It’s a thriving and innovative marketplace. It’s open to all. And it’s growing exponentially. Isn’t it about time you got a piece of the mobile app sector?
There are some very good reasons a start-up business would want to build a mobile app. Competitiveness is a big one. If you design an app well, you can use it to grow your customer base, and to reward the loyalty of existing clients. Even if you don’t want to set up a standalone mobile app business (see our mobile app business guide for more on this), there is plenty of room for both new and established businesses to take advantage of the opportunities the mobile realm offers.
Going into mobile apps requires a great deal of thought and investment though, so don’t jump in without doing your research. Even if the app will not form the basis of your business, app development takes a great deal of time and can be quite expensive.
“Like any product, you need to assess the size of your market, and determine how much you can budget for its development in order to still make a decent profit,” Tristan Celder of Zolmo, which developed the massively successful Jamie Oliver iPhone app, explains. “You also need to work out how much people are willing to pay for your product; something that's mass market will have higher volume, and so you will be able to turn a profit at a lower price, but you will likely have lots of competition.”
And you should make sure building an app will benefit your business. Ask yourself: “What can I do with mobile? What will my customers gain?”
Many businesses develop apps in order to promote an existing business – occasionally with great success. Others publish an app in order to offer a mobile version of their service. Businesses that use apps as a marketing strategy range from corporate giants like Nike right down to small scale start-ups. If you do it right, your brand marketing app can go viral. A prime example of this is Carling’s iPint, which used the iPhone’s accelerometer to allow customers to virtually ‘drink’ a pint and some argue this kind of marketing effort is the future of advertising.
Not all marketing apps are gimmicks however. Often, branded applications aim to offer a service to customers. In the long run, this could work out better than any viral gimmick, as you would get a lot of repeat use. The Time Out/Smirnoff app is a good example: it functions primarily as a city entertainment guide. But it just happens to also be branded with Smirnoff and Time Out logos. One of its features involves suggestions for various cocktails at bars nearby. With a bit of work, you should be able to turn this way of thinking to benefit your own area of business.
In terms of actually getting such an app developed, there are many mobile app developers/marketing companies that specialise in this new area. Just one example of a company which can assist in this way is Techlightenment, which is a full service social media agency that delivers campaigns. Mobile applications feature as part of their service offering.
There are entire directories dedicated to this area. Developers will fall over themselves to help you map out a strategy if it’s the way you choose to go.