MOBILE: iPhone or Android – which is more App for your business?

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Have you seen our iPhone App? Do you have one? No? Really?

Been asked that recently? I wouldn’t be surprised if you had, mobile seems to be on the lips of everyone. If you haven’t got an iPhone app, some would have you believe it’s a minor miracle you’re still doing business.

So, should you be rushing out to find a mobile developer?

Yes, no, maybe, well, it depends.

Don’t be a lemming

First of all, you don’t have to follow the crowd. Just because Mobile is cool and trendy, doesn’t mean it will be successful for you (see the ‘popular’ kids at school as an example). There are some fundamental questions you need to ask of your business first, before you can determine your mobile strategy.

Five Questions to ask of your business:

Does your business lend itself well to mobile?

You have to be realistic. There are just some businesses that don’t lend themselves well to the mobile web – certainly the App market – and you have to ask yourself, is yours one of them?

Anecdotally, the average lifespan of an iPhone App is 2 weeks – in all likelihood because the App is pointless or poorly thought out or designed. To justify the expense of developing one you need to be sure it will be used.

Brainstorm a few ideas and share them with your customers. Feed the response back into the decision process.

Can you improve the customer brand experience via mobile?

If your customers access your product via the web, could you make their life easier by providing mobile access too? The key here, is to ensure that the mobile and web version are integrated, otherwise there is a disconnect and you compromise on the customer experience.

Should I do something in Mobile right now?

Tricky one. Ask yourself whether you’ll be left behind if you don’t – and if your brand will suffer if you release a shoddy product. Rushing doesn’t guarantee the latter, but it’s a risk. You need to find a balance between speed and quality. ‘Bells and whistles’ could always come in the version1.1 update, whilst you gather feedback from the initial release.

Which first – iPhone, Android, Mobile or other?

Ah, the hot potato. There is a lot of information out there on mobile use and many of the numbers are conflicting. However, what all the Mobile experts can agree on is that big things are about to happen in the market.

In a nutshell, we can thank Apple, their iPhone and their marketing budget for kick starting the smart phone market. That got consumers interested, now Google are coming along with Android to mount what is expected to be a serious challenge.

So which should you do first? Well, it depends on your business. If you’re ready to go now, it could be worth launching an iPhone App to go with market surge. Once live you might want to get started on the Android version pretty quickly to jump on that bandwagon as the platform gathers traction.

Conversely, you might find that your niche is already a little overcrowded in the iPhone App store, so you could dive straight into the Android space and be the big fish gobbling up market share before your competitors get there.

Or to continue with the nautical metaphors, perhaps you’d be better off swimming against the smart phone tide altogether? Whilst apps may be sexy, the mobile web (i.e. sites accessible via mobile browsers), may be where your biggest wins could be found.

Would you be better off making a great mobile-friendly site so any internet enabled phone can access it? It’s certainly a bigger market.

Do my audience want a mobile offering from my product?

Exactly how big a market is actually an important consideration. The global mobile uptake is huge, but that doesn’t really matter to you. How big is mobile in your market?

Try this. Go to your analytics package and look up the Browsers/Operating System report. You probably don’t delve in there too often and you might be a little scared by what you find when you start adding up the number of visits from Mobile devices.

Look at the data over the past year or two – how much has it grown? One site I worked on recently, experienced a 136% increase in mobile visits in just a 9 month period and nobody knew.

So the worrying thing is you may already have a mobile audience and they can’t use your product. Is the audience big enough to jump the smart phone Apps in the development queue?

Decision time

It’s clear when you consider the answers to the five questions that it’s not as simple as just responding to the excitement of the iPhone with an App of your own. What’s in the best interest of your company?

It’s an important time for businesses as we adapt to the changing media consumption of our audiences. We must move swiftly, but not hastily, and embrace the opportunities new technologies provide.

So what will Mobile mean to you?

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Gary Robinson is a UK digital marketer, who fell into this tech world by accident and decided to stay and play. That was 1999. He's still here. His current loves are conversion optimisation, mobile and tinkering with new technology. He also has a fondness for coffee.

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  • mickrigby

    Gary, great thoughts and very interestingly you have exposed a big bugbear of mine and something that is indicative of what is happening in mobile at the moment.

    Rightly so, there is massive desire in most businesses to get into mobile and the most common result is an iphone app and. However, the problem is that many businesses have done what they have done in mobile without truly thinking about what mobile should be doing for them. The old green cross code of stop, look and listen is the solution… don’t rush into it, see what all the opportunities are and listen to people who you trust for advice. And only then decide on what you should be doing.

    There are a plethora of activities in mobile that should be considered. For Instance SMS is generating the most effective DR CPRs I’ve seen for 10 years and so few businesses are taking advantage of it. IPhone apps are one of the solutions but not necessarily the solution in isolation. However if your conclusion is that you need to build an app, then be aware that Iphone’s share of mobile internet usage is starting to slow down and in the states decline. Between then, Android and RIM are taking just short of 25% of the market in the US (Quantcast) it would be a brave or foolhardy marketer who would ignore these stats when planning what to do in the UK, considering how quickly the mobile market is moving.

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  • Thanks for the informed comment Mick, great to have input from someone with your mobile experience.

    I like the Green Cross Code reference…apart from the TV advert flashback, it's also a very pertinent consideration for not just mobile but any new technological development you may be confronted with.

    I'd love to know some case studies regarding SMS marketing, it's very much considered the unglamorous part of mobile by businesses nowadays. It seems to have already been surpassed by the smart phones and apps in the wishlist of the digital marketer.

    Great to hear from you Mick.

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