By Crystal Hinam, Rantmedia

Every business has a website, most have a Twitter account and/or a Facebook page. How do you make your business stand out? Mobile applications (apps) can increase productivity, add competitive edge, cut costs, raise brand awareness and much more…

Good apps are useful and engaging, working on devices that are physically with the individual wherever they are. They can provide engaging information, entertainment and interaction in the palm of your hand. A mobile app provides a completely different way to reach your audience - a direct channel of communication - that can be used to send out new and exclusive content instantly. Consumers are kept engaged with your brand using an accessible and personalised experience that can’t be replicated on a website.

Smartphone users tend to use their devices constantly, consuming content everywhere: on buses, trains, taxis, at home, in restaurants, even where it’s not appropriate like the cinema or during a pub quiz! People enjoy using apps!

Smartphone popularity is growing by the day

27 per cent of adults and almost 47 per cent of teenagers now own a smartphone, according to Ofcom’s latest Communications Market Report. 81 per cent of smartphone users make calls every day compared with 53 per cent of ‘regular’ users. 37 per cent of adults and 60 per cent of teens admit they are ‘highly addicted’.

The research also looked at the popularity of apps among smartphone users and found that 47 per cent of adult smartphone users have downloaded an app. Teenage smartphone owners are more likely to have paid for an app download (38 per cent) than adult owners, amongst whom only 25 per cent had paid for an app.

The volume of mobile data transferred over the UK’s mobile networks increased 40-fold between 2007 and 2010

91 per cent of people own a mobile phone, compared to 36 per cent in 2000

99 per cent of 25-34s own a mobile phone, compared to only 51 per cent of over-75s

Apps can fail

Developing a mobile application can be time consuming and expensive, so you need to ensure that an app is right for your business and it’s developed right first time to get repeat engagement and downloads.

The life-cycle of an app could be minutes, before it is abandoned by the user. Apps need to be monitored and regularly updated so they remain relevant and engaging to an easily distractible audience.

Businesses don’t need an app, but can reap some major benefits if they manage to create a really smart one, which is a lot harder to do than it may seem.

According to a piece of research by Deloitte, most smartphone apps built by brands fail (80% getting less than 1,000 downloads). If a smartphone user wants to read some interesting content they’re most likely to search in their browser, rather than their app store. When you also consider Deloitte’s estimate that making an app function on 2 platforms costs 160% of the price of doing it on one platform, this makes even more sense. Brands need to think what else can they offer app users, what functionality they can build around the content to improve it.

The key to creating successful apps differs from business to business, but the goal is the same: of course it needs to look great, but it also needs to appeal to the consumer in at least one of three ways: entertainment, solving a problem, or simplifying life in some way.

According to a study released in early July by Nielsen, among consumers willing to pay for an app, 93% would spend money on a game, 87% would buy an entertainment app, and 84% would purchase both a productivity app and a maps/navigation/search app.

This means the most successful apps tend to fall into these categories:

1.Entertainment (games etc)
2.Content (news, sports, etc.)
3.Utility (Simplifying a task)
4.Transactional (ability to purchase directly on the app)

Important considerations

There are a number of other important considerations when deciding how an app will work best for your business:

1.What is your target market?

What are these individuals looking for in an app? How can the target market be engaged with an app?

2.What devices do you think you want to support?

There are many different types of devices which all need to be considered separately. Form factor is also important – smartphones are very different devices to tablets.

3.The app must serve some purpose – an app with the sole purpose of selling your business (e.g. portfolio apps, or company information) is likely to be rejected. You may want to consider a mobile web app instead for these kinds of cases. Apps should be ‘useful or provide lasting entertainment value’ and ‘not primarily marketing or advertising’.

4.How will you measure success?
Number of downloads? Increase in enquiries? Increase in brand awareness? More sales? Less support calls? More productive staff?

App success

A great example of App success is the Domino’s Pizza App, the pizza delivery expert. Domino’s topped sales of £10 million through its mobile channels.

Domino’s existing mobile channels include an iPhone ordering app and mobile optimised website. The iPhone app, first launched in September, has achieved over 500,000 downloads to date. Domino’s mobile optimised website was introduced in December, making it possible for BlackBerry and other smart phone users to also order pizza whenever and wherever they are. Pizza sales taken through the iPhone app and mobile optimised ordering site have just reached over £10 million.

Simon Wallis, sales and marketing director for Domino’s, said: “We’re always looking for innovative ways to allow our customers to order. We first launched online ordering ten years ago and, based on its phenomenal success, we were keen to capitalise on new opportunities created by mobile channels. Investing in this type of technology is now paying dividends for us, achieving pizza sales of over £10 million. With sales of Android phones reported to be up 810 per cent year on year*, we’re excited about what the future holds with the launch of our new app, which will allow even more pizza lovers to order on the move.” *

* Source: Dominos.com

At Rantmedia we design our apps to be innate to a smartphone, using the native features and functionality of the devices such as touch and gesture control, camera, calendar, motion sensor and global positioning system (GPS). Resulting in intuitive, highly interactive, intelligent apps that the consumer will enjoy using time and time again.

About The Author

Rantmedia produce apps and mobile web apps for multiple platforms and devices including iPhone, iPad, Android, Windows Phone and Blackberry. We produce apps for companies throughout the UK and the World. If you would like to discuss how a mobile app can benefit your business contact Rantmedia on 02920 766568 or visit www.rantmedia.com