Every day we as marketers are asked about our mobile strategy. How does it differ across mobile web and application environments? How does it differ for the various audiences that we target? For the most part, companies have set their sites on first tackling the mobile web. This is the logical and easiest step and necessary since the vast majority of sites today are not properly architected for these screens. Applications, on the other hand, have stumped a lot of brands. Marketers aren’t sure how they can make applications that are sticky or unique enough to stay top of mind for users. Additionally, the bragging that app stores do about how many applications they have negatively affects a company’s willingness to jump into a place where breaking through may be a problem. These issues plus the economy have lead marketers to deprioritize application development in lieu of other initiatives.
New research may change that priority. In June 2011, Flurry Analytics showed that the time spent on mobile applications (81 minutes per day) surpassed mobile web and desktop web consumption (74 minutes per day), and a follow-up report in December showed a further increase in mobile applications usage (94 minutes) and an actual decrease in mobile and desktop web usage (72 minutes). Now, I think we will see these numbers level off a bit as we see more and more companies bypass app stores and develop mobile websites that can be pinned to screens and function like native applications. The question of whether mobile and tablets will be additive or subtractive to web browsing is starting to be answered and the signs point to the latter. While this is mainly due to social networking and gaming, the research shows these devices becoming our primary connection points; and as this trend continues, people will broaden their uses from these categories to all aspects of their online behavior.
So, if mobile applications are where people are spending their time and the business rule that 80 percent of your business comes from 20 percent of your customers still holds true for most businesses, then we have to figure out how we can create experiences to engage our most valuable customers. Mobile gives us the perfect opportunity to have deeper interactions, more knowledge on users’ behaviors, and the ability to push products and offers in a more seamless and meaningful way. If done correctly, mobile can truly transform your business.
I was watching “Moneyball” on a plane trip as I was writing this column and found it funny how the baseball team’s model of not looking at players, but looking at their stats is exactly what we as marketers and businesses should always be doing. If you are a retail application like Fab, how do you find what types of products your top 20 percent of customers look at and/or purchase from the mobile application on a regular basis to change what types of products you as a business feature in the future? Of course, we should all take risks and try features, functionality, and products to try and break through in a meaningful way, but with limited screen space and customers’ attention, we should let the data help navigate how these pieces evolve.
The other great attraction for mobile applications is the ability to push notifications to our users and specifically to the top 20 percent. This, like all communication channels, is a mixture of art and science. I was speaking at Appnation last year and got to hear first hand from Scott Kveton of Urban Airship on how the company is helping marketers navigate this space. While we have had the ability to prompt users while on our websites or send follow-up emails to re-engage, it is not as seamless as the mobile space. Now we can prompt users that opt in with a dialogue box and give them just one tap to get right back into the experience. This is the game changer in engaging with customers: a seamless push and pull environment.
So, if you are not already getting pressured to figure out your mobile application strategy, the volume on the need is only going to continue to be turned up.