Get a gaggle of gristled old web developers together and after comparing war wounds inflicted by The Great Browser Wars, they’ll fondly recall the good-old-bad-old days. It’s not so long since it was a struggle to justify spending a decent proportion of organisational time and resources on a website.
When the Internet was only just developing out of a primordial ooze of technology used in only a handful of research and educational institutions it was possible (just!) to see why people were reticent to take what they perceived as a gamble on a website. Few organisations were willing to take a punt on the Internet until long after it had proven itself.
Without a doubt, the days of underestimating the power of the Internet are over. It’s received wisdom that a website, along with supporting social media, is a critical sales and information channel for any serious business. First movers and fast followers that flashed into existence barely more than a decade ago – Google, LastMinute.com, Facebook – dominate markets worth billions and have a huge user base to tap into.
The mobile market has passed a similar tipping point. A mobile application is a proven way to extend brand presence. The continued success of the Apple app store – with a reported 20 billion downloads in 2012 alone – is proof enough, and that is before we look at the equivalent Android app figures and global mobile hardware penetration.
Of course, there’s no need to build an app just for the sake of it, but it’s certainly worth taking a moment to consider seriously if investing in an app could benefit your organisation.
From investor relations, to training and educational games, to full blown business and consumer applications that communicate with pre-existing websites, the range of mobile possibilities is both deep and broad, and 2013 will only see mobile become more central to the operation of a successful organisation.
When you start thinking about how an app would work for your organisation of course you will need to think about what particular features it will have, and you’ll probably find it’s not too difficult to come up with a few ideas of your own – that’s the exciting creative bit that energises everyone. But don’t forget that designing, developing and launching a mobile app may bring with it some new tasks and skills that you’ll need to get a handle on.
Some of the fundamental behind-the-scenes questions you might need to ask yourself should you be consciously debating the merits of extending your digital strategy into mobile include; how will you measure the performance of the application? Will it be by number of downloads? Will it be by the amount of sales driven through the app? Will it be increased awareness of your brand? Will the application improve relations with your customers and investors? Could it increase staff performance by, for instance, reducing data input errors or reducing the time taken during a sales cycle?
It’s natural to be wary of investing in a new technology – we call the early Internet adopters ‘pioneers’ for a reason. But mobile technology is far from ‘new’. Words like ‘exponential growth’ and ‘ubiquitous’ still apply to the Internet because of the rate of growth in mobile. People are spending more time engaging with organisations because mobile devices allow them to almost instantaneously access the data they want from multiple – sometimes competing – sources. It’s difficult to imagine a scenario in which a successful organisation would want not to be accessible from the palm of someone’s hand, when the rest of the world is.
This article was first published on the Internet World blog here.