How To "Mobilize" Your Marketing

Evolution of an idea.

I read WIRED’s “Web is Dead” article and the very first graph rings true to me.

You wake up and check your email on your bedside iPad — that’s one app.  During breakfast you browse Facebook, Twitter, and the New York Times — three more apps.  On the way to the office, you listen to a podcast on your smart phone.  Another app … (etc.) … You’ve spent the day on the Internet — but not the Web.

IStock_000008723842XSmallI have this idea: Companies ought to consider developing “corporate apps” that provided basic and helpful information ranging from “directions to our locations (from your current location)” to “latest job openings” to “latest promotions” (for consumer brands).

Different users would have different reasons to download the app.  For example,  jobseekers love it when a badge pops up to alert them to a new job opening, customized to their profile… A NineWest shopper is delighted to be alerted to a nearby shoe sale…

Then I read “The Great App Bubble” in FastCompany. Uh-oh.  These graphs grab me:

In 2009, analytics start-up Pinch Media reported that people barely use the majority of apps they download. Only 20 percent of consumers utilize a free app the day after they download it. By 30 days out, less than 5 percent of consumers are still using it. Paid apps have a slightly better performance record, but they still get hit with a steep drop in usage within a period of 11 days. The value of most apps may be in satisfying the curiosity of what the app can do, not in its usefulness or relevance in a user’s daily life.

Marketers are spending money on iDevice apps at the expense of improving their mobile Web sites that everyone with a smart phone can access … iDevice app development actually costs 10 times more and reach is 50 times worse. Sex appeal will only trump pragmatic reach for so long.

So: apps are increasingly important.  And yet, apps are increasingly ephemeral: download, use, delete.

Where’s the middle ground?

For those brands seeking basic functionality (i.e., not a wildly-ambitious branded videogame), why would we not advise investing primarily in a mobile site that was directly accessed via a lightweight mobile app?  The app might have some simple, additional features but nothing so grandiose as to warrant a $35,000+ price tag.

Sometimes a wildly ambitous app is the right approach.  But if it’s not, or if you’re not sure, consider a strategy like this one first.

You certainly can’t lose by initially suggesting an approach that will be available to 100% of mobile users (vs. a narrow slice, e.g., just iPhone users).

Posted on: September 6, 2010 at 8:39 am By Todd Defren
10 Responses to “How To "Mobilize" Your Marketing”


  • cleester says:

    App are becoming increasingly relevant to today’s world, from iPhones to Blackberrys to iPads, there are a lot of ways to get different features on your technology. There are a lot of people that depend on these apps to get through their days. A lot of apps are getting deleted though within the first month of being downloaded. It doesn’t do any good if the consumers using these apps aren’t being consistent with the usage. Companies need to find ways to make apps more usable and functional for the everyday person.

  • I think it is critically important for many businesses, brands, companies what have you, call them what you want to consider to their efforts best fit a “custom app” or taking part in an existing and thriving app if possible.

    If you can create a great and thriving community that is extensible in mobile an app will eventually not only likely be necessary but will pay for itself, especially if you can tie commerce to it. But in the short run playing in the app space as a rider vs a driver is likely the better choice.

    I believe it was 360i’s Sarah Hofstetter (could be wrong on exact attribution though) who gave a great talk at the DigiDay Apps event last fall regarding this very same line of thinking.

  • Mobtify says:

    Great article! We often tell our customers that build apps with us to add value to the app. I.E. providing information that is exclusive to those who download or alerting customers of specials or deals. We have a CMS that allows our customers to update their apps so they can create fresh content.

  • Todd,
    Completely agree and have been speaking to this point for a while on my blog and clients’ blogs. There are times when the investment in an app is worthwhile. But for many brands and companies, a mobile optimized website is just as effective and doesn’t require a heavy investment on multiple platforms. With iPad web browsing growing, companies also need to think about how their standard sites will be viewed on tablets. Remember, Flash doesn’t work and graphics need to render when pinched and zoomed.

  • StevenMoore says:

    Mobile site or apps. We are launching the use of QR codes and need to make sure we are doing the mobile piece right. Your thoughts here plays out for me also. I am a big iPhone user with over 350 apps on it right now, and just reviewed which one were being used and which ones were not. I am doing better than the survey results that you quoted but then I am trying to test the limits of mobile in every way that I can and that puts me out on the edge. What would be interesting would be a Wakoopa for your mobile apps, then you could manage your mobile better…
    We are making our sites 1st class mobile, and then look at an app that would not just be site specific but user experience dominant.
    This area is exploding with uses for brands and companies- like most things let just hope folks make sure it ties into a larger business strategy and not just another look I have a iPhone app on the home page so we are cutting edge right?? not–

  • kneale mann says:

    It can be overwhelming for clients – especially ones who have smaller budgets – to grasp all the places their potential customers reside. Even when it is pointed out that they live on their smartphone, they still don’t grasp it.

    We’re moving from web to internet to mobile to user experience to customization to portability and the important element to keep in mind is ensuring the content has valuable to the people consuming it.

    With 1.8 billion people having Internet access, over 4.5 billion cell subscriptions worldwide and technology moving at the speed of a Lamborghini, it can be a little overwhelming to clients who simply don’t have the money to cover all the bases.

    But ignoring human behavior was never a good business plan.

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