While on our way back from MozCon in Seattle (awesome event!) I found myself sitting next to some twenty-something newly hired employees from a national outdoor brand. They were on their way to a training event where one of the topics was to discuss the new mobile app in development. As I glanced over to the slides (seriously, if you’re developing something that is confidential maybe don’t peruse it on the plane without a screen blocker) I noticed that the reasonings for building the app were simply based on the fact that “app usage continues to grow”. While this is true it is not a reason to jump into the app game.
One of the biggest reasons that a company should build an app is to make information or actions even more accessible than they already are. Ally’s mobile banking apps make it easy to deposit checks. Amazon makes it easy to purchase items on the fly. ESPN makes it easy for me to update my fantasy baseball roster. These more single-minded actions are great ways to make interacting with your customers easier. As content starts to live centrally in databases as opposed to on websites your information can be sent where ever and whenever for easier direct access to the consumer. A mobile app should be just one of the several vehicles you use to distribute your content so use it wisely!
Back to the outdoor brand. They make outdoor products and this app was more about the experiencing of those products, for instance maybe displaying the weather (NOTE: This is just an example and not specifically in their app). One the one hand this could be great brand recognition, maybe you try and upsell a raincoat when the weather is bad, but I cannot imagine those one-off purchases can pay off the investment. My advice is stick to what you know and don’t try and serve up content you wouldn’t normally serve on your website, make current actions or information easier for users to engage with, and make sure there is positive upside (brand or financial). Don’t just create an app because “it’s trendy” instead create one because it meets your goal objectives. Consider this… I wonder how much easier and cheaper it might be to simply purchase targeted mobile ads on weather sites when it’s raining?