Opinion & Insight: To app or not to app?


To App or not to App? Waterproof your business and marketing strategy before diving into the App deep end, advises Ross Hastie, Head of Publishing – Africa, at Ole! Media Group.

As the growth of media consumption on mobile devices continues to outpace desktop, many brands are seeking to jump into the mobile application pool as a means to engage their audience/customers. But before you dive into the App deep end, make sure both your strategy and product are waterproof.

At first glance, the expanding reach and popularity of Apps may appear to be fertile ground for growing a brand. However, the App playing field is both an extremely competitive and crowded space – with over 1.5 million Apps already clogging up stores. Therefore, before a brand spends time, money and energy on building an App, it’s worth taking a moment to consider the business’s objectives and whether they match what an App can offer and whether the App would stand out in the crowd.

Square one in the decision-making process is to remember: An App is not a website!

That may seem like a painfully obvious thing to say, but the key differences between the two platforms are often misunderstood and/or overlooked. Apps and websites should aim to serve different purposes and functions. Every mobile engagement strategy should seek to create a synergy between these platforms. In an ideal world, where a brand already has a website (and a strong social media presence), an App should serve to complement or streamline – not duplicate – what can already be found online.

Above all else, an App needs to be a TOOL, which makes the user’s life better/easier/simpler. If built correctly, an App can become an integral part of a user’s life, creating the kind of partnership with a user that is invaluable to any brand.

The vast majority (almost 80%) of App users actively engage with no more than three Apps on a regular basis, meaning the competition for a user’s attention is pretty stiff. For an App to make the cut, it MUST add value to users’ lives beyond the initial download, whether it be in practical terms or in entertainment.

Remember, an App ‘lives’ on a mobile phone, not on the Internet, making it a closed environment, which is a massive hurdle if the business has the wrong objectives, but a huge benefit if it’s done right.

This represents a significant mindset shift for marketers. The App user shouldn’t be targeted as a vehicle to carry a marketing message to other users via ‘likes’ or ‘shares’. Instead, the goal is to build a stronger, personal bond between the user and the brand. Unless the core function of the App is linked to social media, the interaction between user and brand happens in a personal, not public, space.

What all this means is, if brand awareness is the goal, then a responsive website with easily-sharable content should always be the first port of call. Likewise, if the strategy is aiming to generate revenue through banner advertising, then a mobile website probably offers a better publishing platform.

A good App is easy to find (via search and in-store), easy to use and it regularly incentivises users to re-engage. A good App can be partner for life, but more than 80% of Apps are unlikely to be used a second time after download.

So, before making that first impression, make sure the product is ready to add value to a user’s life.