Mobile Apps Still Feel Risky, But Don’t Let That Stop You

/// Mobile Apps Still Feel Risky, But Don’t Let That Stop You

February 10, 2014  |  Blog

Talk NYC is continuing its new contributor series with Vaino Leskinen, Head of Mobile, TBWA’s Digital Arts Network LA

2013 was the year of mobile and 2014 will be one as well. Flurry, a mobile analytics vendor, claims that Americans spend an average of 2 hours and 38 minutes per day on smartphones and tablets. Moreover, Business Insider says mobile accounts for 20% of ecommerce traffic and 11% of ecommerce sales. Mobile has arrived and a huge chunk of the action is in applications.

The advertising money has not yet followed the eyeballs. This is down to how mobile’s success has bred complexity. Apps are the dominant way people use their mobiles but brands who have tried to introduce their own apps have often fallen on their faces. Vendor consolidation is yet to happen and so there are tons of vendors all offering niche solutions. They all try to capture the attention of marketers and their agencies by claiming that they have come up with a solution that single-handedly fixes branded applications. With hundreds of vendors making the same claim, it is sometimes hard to figure out where to begin. This has led brands to shy away from building their own apps. The secret for doing mobile right is to take a step back and make sure the brand gets two fundamentals:

  1. Solve a problem that all other apps haven’t
  2. Take a systematic approach to acquire and retain users

First—mobile introduces a lot more competition. Brands and agencies are used to competing with other directly competitive brands and agencies. But the best mobile ideas are often referred to as “useful advertising” in the form of entertainment and utility services. A mobile app from a brand competes not only against other advertising, but everything mobile has to offer.  Therefore, the brand needs to be able to solve a problem the already existing 1,000,000 titles in the App Store and another 1,000,000 in Google Play can’t solve.

A mobile game from a brand is up against blockbusters with hundreds of millions of monthly users. A brand can still find new ways to solve problems by taking advantage of its unique relationship and knowledge of its customers. For example, a bank can ask for the client’s permission to use their intimate knowledge of the client’s risk preference to tailor a financial news feed to the app.

Second—hope is not a strategy. The top-grossing mobile apps have a very systematic approach to acquiring and retaining users. Just launching a branded app and leaving it on its own against everything mobile has to offer is downright unfair. But if the brand thinks in terms of a system rather than a one-off idea, things change. Brands can learn from the tactics top-grossing titles deploy to manage their visibility in application marketplaces. Brands can also partner with mobile blockbusters to drive traffic to their app.

For example, some quick-service restaurants already offer weekly free music downloads to bring users back at times when they are not in a point-of-sale. They can promote this free download within the mobile advertising ecosystem, as well as in their restaurants, and continuously drive downloads and repeat usage.

It may be hyperbole to claim that you only need to do these two things, but if you don’t do them right it really does not matter what else you do. If you have a clear picture of how you stand out within your mobile competitive scope and have a plan for user acquisition and retention, you have solved the hard problems. The rest is just execution, as they say.


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