Do you really need mobile apps to reach your customers and markets?
That's certainly the conventional wisdom, but in a piece in Ad Age, Forrester Research's Melissa Parrish adds some caveats to this line of thinking. Apps may be more trouble than they’re worth in some instances, she points out.
Anyone in insurance IT and software development departments understands the potential of apps: it is estimated that between 10 to 25 percent of all web traffic now comes through mobile devices. However, there are plenty of frustrating issues to work through as well. For example, unless they are solely intended for browser access, mobile apps need to be written on several different proprietary platforms, including Apple's iOS, Android, Windows Mobile and Blackberry. A minor tweak on one means making the same changes on the others. A major change means a lot of rewrites across them all.
Parrish suggests asking three questions before embarking on the mobile app route:
1) Is my audience using apps? Right now, she says, “demographics lean heavily to the 23-45 age group,” particularly those under 30. Smartphone app users also tend to come from higher-income households.
2) Am I ready to build and manage an app? As with any platform, service or device, it always comes down to support—and thus falls into IT's lap. “An app is a long-term strategy, not a campaign-based one,” says Parrish. “Make sure you're prepared to support and manage this asset over time.” Apps—just like websites and PC applications—need to be maintained, updated and sometimes retired. This all has a cost in developer time and resources.
3) Who owns the app? Again, as with many PC and data center applications that have gone before it, someone in the business needs to take charge of the app. The argument for ownership “can be made for a ton of players in your company, from marketing to IT, from e-commerce to customer service,” Parrish says. Her advice: “drop the territorialism. Join forces with these stakeholders and work together to align your strategies, address inefficiencies and avoid bickering.” And, as with any other application, “this may be the hardest step of all, but it will do the most to make your apps successful and your customers satisfied.”
Joe McKendrick is an author, consultant, blogger and frequent INN contributor specializing in information technology.
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