"The Attractive Classmate Phenomenon" - 3 quick considerations before jumping to mobile...

Nothing is hotter in the tech blogosphere these days than mobile.

After all, there are currently more mobile devices on planet earth than humans. People are even buying fakes, as status symbols.

And increasingly, these mobile devices are replacing existing platforms. In fact, 60 percent of smartphone owners would even like to handle their Election Day ballot on their phone. [1]

Companies are pouncing on this trend and the opportunity it brings. And for good reason.

Sharlyn Lauby, in her We Know Next article on a similar topic, notes that “according to mobiThinking, cellular subscriptions worldwide are at 6 billion. Companies are making significant revenue from mobile devices: Google $2.5 billion last year. eBay expects customers to buy/sell $8 billion this year and PayPal expects to see $7 billion in mobile payments.” 

Data shows that a mobile site can reach five times the number of people per dollar invested as compared to any other platform. Five times!

As mobile technology booms, the consumer app market has been growing exponentially, causing (and in some cases forcing) many companies to integrate mobile plans into their near-term strategies as well as their long-term technology roadmaps, even if technology is not their core competency.

But what is the ROI of your Mobile Strategy?

The reality is that building a mobile app could be a huge win, but – in the current market – that is anything but guaranteed. A vast majority of apps downloaded from the Apple App Store are in use by less than 5 percent of their users after one month has passed since the download. [2]

So when is the right time to go mobile, if at all, for your organization?

Here are four tips I’ve found to be commonly discussed (in some form or another), but not commonly taken to heart:

1.  ROI - "The Attractive Classmate” phenomenon

In a past life, I was deeply involved in the Seattle start-up scene and would attend meet-ups, happy hours and networking events. I feel like I always heard "Oh, we have an app," "Oh, do you have an app yet?", or "Oh, we need to hire someone who can build apps!"  I very rarely heard folks clearly articulate "user intent" and what it is specifically about their product that would make transactions on an app valuable, convenient or efficient.

According to an article on marketing mobile apps from the Bureau of Consumer Protection, telling the truth about what your app can do is hugely important. To me, that includes telling yourself the truth about what your app can and will do. The age-old adage around not “doing something just for the sake of doing it” applies here.

In speaking with Mark Horosowski, co-founder of MovingWorlds and its “Global Experteering Network,” he creatively and enthusiastically describes this as the "The Attractive Classmate” phenomenon:

Back in their school days people are often drawn to something (or someone in this case) based on exoteric qualities: the person they see every day in class, and are attracted to, yet never fully think about why. What if you could have a great conversation with your attractive classmate, but only if you had to marry them immediately after? The answer is probably that you’d avoid engagement at all costs until you did your homework, so to speak. Unfortunately many mobile strategies aren’t set up that way.

I’ll spare readers of further analogies, but the point here is that companies really, really need to think about why they want to be in the mobile space, and more importantly, how their customers will benefit from it if they have any hope of seeing an ROI.

To do this, you need to get into the brain of your audience, first, and get to know them.

Think back to the basics:

What is the point of mobile technology? It is quick, small, portable, efficient, always there. Play out all your user scenarios with that in mind.

Are your users looking to perform transactions or interact with a system in ways where you can benefit from a platform that is quick, small and always there?

OR are the transactions you’re driving the type that happens when someone is sitting at home, needing to think through things, perhaps with other ancillary information (books, notes, etc.)?

What’s your end game? Are you trying to make a quick buck and get out, or maintain a growing presence on the mobile platform?

Ask yourself these questions before falling too quickly in love with mobile.

2.  Give your app magical powers

Does your mobile app provide something new? Something that you don’t provide in your standard suite? Something that will awe and inspire your users and customers?

There are certainly cases where an app should simply be a way to do things on the go that you can also do on other platforms, but as is noted by Jeffrey Powers of Occipatal, this isn’t always true.

He suggests that “before you start building an app, make sure you’re not just summarizing your webpage. Rather, give your customers some kind of magical power to interact with your business with only a few taps. For inspiration, check out how Starbucks lets you interact with Starbucks loyalty cards, and Chipotle lets you almost instantly place an order for pickup.”

3.  Enhance Your Brand, Don’t Just Sustain It

As with anything you put in front of your customers, building and retaining your brand is paramount. Make sure that as you develop your mobile app strategy (including feature set, pricing model, etc.) you think about ways to enhance your brand.

Do you want to build a brand that provides things via a platform that is quick, small and always there? Some companies may say “no” to this question, some may say “yes” and others may say “not now!”

In summary, while mobile can be that attractive classmate you had in college, make sure to have a few sober conversations before falling in love – at least if your goal is a long, healthy relationship.

[1] Yahoo.com http://m.yahoo.com/w/legobpengine/news/60-smartphone-owners-cast-ballot-mobile-app-study-172938448.html?orig_host_hdr=news.yahoo.com&.intl=US&.lang=en-US

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