The question of whether or not brands need to develop a mobile app is one that we are being asked with greater frequency here at New Brand Vision.
Undoubtedly – brands need to have a mobile presence.
The European Smartphone market has grown 41 percent during the past year to more than 60 million subscribers across the U.K., France, Germany, Italy and Spain alone, according to comScore, and there is no doubt that the rise of the mobile Internet is changing the face of digital communications.
However, with a growing number of operating systems out there, brands no longer face a straightforward choice between whether or not to create an iPhone app, but must now also consider creating different apps for Symbian, Android, and Windows.
And while the emergence of new operating systems to challenge the iPhone’s dominance is good for competition in the industry, it could end up having a detrimental effect on the uptake of the app as a marketing channel for brands.
Of course, the other question that businesses must invariably ask before jumping into the app market is whether or not they really need one app in the first place, let alone a whole series to run across different operating systems.
As a branding exercise apps may make for an attractive, colourful and “nice to have” platform, but brands may well be better off creating a mobile version of an existing site that can be accessed across systems and – importantly – found through organic search on Google rather than by existing customers.
Take the example of a businessman who finds himself hungry in a foreign city after a conference and decides to look for a restaurant to grab some food in.
If he has his heart set on eating at his favourite restaurant chain, and IF that chain operates in that city, then it might make sense for him to consult his “app for that”.
However, more likely is that he does not know exactly what he is looking for at the search stage and will turn to the browser – or Google maps – to find a local alternative. A mobile version of the restaurant’s site will show up in that search, if properly SEO’d, and could provide quick branding, location and direct response mechanism in the form of a phone number that he can dial all at once, then you have got the business.
In short, a mobile site could potentially offer the branding and direct response of an app but with the added bonus of being optimised for Google and searchable across platforms.
It’s an interesting debate, and it may well be that the definition of an app in comparison to a dedicated mobile site is a mere technicality that does not need to get in the way of efficient branding. However, detail goes a long, long way and before we advise clients specifically to build and app it is imperative to consider your operating system, and consider the mobile site.