OK, so I am sitting with my 11 year old daughter last night, and she is showing me the 60 or so apps she has downloaded for free into her iTouch. Of course at 11 she is giving me “tude” about my even questioning her judgment on which apps she has.
Unfortunately for her, I found several apps she had no explanation of why they were on there. Under much protest, we removed them and to her surprise she found out that her aging father might actually have a clue about this Internet and mobile thing.
But while I was looking at the plethora of junk she had accumulated, it occurred to me that almost any business can benefit from using this form of connecting with their clients. I know nothing groundbreaking there. And then again, is it only for the 20% that download apps and only those who have iPhones. But that universe is about to explode in June when Apple releases the iPhone from its ATT shackles.
According to Larry Dignan at ZDNet, Apple’s market share increase from 2008 to 2009 has almost doubled from 8.2% to 14.4%, respectively for worldwide smartphone sales by OS. This means they are expanding. And as Android and
BlackBerry catch up, it seems the App Universe is not going to slow any time soon.
So this brings me to the point. If you missed the initial boom on the Internet, you may have yourself a bona fide way to cash in now. Here’s why:
- There will always be more cellphones than computers. (86% of the US population own cellphones according to the FCC)
- Free Internet access is becoming more available in more places, and the spectrum for data is expanding constantly (this is why Apple wants to play with more than ATT in the US).
- Apps can (should) be a gateway to additional engagement with customers.
- In the fragmented media world that we live in, marketers must be adapt to the “pull” mentality that consumers now apply to content. This runs counter to the traditional “push” leverage that having limited channels available to consumers was able to foster.
- 20% of smartphone users download apps via the mobile web at present, but this number is growing as consumers become more comfortable with their phones and more consumers upgrade to web enabled larger screen smartphones.
- Payment methods tied to a “store” make small payments (under $10) a no brainer for engaged and interested end users.
I know I am hopping on a big bandwagon, but I also want to add a few comments on how an App can be used to grow a user base as well as enhance existing customer relationships. To me this seems like the point of an app, unless you are
just a philanthropist and enjoy seeing “what happens if I do this”. Most of you reading this will fall on the let’s make some money side of the equation.
So here’s a quick and dirty rundown of what you want to include in an App to make it keep your customers coming back and wanting more.
- Start Simple. Give them the core of the content they want and make it easy to navigate to from your app. Most of that information is most likely already accessible to them, but only through your site, which is not optimized for their smartphone.
- Create Multiple Versions. When concepting your App, make sure that you are also developing features that you can get the end user to upgrade into. You may even want to develop a Free version, an intermediate $0.99 version and an ultimate version at $4.99 or $9.95.
- Understand Paywalls. When a user hits a feature that is only available through an upgrade, you will send them to a “paywall”, where they cannot proceed until they upgrade. Make this as simple and seamless as possible for the end user and understand how to sell the benefits in short easy copy (since that’s all you really get).
- Link to the Internet. Linking your users back to expanded content on a website begins the loop that you want them to create by entering their email and mobile number, so you can begin messaging them with relevant content and bonuses.
- Use Updates to Sell. Use the updating feature of the developer kit to expand your relationship with them. Frequently updating shows that you are dedicated to making sure they get the best experience, and recently updated Apps, tend to get more use. In addition, you can build more paths to the paywall with updates by linking them to expanded content available in the upgraded version.
- Make it Easy to be Viral. This is the point I see many App developers not taking advantage of. The old send it to a friend is even easier now with Facebook, Twitter and a host of other social media outlets. For example, an App about Gilligan’s Island Trivia will be shared among those friends who love the show and talking about it. If your App can get that type of viralness as a “must have” App for the faithful, then you can get other people to do your heavy lifting for you, with only a little push at the beginning. It’s waht you do with them once you get them that seperates out the successes from the failures. You MUST make the App addictive to the user so they will actually use it (I know, no brainer, but most are not).
- Solicit Feedback. Not listening, as your mother told you, can get you in trouble. In this case, it can cost you a competitive edge. Since smartphone users tend to be early adopters, they will more than likely be open to giving you their opinion. Make sure you solicit it, and then commit yourself to integrating those ideas into the App.
- Make it Localized. If you are a land based retailer, or have outlets that are local and you want to direct the end user there, then integrate a Geo Targeting solution with Google Maps. This is more advanced, but localized Apps will get used more (such as where to find a restaurant table, time limited coupons, where to find events on the fly, etc.).
- Make the Name Descriptive. Since you are only found in the App Store by your name, make sure you are more keywprd heavy as well as Brand heavy so you get both optimized and end users can find you.
While these guidelines are all well and good, what you need is flawless execution of the App. This is where you have a great many choices to dip your feet in the water. A search for “iPhone App Developers” turns up 1.19 million results in Google. So how do you choose who to work with.
The other question is, how much do I want to pay to get my feet wet. The cost of App development is usually between $80 to $150 per hour of development, and that number can rise significantly if you want advanced features.
But there is a way to get into the pond without having to commit your kid’s college fund to find out if this is for you or your company. A good friend of mine, Brad Waller, has developed a new service called UBuildApp, and it is about the simplest way to get involved without making a giant commitment.
The pricing starts at just $99, and you get a decent amount of content integrated into the App. This includes all the content you have in .pdf’s and on your site. But it doesn’t end there. They have some pre-done buttons that you can choose to add into your App. This includes useful widgets such as:
- YouTube integration for your videos.
- Welcome page you can customize endlessly.
- Twitter, RSS and Podcast integration are all automated.
- Add pictures from your Picasa or Flickr account.
- A Google Maps widget to let your customers know where you are or where your event is being held.
- There’s even a Calendar and a Local News Feed widget.
The uBuildApp is designed to get you started. Of course this is a lower level approach to get you there as it is an automated wizard approach for the base price. You can add additional functionality for additional fees, but they seem to be reasonable.
I spoke with Brad Waller about expanded services, and while they are able to take an idea from whiteboard to finished app, the cost is determined by the specific usability that you want baked in. He mentioned that a really custom App could run anywhere from a couple thousand to several thousand. He did also mention that they are open to discussing revenue sharing options for Apps that may have strong potential.
Visit the UBuildApp site here.
In either case, for $99 you can get into the game, get some quick feedback and then build the App your users want from you. As with the lottery, you cannot win it, if you are not in it.