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May 29, 2012

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Next-Gen Apps Need Product Strategy

By Marie Lingblom

There’s no shortage of quirky, fun mobile apps out there—even one that promises to brighten your teeth by throwing off electromagnetic signals through a white screen. While fun apps and games have fueled dramatic market growth, there’s some work to be done on the business side of the market.

The new distribution channel created by app stores — marking their fourth year this summer — offers new forms of engagement between brands and consumers. There is, however, still a lot of room to improve the discoverability and sharing of apps, says Thomas Husson, a principal analyst with Forrester Research. For example, locally relevant content and monetization options are often missing.

Adding social discovery, personalization and recommendation features are key to improving the user experience. The rapid growth of apps, suggests Husson, finds the market poised for a second wave of consumer apps that are more personalized and contextual.

“Too many companies launch an app without necessarily thinking through an overall strategy or planning the evolution of their mobile presence over time. It’s time to approach your mobile app strategy as you would any other product or service, with specific goals, milestones and plans throughout its life span,” Husson said in a blog linked to a Forrester report based on a survey of 6,500 European consumers.

Highlights from Forrester’s report include:
• One-third of European online consumers age 18-plus who own a smart phone are using apps daily or more frequently.

• Seventeen percent are using apps several times a day. Stickiness and frequency of usage vary tremendously from one app category to the other.

• 57 percent of European online consumers age 18-plus use social networking and 48 percent use news apps at least daily, while 69 percent use finance and banking apps at least weekly.

Husson says first-generation apps—aside from gaming apps—rarely made the most of the unique attributes of the mobile platform and were rarely integrated with back-end systems. In terms of app market context, Forrester expects Big Data will enable more contextual experience on mobile apps. There will also be smarter, connected apps as well as a shift from native to hybrid and we apps. When it comes to platforms, Forrester predicts multiplatform apps will reign supreme.

For those considering a new app strategy, Forrester suggests a mobile product road map with the constant iteration of new features and services that directly address the evolving needs of consumers.

Some basic principles on how to approach apps as products and define their lifecycles include marketing apps in the stores and among core target audiences and progressively adding new features and services.

It’s also important to invest in mobile analytics and surveys, and introduce new business models that best suit your goals. Localizing your mobile app approach is also suggested, as well as using push notifications to drive engagement.

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