7 Questions Marketers Should Ask Themselves Before Creating Mobile Apps
Hmm. What sounds good for dinner? Roast chicken? Apparently Lady GaGa would agree. But for many, what's more important than aligning their appetites with the quirky singer's supper choices is that all important wine pairing. Thousands of recommendations for what to sip come courtesy of the "Nat Decants" mobile application from Natalie MacLean, a sommelier and author of "Red, White and Drunk All Over."
As a direct marketer, MacLean says, she needs to ensure that her audience follows her between book launches. So the Ottawa, Ont.-based writer runs a Web site, speaks, sends out a newsletter and more. But she knows that those in liquor stores, grocery stores and restaurants are making choices on the spot and that's exactly where her advice needs to be—on their mobile phones. So she created a free app, which she's found ways to monetize.
Here, MacLean joins Christopher Carfi, co-founder of the San Francisco-based software provider Cerado, which created MacLean's app, and Justin Gray, CEO and chief brand officer of Scottsdale, Ariz.-based automated marketing software provider MaaS Impact, in providing tips on how direct marketers can make the most of their mobile apps.
The trio recommends that the following happen before marketers launch an app:
1. Ask a few internal questions. Carfi says before designing a mobile application, marketers should decide if they're providing: information to the customer; an extension of their service to the consumer via the app; or a way to connect back to the organization. (MacLean says her app does all three.)
2. Give mobile users a reason to continually open the app by providing timely, relevant information. So, what's the wine to pair with the roast chicken? MacLean recommends a California Chardonnay. But which California Chardonnay? She says perusing her reviews aids in that decision in a variety of ways.
First, on her free app, she provides free reviews and pairings. But for the most current reviews (from the past year, meaning the reviewed wines are probably the most widely available ones in stores), she charges $2 a month. Then she sandwiches that with other free services, like the "my cellar" option that allows oenophiles to catalog their purchases so they can read her reviews, then see if they own the cited varietals. (MacLean points out that she also monetizes the app by hosting third-party advertisements and providing navigation to her site, which has third-party ads and links to buy her book.)
MacLean says she updates the content daily, so that when mobile users relaunch her app, they find new blog entries, articles and recipes.
3. If a marketer wants to provide services on the app, decide what's appropriate. Companies should question, "Are there aspects of services that the organization provides that actually are able to be provided in a mobile format?" Carfi says. "So we're starting to see a lot of organizations provide and create mobile apps that actually give a small slice of their overall service or their overall functionality, but in a format that can be used anywhere."
In MacLean's case, she can provide advice on food and wine pairings.
4. If the company wants the app to connect back to the business, figure out what connection that should be. "[It's] an opportunity for the organization to really start getting feedback from the customer, as opposed to just pushing messages at them," Carfi says. "But actually engage the customer in a conversation."
Why not let customers provide comments and submit pictures about, for instance, new product ideas? They might have ideas about how to use existing products in a new way, he adds.
5. Set up tracking mechanisms to determine how to follow up with consumers. Gray says he pays attention to how consumers arrive at the app and what they choose to view on it. That way, marketers can note the most appropriate channels to use to address consumers' needs. For example, someone who downloads a travel app might be interested in a white paper or a video on that subject, Gray says. If consumers visit a Web site as a result of the app, Gray says the drill-down can even go as far as sending differentiated messages to consumers based on how long they stay on the site.
6. Set up ways to do what Gray calls "progressive profiling." Ask for no more than four items of data at a time, because more than that might overwhelm consumers, he says.
7. Decide on the app price. If marketers want a large audience, they should really consider providing the app for free, MacLean says. Her first app, which launched in June 2009, cost $2.99. The free app she launched this year had 10 times more downloads.
"I really think that the mobile market is where it's heading," MacLean says of her direct marketing efforts. "I'm certainly not giving up on my Web site. But I think if you want to stay connected to an audience, you need to have a mobile presence."