If you know me, you are probably itching to know why on earth I would write an article with such a title.
I am the iPhone guy. I am heavily involved in an upcoming book about apps. My future is altogether wrapped up in the app business. I admit, the title is a bit hyperbolic so please read to the end—this article is really about determining the best possible mobile strategy for your brand. It could save you a lot of pain.
Craig Hockenberry recently wrote an excellent article entitled Apps vs. the Web. He outlined some great reasons why web developers and companies should be motivated to bite the bullet and eat the initial extra cost of learning native iPhone development—Objective-C, Cocoa, the iPhone SDK—rather than simply optimizing their website for mobile using standard web technologies. It boils down to three things:
1. Native apps generally have the better User Experience—faster, smoother, familiar, more functional.
2. Native apps are easier and more efficient to code and maintain in the long run and have fewer technical limitations.
3. Native apps have the marketing advantage of being in the app store marketplace and are easier to make money from due to Apple’s seamless, built-in payment system.
I agree with all these points and as an iPhone developer, hey, more power to me if companies decide they need a native solution.
With articles like this one from Wired which says “The Web is Dead” the app frenzy is at full boil and all of a sudden every company NEEDS a native iPhone and Android app. Please don’t get me wrong. I love apps — they are my passion. Your company very well may benefit from an app and don’t be shy about asking Skookum to help you build one.
I feel like one matter still needs to be addressed, a word that is often overlooked but too important to ignore:
Apps require commitment. Web apps don’t—at least they don’t require as much, usually.
To use an app I need to be passionate enough about the brand to
- Know that the app exists
- Search for it on the app store on my device
- Pay for it or at very least type in my iTunes password to get it for free
- Wait for the app to download to my device
- Tap the app and hope I don’t have to sign up for an account
- Be okay with the fact that this new app just clogged up my home screens that much more.
I’m okay with doing that for apps that I am very passionate about or think I could be passionate about, but get ready for this, it could be devastating:
Maybe I don’t LOVE your brand.
Not that I don’t like your brand. Hey, I actually like Wired. I don’t have their app, though. I’m not passionate enough about that brand. In this case, though, I know Wired has thousands of dedicated readers who *are* passionate about their brand. They know they get value from Wired so downloading the Wired app is a no-brainer.
Unless you are Wired, though, you really have to question, does my brand have enough followers who would be committed enough to download and keep my app? Don’t overvalue your brand. It is very likely that your semi-known brand or the niche brand that you are working for simply doesn’t have the passionate following that would make it worth shelling $20,000 for a custom built app that is essentially a mirror of your webpage. Think about your users: realistically, do they access your content or service frequently enough for them to download your app? Or would they prefer just to visit your website and be delighted to see that it works great on their mobile device?
Don’t build an app…
An icon in the app store is meaningless unless enough people are passionate enough about your brand’s content or service to download and keep it.
…Build a remarkable app
So say you don’t have enough fans who would go and download your app simply because they love your service. Don’t get discouraged — this is actually a tremendous opportunity. Instead of “my brand needs an app”, you should ask “how can my brand build an app that a lot of people would really want to use?”
Let me illustrate. IMPACK Productions did it right. They didn’t say, “hey, we need an app so that potential music students can learn more about our studio right from their iPhone!” That is the kind of thing I am warning you against. Think about it, potential students aren’t searching “voice lessons” on the app store, that is what Google is for. They don’t want an app to learn more about your company; they want a website for that.
So what did IMPACK Productions do? They partnered up with Kimad Productions and a talented designer and built Voice Tutor, an amazing app that does on the spot voice training. It was beautiful. It was unique. People talked about it and it even got featured on the app store home page. Brilliant!
Instead of building a self-centered, brand focused app, IMPACK Productions used their expertise to produce a unique app that did something people really wanted. It worked. They not only sold lots of copies but I’m sure more than a few people checked out their professional lessons after going through the lessons in the app.
Apps require a greater level of commitment than websites. Don’t build a self-centered app unless a lot of people care about your product or service enough to make it worth it. Instead, use your expertise to build something unique — something that meets a real need on the app store. Making a killer app could do wonders for your brand. The question then is, how do you build and market a killer app? That, my friend, is something I will be addressing in the future so don’t touch that dial (i.e. subscribe to this blog).