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Over 20 years ago, the internet was born – and it didn’t take long for a hype to develop which all but forced companies to get on board.

In most cases it was a trial and error exercise, and more often than not, the sites were merely digital versions of the company’s marketing brochure. There have been dramatic advances in both technology and use cases to the point where many websites built today go far beyond mere marketing sites.

Target market using mobile devicesSuccessful websites today are sites that provide tools and experiences that are useful and/or engaging to their target market. Today we find ourselves in a similar but different situation with regard to mobile devices. We can learn lessons from the internet but they need to be applied within the unique context that the mobile space presents.

Engaging with mobile

The mobile space presents brands with an unprecedented opportunity to engage both existing and potential customers, but the way customers see their mobile devices is very different to how they see other forms of media such as websites, television, and print.

You have a more personal connection with your mobile device than you will with a website, says Robert F. Potter, director of the Institute for Communication Research at IU Bloomington and an associate professor of telecommunications in the IU College of Arts and Sciences.

“One benefit of the mobile app is that you go, you get it and you download the app – it’s now yours. It may be a deeper level of interactivity.”

 

The very personal nature of mobile phones, including the new smartphones, which are practically extensions of their owners, means that advertisers need to adopt new rules of conversation with mobile phone users, says one research study, co-authored by Potter and four researchers at Murdoch University in Australia.

The personal connection for mobile phone users

Understanding this is fundamental to ensure success in the mobile space. Traditional advertising and marketing models are becoming less successful as the devices we use are getting more personal.

How do we start to think differently to embrace these changes as a way to differentiate our companies and brands?

In general, mobile websites are an extension of a company’s website and mobile applications are tools that perform a relatively specific task (sometimes referred to as brand utility). This is certainly not the case in all situations, but it helps inform the decision-making process and provides a framework to begin the discussion.

Like any business decision, it becomes simple to implement when there is a clear strategy informing it. It’s no different with the internet and it’s certainly no different when it comes to mobile.

Mobile strategy: Ask the following questions

1. Who of my customers use mobile or connected devices?

This may be related or unrelated to your business. This may take the form of a customer questionnaire or research into mobile usage statistics (both of which can be facilitated by DigitLab if required).

2. Do any of your customers access your website from their mobile devices? If so, what pages do they access and for how long?

For this, you will require some sort of website analytics on your site such as Google Analytics. If you don’t have this or are unsure, contact your website administrator and get this implemented as soon as possible. You’ll be amazed at how much valuable information you have access to.

Once you’ve determined that your customers use mobile devices in general or to access your website in particular, you can ask the next questions…

3. When do my customers use their mobile devices, and is there an overlap with when I would like them to be thinking about my brand?

If your business is a fast food outlet, then you would be looking for usage information that overlaps times prior to meals. You could determine whether customers are using mobile phones or tablet devices at that time, as well as what tasks they are using them for. You may find that the task most commonly performed at that time is checking traffic congestion or public transport routes. If this is the case, a branded mobile app simplifying this task may be more successful than an app with your menu.

4. Where do my customers use their mobile devices, and is there an overlap with when I would like them to be thinking about my brand?

If your business is a restaurant, you may be able to identify tasks that potential customers will be performing near your location. If your location is in a mall or shopping precinct, you could identify how mobile devices are being used in the area and simplify a related task with a branded application

There are additional questions to the ones numbered above (you’re probably thinking them already) such as:

5. How much does a mobile application cost to develop?
6. How do I find someone to develop the mobile app?
7. What platforms and devices (iPhone, iPad, Android, Windows Phone, Blackberry etc) should I target?
8. How do I measure the return on investment (ROI) of the mobile application?
9. Can one mobile application serve all my customers?
10. How do I market my app?

Over the coming months, we’ll be answering all these questions and more. If you can’t wait, feel free to contact us to help you make informed decisions regarding your mobile strategy and implementation, as well as to provide you with effective solutions specific to your mobile app development needs.

Have you had any experience developing an app or mobile website? Was it good or bad? If not, is this something you’re considering in the near future?