Many apps are launched with no clear objective in mind, or vague objectives that fail to be delivered.
Framing the problem
Statistica reports that the average churn rate for a mobile app is ±80% within 3 months. That means 4 out of 5 users abandon an app shortly after downloading it. In order to understand why this happens you must ask yourself: "why would the user keep using my app?". This is called "framing the (user's) problem". Your app must solve a real problem for the user, or answer a specific need, or provide specific utility. This also means that you need to carefully define the target persona for your app.
This is a crucial step that many companies miss. You want to validate each idea separately by interviewing your target personas or having them answer a survey. The purpose is to validate your assumptions and ensuring that you are going in the right direction. Here are a few basic questions to ask:
- Who is the target persona?
- What is their biggest problem? What frustrates them?
- How do they deal with this problem at the moment?
- Would your idea solve their problem? If not - why?
- Would they download and use the app?
- How often would they use the app?
- If applicable, would they pay for the app, make in-app purchases or buy a subscription? How much would they be willing to pay?
The specific details of your questions depend on many factors: your business, the problem, the solution and the market. Your questions will also vary if you already have a mobile app and are considering to overhaul it, extend it or introduce new functionality. In this case you'll want to focus on your existing users and frame your survey around the changes you intend to introduce.
Part of your market validation should focus on existing apps or solutions in the marketplace. Spend time to find those and understand what they offer, to whom and how you differentiate yourself. You must find your unique selling point which would make customers prefer your app over similar apps.
Validating your assumptions will save you a lot of money, time and grief down the road. Dedicate the time and resources to do this thoroughly before running forward and acting based on assumptions.
Putting it all together
I've laid out the initial steps for putting a mobile strategy together. This process should be iterative and adaptive. Implementing the strategy and building a mobile app requires several more steps.
If you're considering making an app for generating revenue, be careful. Apps are not a good way to make money. Apps take long time and big budget to develop and optimize. Many app development projects run out of budget because of poor validation, no planning or over-promising and under-delivering developers.
That said, a mobile app can still provide a solid growth engine for your business and in many cases increase revenues indirectly, through increased customer engagement, satisfaction and brand loyaly.