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It’s not about perception or idealism, it’s about customers

If you’re choosing which mobile platforms and devices to support based on what you think is “cool” or what devices are used in your office, you’ve taken the first step down the path of failure for your mobile project. But you can take comfort in that fact that the support group for people who have taken the wrong path on their mobile projects, is well attended. Whether you’re building the “next big thing” or extending your successful business into mobile, the most important consideration is not what device you have, or what the cost is, it’s what devices your customers have. Spending less money on the wrong mobile platform is not the way to have success.

To choose the right mobile platform for your app or service, you first have to ask some tough questions:

Who will be using it? Who are your target customers in the mobile space — and are they different from your non-mobile customers?

If you have an existing service or retail business you are adding mobile to, then you should have a good idea of who your current customers are. It’s then important to cross-reference that set of profiles with the profiles of mobile users — and of mobile users on different platforms. iPhone, iPad, BlackBerry and other mobile users don’t all have the same demographic profiles. If you are trying to retain your existing customers whiel they are mobile, you need to pick a platform that matches your current demographics. If, on the other hand, you are looking to expand your existing customer base, or create a new one, it’s best to decide on a few customer profiles of people you’d like to target and then match that against the profiels of people using the different mobile devices. Don’t forget that the mobiel platforms vary geographically in their marketshare and customer base so make sure you’re looking at mobile users in the market you want to target.

How will people be finding out about your mobile product? And what’s the best way to maximise that discoverability?

Throwing an app up on iTunes and hoping people will find it is a receipe for failure. Getting your app visible in front of a lot of people is one of THE critical considerations for the success of your product. If all your marketing is about digitial, then maybe review sites are a good place to look for visibility. If you’re focusing on local markets, then local media or retail signage might be a good plan. There’s no “one right way” to market your mobile product or service, there’s a variety of tactics that may or may not apply and picking the right ones is important. Don’t discount the need to have some of that work take place within the application itself which must be decided upon during the design phase of your mobile app not when it’s ready for release.

When will your customers be using your mobile product?

On the go? While sitting at home? While at work? Many people have multiple mobile devices these days and use them for different purposes. Maybe that business professional has a BlackBerry they use during the day and an iPad they use at home at night. Knowing when someone is expected to use your product will help scope in or out some platforms that may or may not make sense.

Having a million random people see your app is far less valuable than having the right 100,000 people see it. If you can target the right mobile platforms fromt he start, you can increase the chances of getting right to your target customers from day 1, and keep your costs of development managable.

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