Mobile Strategy: Tightening Up in 2016

Sara Olson, Marketing Analyst
#Mobile | Posted

There was a time when, while developing mobile strategy for clients, the need for a mobile app was a foregone conclusion. As the marketplace has become more savvy about a brand’s digital presence, that time has passed. “Should we develop a mobile app?” is the new “We need a mobile app," and the answer is rarely an obvious “yes” or “no." 

A leaner app marketplace

The decision whether to develop a mobile app depends on many factors. These include product goals, the types of content and functionality offered, the audience, the project budget, and other factors. While it’s increasingly vital for a brand’s digital presence to be mobile, it’s more clear than ever that people don’t want to download an app for every website they use.ios-apps-development

 

This “tightening up” of mobile strategy can be seen in the number of apps that have been discontinued in the past year, particularly for less popular platforms like Windows Mobile. In these cases, the market reach available is often too small to justify building and maintaining a separate app. Some companies that retired their Windows Mobile apps in 2015 include Pinterest, American Airlines, and Bank Of America.

Because an abandoned app can be damaging to a brand, it’s important to consider the product lifecycle before diving into any mobile app project. This means every app should have a strategy for maintenance or sunsetting before it’s released into the wild.

The many kinds of mobile apps

To add to the the complexities of strategy, there are many kinds of mobile apps. Would the mobile app solution be a completely native app, built specifically for a platform like iOS or Android, or a mobile web app, which is basically a highly-optimized mobile website? Yet another option is to develop a “hybrid” app, which uses a platform like Cordova to port a mobile web app to a more limited, semi-native experience. Learn more in our post comparing native and hybrid mobile apps.Some of the differences between these choices are explained here:mobilestrategy-graphic

Your social media strategy is a big part of your mobile strategy

Mobile strategy today goes deeper than deciding whether to build an app or what kind. For some organizations, such as media companies, it may make the most sense to focus efforts on social media strategy and deep integration with the most commonly used mobile apps, like Facebook, Twitter, and others.facebook-instant-article

 

This is because 75% of mobile internet usage will happen within the average user’s four most-used apps, and 42% of their usage within their single, most-used app. In this landscape, it’s not surprising that major media outlets from New York Times to National Geographic are innovating to meet audiences within these apps. Facebook greatly expanded the ability for brands to integrate content in 2015 with new features like Instant Article, a trend that continues as other popular apps like Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat follow suit.

The challenge of repeat engagement

Another reason reaching out to mobile users without launching an app can be a good idea is that, for many brands, repeat app engagement is hard to master. Studies have found that a majority of downloaded mobile apps are rarely or never opened after the first month of their installation, so a new app really needs to stand out in order to attract a dedicated user base.mobile app graveyard

 

Repeat users rely on an app to meet an ongoing need or desire. Apps that are downloaded and never used may have failed by offering a poor experience, not providing enough content, being duplicative of something users can find elsewhere, or simply being irrelevant.

But the challenge of repeat engagement can be mastered. For instance, PNC Bank, with its captive audience of existing account holders, offers both a mobile web and native app experience for online banking. But the company ensures adoption of their mobile banking app by offering fast access to account balances without logging in, something that many users need on a day-to-day basis. Market and user research is critical to identify ways a mobile app can add real value and become a regular of users’ mobile lives.

Touchscreens, not tablets

When discussing mobile internet, smartphones are the number one topic. But how relevant are tablets right now? In 2015 we continued to see that the majority mobile internet usage takes place on smartphones, with tablets trailing behind. While designing for all screen sizes remains important, designing and maintaining a tablet app may not make sense for brands without particularly large mobile investments or a specific tablet strategy. However, tablets remain relevant in overall design, as touchscreens are getting larger and becoming integrated into full-size computers more than ever. A few years ago, it was safe to assume that larger screens meant “point and click” while small screens meant  “touch and swipe." Today, more compact, touchscreen computers blur the lines between which devices are “mobile” and which are “desktop”, so websites and apps should all be designed with touch users in mind.

Change keeps coming

Mobile usage accounted for more global web traffic than desktop in 2015. With more people relying on their smartphones every day, the need for tighter mobile strategy is more pressing than ever. Here are some points to consider while developing or refining yours:

  • Considering launching a mobile app? Careful research of target users and the marketplace is critical before settling on which kind of app to launch.
  • Without a well-planned lifecycle for your app, you risk negative customer experiences, embarrassing app reviews, and other optic problems that can damage your brand.
  • Whether or not your mobile strategy includes an app, consider new ways to push content into the apps your audience is already using.
  • Getting people to download your app is only the beginning. How can you keep people using your app? A strategy for repeat engagement takes rigorous research and planning.
  • Touch interaction is not just for small screens anymore. Make sure all your content and functionality is usable on touch devices.

Stay up-to-date on mobile trends with the Phase2 blog!

Sara Olson

Marketing Analyst