SmartPhones, pads, pods, tablets, surfaces, and slates. They go by many names, but these portable devices are showing up everywhere. It’s no secret that the consumers for both business and personal are leaving their desks to do their work on the go (or with their feet up on the couch). Mobile devices are making that easy. More importantly, they are fun and cool.
With this growth has come a growing demand for mobile software development. This growth is being sparked by two fronts. Consumer pull and marketing push. Namely, either your users are asking for it, or your marketing department is pushing for it.
Am I Mobile Ready?
If you aren’t asking this question, you should be. Users are reaching out from their mobile devices, and if they have a negative experience using your software services, they could be turned away. Good news is that the technology is new enough that adoption has been slow and users are understanding. Even better news is that our Smart devices are pretty Smart. Even if you haven’t designed for mobile, your existing website is probably fairing pretty decently.
Another thing to consider is whether or not your product and services are mobile appropriate. Not all applications can be shoe-horned into a small screen gracefully. More importantly, there is no reason to release a mobile application for something the user can already do on your website fine.
How Ready Do I Need To Be?
This is the most important question to be asking. I see so few companies getting it right. Some come to the market far too late and miss out on opportunity. However, even more come to the market too early, investing hundreds of thousands in development, and then have almost zero adoption.
Let’s face it, you are in the business to make money. Published resources that aren’t consumed is a waste of money. So before you can decide if you need mobile, you should determine if you users want it, or if they’d benefit from you pushing it on them.
Should I Answer The Pull?
Our users are pretty adamant about wanting to run mobile. They might even be demanding it. Before you cave and invest thousands, we recommend you do a market analysis. Start by using traffic analytics to see what percentage of your users are already using mobile. If your mobile usage is still around 5%, perhaps your target demographic isn’t quite mobile ready.
You can also try polling your users to see what their interest is in mobile. This provides a double bonus. You get free analytics and feature ideas, while also drumming up interest in your product. This could be conducted informally through your website, or more formally through a marketing study group.
This can be tricky though. I’ve seen many polls where users rank mobile applications as “nice to have,” but after downloading them, never bother to actually use them. Each of the major application market places are boasting several hundred thousand apps. Ninety percent of them are worthless crap.
In summary though, you shouldn’t pull the cord till you know your users are going to use a mobile platform; even if they are asking for it.
Should I Push Mobile?
Gartner reports that 1.75 billion smartphones and 120 million tablets were sold in 2012. Chances are your users already have the hardware and just haven’t thought of consuming your services over mobile. This could be a missed opportunity.
The application marketing places provide an additional advertising venue, and actually end up being comparatively cheap compared to other advertisements. They also provide the added benefit that your app will be grouped with your competitors. This is your chance to grab the attention of people that didn’t know they were looking for you.
If your competitors are pushing mobile, then you may have no choice. Product comparison charts often boast having mobile counterparts. If your target market is shopping, they might be simply counting the number of green checkboxes. The absence of a mobile app may count against you, even if your users have no intention of ever using it. This too can be answered with a marketing study.
I Need It, Now What?
Fortunately for you, we provide business consulting services to help you assess your needs and point you in the right direction. We can take you through almost the full product life cycle; including design, development, and deployment. We don’t presently offer marketing services, but have connections with several awesome partners that can help.