July 15, 2011

Mobile Development Tips: The Hybrid Approach

By Michael de Souza, VP Media

OK, you're about to embark on a new advertising campaign. One agency tells you that Mobile Apps are the way to go – they're sexy, there's no lag in the experience, the app stays on a consumer's phone forever (unless she deletes it), it's a fantastic branding tool and besides everyone's doing it. But another agency has a long list of reasons why you should concentrate on a mobile website: they're easier to access, cheaper to build, better suited to sales and have a superior return-on-investment.

So what do you do?

Increasingly, the right approach is to build both. Here are five steps to help you along the way . . .

Step 1
Determine which mobile platforms are most prevalent in your target market(s) and, if possible, which platforms are most used by your consumers. To do this, a good place to start is with BuzzCity's Campaign Planner. If you have an existing campaign in place, you can also use the detailed data from BuzzCity campaign spending reports and tools like Google Analytics to determine which devices are being used to view your campaign and visit your mobile website.

Step 2
Determine whether the number of users on a particular platform justifies your investment.

For example, in Spain, we see that you can hit 60% of mobile users, if you build for Symbian and iOS.

In the UK, you can reach 60% of the market by developing for Blackberry and iPhone consumers.

But in France, there's no single dominant operating system.

Similarly, if you are launching a pan-European campaign, it's difficult to choose which operating systems to target, without doing a more detailed analysis of the consumers who access your mobile website. So, in this scenario, you’d be advised to go for the platform-agnostic approach, such as providing an HTML5 version. HTML5 provides a rich, app-like experience within the mobile web and allows you to reach the majority of advanced smartphones, including Android, iPhone and newer Blackberry models.

Keep in mind that the average cost of building a mobile application is US$35,000 and the more platforms you build for, the more expensive the investment.

Step 3
Outline the scope of the campaign that will promote your app and what you want it to acheive. Don't forget to share this brief with your developer! Here are some examples of campaigns that integrate apps with a mobile web presence:

One of the most successful recent campaigns that integrated apps with a mobile web presence was run by Adidas in India.  It used the BuzzCity Mobile advertising network – and a mobile website -- to promote the app, which provided users with useful sports information (tournament fixtures, scores and standings) as well as fun stuff (like wallpapers featuring football stars and promos of adidas football gear). Even without the app, the mobisite had enough content to promote the brand.

Step 4
Make sure your mobile website is not the application's poorer relative. The app might be slicker or have more features, but your mobisite needs to also stand on its own. A lot of users will see your mobile website first, after clicking on a banner ad. And not all of them will go on to download an application. Some won't have the right type of phone; others just won't want another app. So the site itself must also offer a good brand experience.

Step 5
Work closely with your digital agency to determine your specific marketing objectives and the brand associations that you would like to create with the app.

Anurag Singh, a mobile marketer in India whose clients include adidas, Orbit, Reebok, Samsung and Wrigley's, tells us that there are three main principles driving mobile advertising: information, interaction and engagement. If your goal is to inform, create an app that has information that is proprietary and unique. For greater interaction and engagement, consider building a branded game.

To this list, I would also add e-commerce. Companies in the travel industry, in particular, have embedded mobisites into their business models. If I'm traveling from Singapore to Paris, it's easy for me to use my phone to buy a plane ticket with AirAsia and book a room with Hotels.com

A word to the wise . . . just because everyone in your brand agency lays an iPhone on the table during meetings doesn't mean that's where your market is. Do your research! ; )

Additional Resource:
For more about applications versus mobile website, check out the latest edition of The BuzzCity Report and in particular an article on page 26 called "Innovative Strategies for App Development".