Businesses set to begin their mobile apps pursuit
While you may love slicing digital fruit on your iPad with the Fruit Ninja app, or relish a virtual coca cola drinking experience on your iPhone, the world of mobile applications has started to offer more than just fun. So how can businesses become a part of the app explosion?
That’s exactly what over 300 CIOs have been asking Shyne-Song Chuang, Research Director with Gartner’s Mobile and Client Computing Group. In Chuang’s mind there is no doubt that the industry is hurtling towards a mobile dominated future, but the big question looming over enterprises today is how exactly to make an entry.
“When I talk to clients the first question they ask is what applications should they start to mobilise and what would be most useful for their organisations,” he tells me in a chat.
From applications aimed at spreading the word, to engaging with the ecosystem and extending into transactional applications, the opportunities seem endless. “Most useful way forward would be to slice the strategy to look at three groups – B2B (Business to Business), B2C (Business to Consumers) and B2E (Business to Employees), “he offers.
Why go mobile?
“The world has been interested in mobility for competitive advantage and this scenario has exploded in the past few years because of a massive adoption of smartphones and tablet devices. To add to this, even regular feature phones have been getting smarter,” Chuang says.
With organisations increasingly having to support devices that their employees may own and use – cementing the BYOD trend in the bargain – companies have also started thinking deeply about their mobile strategy. “The industry has to stop and think about all their applications and perhaps even start building them for mobiles first,” he shares.
So what apps are being built?
With the potential for enterprise mobile apps straddling three segments – B2B, B2C and B2E – there’s possibility for a wide mix of vertical (sector or function specific) and horizontal (general use) applications like mobile e-mail, contacts and calendar sharing.
Good examples of B2C applications would be ones that consumer brands like Procter & Gamble use for mainly building the brand, keeping in touch and getting general feedback.
B2E applications typically tend to be built to facilitate internal approval processes for employees including partner expense approvals, travel approvals. Other popular areas for vertical applications include ones for blue collar work forces like field service management, sales force automation.
Although the B2B space is again focused more on building apps for internal requirements, the ecosystem in this case extends to include partners, suppliers and channels. “Thing important thing is that in the B2B space you tend to have little control over what devices the ecosystem accesses your applications from, so applications built need to support a broader range of mobile devices,” Chuang explains. From mobile CRM, to business applications, maps and campus navigation to meeting room reservations, B2B apps are beginning to scale.
Making the ecosystem work
Building apps is perhaps the easy part. Making it part of a self sustaining ecosystem is clearly the bigger success. This leads to the next big question – what platforms do we need to select?
The truth is that smartphones are computers by themselves and that’s how important they are going to become in our lives. So it’s really a two sided market out there –gaining first mover advantage and the ecosystem which truly is king.
And as Chuang emphasises to me, users have a higher propensity to spend and are willing to pay for the right apps. But it’s critical to keep apps development consistent and stable. “You don’t want to get too segmented and spend time fixing bugs,” he says.
Preferences for mobile app platforms also tend to follow the strongest ecosystem and currently this space is dominated by applications built for IOS (Apple devices) followed by Android. RIM with its Blackberry comes in at number three followed by Windows phone.
“The apps game is all about consumer appeal which drives device purchase in the first place. Apple and Google have truly forged ahead by making their platforms very attractive for developers,” Chuang says.
Show me the money
The future it appears is already here and monetising these applications is no longer a pipedream.
B2C apps for example can be monetised by retailers by becoming a new sales channel, offering direct transactions for customers. In the B2B space apps can be used to deliver customer support at much lower costs enabling entities like government departments to extend their service channels like licence renewals to customers at one tenth the cost.
Apart from that, many are using it to augment the buying and selling experience using interactive apps. What works is packaging services and information in easy to use ways. Another way is to also integrate other aspects like direct ordering and loyal card applications into the mobile app.
The next stage will be extending these applications to work across multiple channels and platforms seamlessly. User experiences need to be seamless and while web technology is growing the middle path with hybrid architectures is picking up speed. We need to get these apps out there with little fragmentation.
So where do we go from here? “My feeling is that we are going to pleasantly surprised. If in 10 years we can go from listening to music on a bulky CD player to micro device that can hold more songs than we can ever listen to, in less than five years we can probably do over 30% of our business though these applications,” Chuang estimates.
And why not! GITEX TECHNOLOGY WEEK 2012 with the Mobile, Apps and Content World will pull together latest devices and developers to give us some real answers for the Middle East. Time to go mobile is now.