A few years ago, I used to dread the word “viral”; or rather, the statement, “We should do a viral”. Rarely backed up with any real objective (or cash), these requests came thick and fast and, save for some brilliant exceptions, usually resulted in a half-baked game that no-one played, or a short sketch that no-one watched.
But the clients were happy, because they were “doing viral”.
This year’s stomach sinking sentence is “We want to do an app”. Why? Because everyone else is and mobile is the future.
Well, mobile is the future, and everyone is making apps, that’s true. But what is also true that they are nearly all rubbish. Within 24 hours of downloading, 80 per cent of apps are never used again.
So before brands invest considerable time and money, they need to work out why their customers would take the trouble to seek and install their application. If they really believe they can create a tool that makes the most of the portable medium, isn’t reliant on an Internet connection to work and is fundamentally useful, then it’s worth developing. In fact, if it uses other smartphone features like GPS, gestures or the camera, they might be on to a real winner.
Waitrose has understood this, and created a brilliant tool that gives its shoppers exactly what they want – recipes and shopping lists on the move. So has Mastercard; its app is brilliantly simple, using GPS to find the nearest ATM to your current location.
But for many, the proposed app is nothing more than a ‘lite’ version of their website (with a game chucked in). So why not spend the time optimising their site for mobile devices or creating a mobile version instead?
After all, mobile Internet sites do not require several versions for different platforms, nor do they require the customer to install them before use. They are also cheaper and easier to develop, and the ecommerce opportunities are vast. As mobile Internet usage explodes, the future is in mobile Internet sites, not apps.
Marcus Hadfield is head of digital at Meteorite