When I met Jim Ellison at a Roanoke-Blacksburg Technology Council meeting and learned of his experience, I asked, "Will you think and write about mobile apps for Handshake 2.0?" I'm delighted to share Jim's musings on mobile apps.
I'd like to have had a ten spot each time I heard someone in an office say, "We need an app."
These people knew a mobile strategy was needed. But how could an app make them money? Was it worth the time, trouble and expense?
Consideration of these tactics could have helped them form a mobile strategy:
No question why web portals like Yahoo and MSN always run top 10 lists. People love lists. People understand lists and use them. List apps are relatively easy to develop and can point potential customers in the right direction.
A few apps sell directly or help turn a potential customer into a buyer.
Suppose nobody in the office is helping a daughter sell her Girl Scout Cookies this year? I can use Kellogg's Little Brownie Bakers app to search for sellers in my neighborhood, just in time for the annual mid-winter sale on the 100th anniversary of Girl Scouting.
If I wanted to make it convenient for prospects to reach me interactively, I’d consider a directory app of my sales force with names, photos and contact information. Coldwell Banker Townside in Blacksburg, Virginia is one of many Realtors who list houses and the agents to move them. Research firm Gartner reports location-based services like these will be “one of the most disruptive in the next few years…because of its perceived high user value and its influence on user loyalty.”
Apps can also work at the point of sale. I’m able to trace the purity and potency of Gaia’s herbs with their app, Meet Your Herbs. I type in the ID number on the back of a package to learn an herb’s source, harvest field, lab test details and date of manufacture – far more info than could ever fit on the package: plenty to try to convince me of the herb’s provenance.
Of course, the cost of developing an app varies widely. Some can be built out of an existing web page. Others can run into the many thousands of dollars. (Here's Handshake 2.0's post on the costs of mobile app development.) It’s up to me to weigh that against how much product I think it will move.
Next time I hear someone say "We need an app," I'll advise him to consider the valuable opportunities that could drift away - even if he's scared off by the price of mobile development. He might save $20,000 by not spending it. He might also forgo the chance to earn twenty grand over and above his investment.
Jim Ellison is a Roanoke, Virginia-based freelance writer and web developer.
Coldwell Banker Townside, REALTORS(R) is a client of Handshake Media, Incorporated, the parent company of Handshake 2.0.