Mobile Monetization: Is a Mobile App Right for Your Business?

Reflections on why mobile app growth is so explosive, how to benefit financially and what to consider before diving in.

Reflections on why mobile app growth is so explosive, how to benefit financially and what to consider before diving in.

“There’s an app for that!” is a catch phrase that has become familiar to us, thanks to the marketing geniuses behind Apple’s iPhone television commercials. By definition, an app is a mobile software application that is downloaded to a smartphone. Downloads to the smartphone don’t require a computer connection. Users can download on-the-go and within seconds have an app installed. The user can then launch the app with the click of a button or a tap on the screen.

What are the primary factors contributing to the explosive growth of mobile apps?

Increased smartphone capabilities. Built-in smartphone capabilities are empowering apps to perform an ever-increasing number of functions. Features include high definition video playback and VGA video capture, touch screen, gravity-sensitive accelerator, personal GPS navigation, portable multi-player gaming, mobile TV and radio streams, app commerce, push notifications and the ability to control other devices. For the first time, with the right combination of installed apps, mobile devices are a legitimate alternative to toting a laptop.

Reasonably priced smartphones and apps. The 8GB iPhone was initially priced at $599 in 2007. Today, an even more capable iPhone 3G is priced at $99. Verizon recently offered a BlackBerry buy-one-get-one-free promotion, including its touchscreen-endowed Storm. Apps, too, are either free or very affordable, typically ranging from $0.99 to $9.99.

An iPhone surrounded by application icons

Reach and monetization. Remember when you were a child and pondered, “What if I received just a dollar, but from a million people?” Mobile provides global reach. And Apple’s not the only game in town – Blackberry, Nokia, Android and Palm devices all have their own app stores, with Microsoft’s entry on its way. Besides the sale of an app itself, there are additional revenue generating opportunities. Proprietary content can be sold on a subscription basis, including magazines, movies and audiobooks. In-app advertising is becoming more prevalent. Retailers are already selling securely through mobile apps. The e-learning industry has subscription and certification options to monetize their investments. Gamers are selling additional access levels and digital content within their apps. Charitable organizations, including churches, will soon accept donations. Dating sites will likely up-charge for location-based, peer-to-peer matchmaking features. The revenue potential is wide open.

Creativity. There’s no shortage of creative minds at work today, looking to leverage existing investments in technology and proprietary content. The opportunity to create potentially revolutionary apps attracts innovators. The sheer number of downloads – over 1 billion for Apple alone – is proof positive that this marketing channel is viable and sustainable. A spot-on app requires a close examination of how best to serve target audiences with what matters to them, wherever they are.

Before creating an app ask yourself a few questions:

• What are our goals for developing an app?
• What device platforms are most familiar to our target audience(s)?
• What features must be included in version 1.0?
• How can we best leverage our investment in existing content and technology?
• What problem can mobile technology solve for our target audience(s)?
• Which apps available today compete with our idea and what is our plan to differentiate?
• Is our app buzz-worthy?

Keep in mind: mobile apps require their own marketing and product development strategy to ensure long-term success. Make plans to support your app through continued improvements and new features to maintain your competitive edge. Monitor your app’s review feedback and act upon insightful new feature requests to keep customers coming back and to lure new ones into the fold. Think about all your marketing efforts and customer touch points, and develop a plan to promote your app across each one.

Choosing the right developer for your app is essential to prevent unnecessary re-work. Your mobile strategy team should include experts in mobile application development and promotion.

Despite the phenomenal number of available apps, businesses still have a window of opportunity to establish themselves early within the mobile marketplace and to gain share. Websites were once seen as an obscure marketing tool but have now evolved into a marketing essential in assisting businesses to establish and maintain relationships with their target audiences. Once every ten years or so, a new marketing tool changes the way we do business. Where can mobile apps take your business?

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Tim CascioTim Cascio is the author of the Mobile Marketing, Monetization and Methods blog, Co-Founder/Co-Chair of the Mobile Visionary Roundtable at the Illinois Technology Association and Sr. Digital Strategist at Bader Rutter & Associates, an award-winning integrated marketing services agency that specializes in advertising, public relations, brand asset management, relationship marketing and digital solutions. Tim is @timcascio on Twitter and can be reached in the United States at 262-938-5543.

Please reach out to me if there’s any way I can help you through my network or otherwise. Your comments below are welcome.