The Internet, in its broad mass consumer form, has been around for about 18 years. Smart phones have been around for six – a third of that time. By the end of 2013, tablets will be well into their fourth year on the market.
And yet we talk about these devices like they are still brand new. Many companies still don’t have any sort of strategy, and those that do are very much of the “spray and pray” variety, without any concrete goals. It’s hard to evaluate a strategy if you don’t know how to measure success.
As we enter 2013, it’s time that we actually get serious about mobile and tablets. This is not some new wave fad; these things are here to stay. As the mobile and tablet industry matures, here are three things you should be concentrating on this year.
Understanding Your Audience
One of the biggest mistakes that people make is thinking that they can please everyone with their mobile and tablet products. You have to know who it is you are building for. In 99.9% of cases, it is not everyone. You need to play to the bell of the curve.
Traditional demographic targeting doesn’t quite do the trick here. It’s not just about identifying your target user as Sally, a female in her 30’s who works in fashion in New York. That’s not enough anymore.
You see, when Sally was accessing the Internet exclusively from her desktop computer, then you could make certain assumptions about her: she is sitting down, at a desk, in her office for long periods of time, or at home, probably also in long sessions. Now it’s not so simple.
Well now Sally might be accessing your product while standing in line at Starbucks, or on the subway without an internet connection, or sitting on the couch with her tablet. In fact, I’m writing this on an iPad mini, on a plane, right now.
You see, we are all very different people depending and where we are and when it is. A Friday night is different than a Tuesday morning is different than a Sunday afternoon.
And so it’s not about identifying who Sally is, it’s now about where and when she is. People want and need and expect different things depending on when and where they are accessing your products from. That is going to greatly affect what you decide to build and how to prioritize.
For instance, if your desktop website is used both as a utility for existing customers and as a marketing tool for prospective customers, consider making your native mobile app only aimed at existing customers. Chances are if someone is taking the time to find and download your native app to use on the go, it is very likely they are an existing customer. Focus on those users, the bell of your curve for that particular scenario.
I always joke that there’s only one thing you know for sure about someone who is using your iPad app: they have an iPad.
Social Media Is Not A Toy
Social media has quickly become one of those buzzword terms that ends up as a checkbox that you want to make sure is checked, but not much thought is really given to social media in any meaningful way.
I believe that social media must be a key component of your mobile and tablet strategy, not an afterthought.
For starters, the best way to get rapid adoption is via a built-in network effect. If your app encourages, or even better yet, mandates that users tell their friends about it via social media, then every user becomes the beginning of a chain reaction that hopefully leads to more and more users.
Within native mobile and tablet apps, social media integration is usually limited to “Tell your friends about this app” and a link to the App Store. Generally that is not very appealing to the user who shares nor the people on the receiving end.
Here we created a new feature called Clippings that allows a user to cut out a section of the screen and share it, along with a link to the App Store and a link to any related web content. Instead of something generic, the people on the receiving end actually see an image of a specific part of the app. Most of our apps are magazines, and so people are using Clippings to share bits and pieces of digital magazine content.
The potential network effect here becomes much more significant than simply driving more users to the app.
Imagine that 1,000 people see an advertisement for some shoes in a fashion magazine. Let’s say that 1% of those people (10 people) use Clippings to share an image of those shoes on Facebook which includes a link to purchase them.
If each of those 10 people has 500 Facebook friends, then 5,000 people have now been exposed to the shoes from the ad and have the ability to purchase them.
Add that to the original 1,000 readers and all of a sudden we have 6,000 people potentially seeing that ad, 5,000 of whom have never even read the fashion magazine.
That’s powerful stuff.
I’m not saying that Clippings is the right strategy for everyone, but it’s an example of how social media can make a much more significant impact than just being a frivolous “fun” feature.
Free Is Not A Good Business Model
If there’s one thing you can be sure of when it comes to mobile and tablet products, it is that they are expensive to build. By all measurements – money, time, people, blood, sweat, and tears – apps and mobile websites take a lot of work.
In other parts of your business, you would never expend so much effort without mapping out how to make a return on your investment, so why would it be different with mobile and tablet?
Creating a free app and hoping for the best is not a sustainable business plan. Instead, if you are going to offer a free product, make sure it is “free with a secret plan”. The user does not need to know what that plan is, but you sure had better know.
Your mobile and tablet products should have a real goal – generate direct revenue, drive business to a physical location, raise awareness, build loyalty – whatever it is, it should have real value for your business that is worth the investment. Build something specifically aimed at reaching that goal, and make sure that you know how to measure your success (and then measure it!).
Free products are 100% the best way to maximize the number of users you have. It eliminates a key barrier to entry, and because of that it is a very popular model. Free for free’s sake is no good. But free with secret plan could be great!
2013 is the year that this industry starts to mature. Make sure your strategy matures with it.
Paul Canetti, CEO and Co-Founder of MAZ Digital