These days every company is looking to “go mobile” but what if time, cost, or personnel do not allow for your company to have a full mobile app? Here we will talk about some ways to achieve the goal of “going mobile” without creating a dedicated mobile app.
The most simple way to do this is by establishing a presence on social media, namely, Facebook and Twitter. Social media is inherently mobile which means if company XYZ is using social media then everyone who has a mobile device can follow your digitally social company on the go. There are several very evident advantages to going mobile in this way. If budget is your company’s main concern, problem solved. Accounts on the most important social media networks are completely free. Sign up and start posting, tweeting, sharing, etc. And let’s be honest, you are probably already doing it! There is no doubt that your costumers are attached to virtually every social media outlet. This means that once you connect with them, you can advertise to people who care and you don’t even have to search for them; they will find you. The customers will also have an easy way to provide feedback without being prompted to take an annoying survey.
Of course nothing is foolproof and social media is no exception. Depending on “how mobile” you would like your company to be, this can become very labor intensive. In order to have a say on what is being said about your company, you will have to be actively involved in the conversation. Possibly the biggest drawback is that you can’t control what others are saying. This can be dangerous and you will need to decide if it is a risk your company is willing to take. People are not shy about sharing their dissatisfaction on the internet, be prepared!
For an example of how this can work, let’s consider Architecture Week 2013. As a promotional effort people were asked to take pictures of their favorite architecture and post it with the tag “#ArchWeek13”. Many people did this and it gave free publicity to Architecture Week. Nothing was required by those running the event other than using the social media outlets to remind people to take pictures and tag those pictures.
A second method of going mobile is a mobile partnership. This is where you put your company’s content inside another app. For example, Vanity Faire’s content can be found using Flipbook. Vanity Faire is already producing the content and by using Flipbook, which is already known to be an excellent app, they are saved the trouble of create another app. Not to mention, any customers who are already using Flipbook will be very glad to be able to streamline there browsing of Vanity Faire’s content.
Again, there are two sides to every story. On the positive side, this approach will allow your company to focus on the content being provided to customers instead of focussing on creating, maintaining and improving an app in addition to creating and publishing the content. This will also allow your company to expand beyond the “usual” customers. Going back to the Vanity Faire example, there are many people who would never go to the app store to see if there is an app for Vanity Faire, however, if they are already using Flipbook they might notice Vanity Faire content and begin reading. Now for the other side of the story. One big challenge, depending on your company’s needs and goals, is licensing. Your company needs to consider if this strategy will mean that the content published is now public and no longer owned solely by the company. Another, potentially huge, problem could arise if the app your company has partnered with changes it’s focus.
One example of a strategic mobile partnership gone wrong is the partnership between American Institute of Architects (AIA) and Broadcastr. AIA was recording short interviews about architecture and tagging them at a specific location. Users of Broadcastr can pull up content at specific locations, which, if looking at the correct location on a map, will give them access to AIA’s interviews. At some point, Broadcastr changed their goal to displaying pictures and words instead of audio. Since AIA was focused on audio, they were forced to end that partnership and had to quickly find another solution.
One final approach is white labeling. White labeling is the process of taking a pre-built app and redeploying it with your company’s name and logo. This method also has several advantages. Since this app is already 99% complete, it can be placed in the app store for the targeted platform very quickly and at a fraction of the cost of building out a custom app. With white labeling you can also look through available apps and use the best available. Although this does mean that your company is depending on what others have already developed and that may mean that some desired features are not available. This method is especially good for short-lived apps such as an app created for a conference. A very notable disadvantage, some companies that develop these apps force them to be released to the app stores under their developers accounts. This means that when your customers look at apps you have release they will not see it.
AIA used this approach for a recent convention. Looking for a new way to handle content the AIA realized this app would allow them to make real time updates. Attendees were able to use the app to customize their personal schedule. Depth of information was increased because paper limitations were removed. On the down side, the user experience was not what the AIA wanted and they did not have enough time to fully test the features in the app.
It is evident that although a custom app for each platform, whether it be native, hybrid, or full fledge mobile web application, may be the holy grail of “going mobile”, there are other options which are definitely worth considering. No solution is perfect for every company in every situation. You, on behalf of your company must be diligent in evaluating each option while keeping in mind your companies needs, desires and limitations.