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Branded Apps vs Brand Advertising. How being useful gets consumers’ attention too.

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Branded apps must be useful

Just like Fleetwood Mac, the Internet wants to be with you everywhere. On the train, in the café, even tucked up in bed on a Sunday morning, nursing a hangover, that little terrier we call the Internet runs in the room, licks your face and begs you to share your condition with friends and strangers alike.

It never used to be so clingy. We would ‘log-on’ and more importantly, ‘log-off’. There was, after all, a time and a place. Not anymore, no sir-e. Thanks to our mobiles the majority of Australians now wake up to the Internet, commute with the Internet, work on the Internet and ‘relax’ with the Internet.

By 2015 Telsyte predicts 87 percent of Australians (over 16 years old) will own a smart phone. So just about every adult will be online for 100 percent of their waking life: reading, playing, sharing and consuming company services via their mobile.

Even now, in 2013, the phone is our Internet device of choice, but ask any of Australia’s best digital marketing planners and they’ll tell you their clients still fail to invest the appropriate time, planning and budget towards ‘mobile’.

We’ve seen this kind of lag between digital opportunity and digital spend before. In Australia at least, we didn’t see an appropriate media investment in Google Adwords until 2008, a full eight years after Google launched the service. Similarly we’re now seeing investment in social media gaining favour, some three years after Facebook became Australia’s number one media destination.

But what’s causing the current lag in mobile app investment; is it an Australian thing, are we just too laid back or do we consciously ignore the data? Possibly, but a more likely cause is a simple lack of ideas, caused in part by a lack of understanding of what’s possible.

To understand what’s possible businesses need to understand the difference between branded apps and brand advertising. The best branded apps do not belong to a campaign, they are not simply another channel through which to communicate the current brand message or product promotion. They are a utility in their own right; something useful that earns the attention of consumers. This type of app should be the obvious starting point for marketing and operations managers, take an existing business process or service and mobilise it through an app, thus delivering an improved customer experience.

But the more exciting opportunity lies in using mobile apps to provide brand new services that only the mobile Internet can deliver. Take a look outside of Australia and it’s not hard to find examples of disruptive new mobile services. Walgreens, the US based pharmacy chain has developed an app driven service allowing customers to ‘scan and refill’ their own prescriptions, an innovative use of mobile technology that provides a distinct point of differentiation over their competitors.

Australian businesses may have been a little slow out of the mobile blocks but 2013 will see the ideas (and investment) begin to flow. Financial services, health, telecommunications, education and real estate will likely lead the charge. Many of the apps will continue to mobilise existing business services but a few innovative companies will seize the opportunity to do something different.

As with Walgreens, it will be the brave first movers in Australia, who’ll reap the rewards through app differentiation. By considering ‘mobile’ to be an opportunity to deliver useful new services (and not just another channel to market) these disruptive Australian companies will be rewarded with publicity for their innovation, earn referral from their existing customers and increase profitability through more efficient service delivery.


HBF Pocket Health App – Simple, Intuitive and Useful

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Recently Adapptor and Hatchd were engaged to help in an incredibly exciting opportunity for an app that is unique and fulfils a real need.

Have you ever needed to know your blood type, but couldn’t remember it? Or needed to remember the date of that broken arm when you were young? Or what about remembering when your child was vaccinated?

Each time you’ll find yourself rummaging through paperwork in the home office, or digging back through old calendar entries, when really all you needed was a simple mobile app.

Several months ago HBF approached Adapptor and Hatchd with a request to build just this type of app. They asked us to have a look at the market, determine if there was a need, and then design something that would work on a smartphone to help their members.

When we’re engaged in such an opportunity, we like to consider a range of requirements and we spend a a good deal of time ensuring we have these key factors covered.

First and foremost the app needs to be useful. Even a game serves a function — providing a challenge that makes for an enjoyable experience — but most apps aren’t games and must meet some need. Ideally the app serves a need on a regular basis and people return to use the app often.

Secondly, like a game, an app should be enjoyable to use. It’s often not obvious what makes the experience enjoyable, and that can be part of its beauty. An app should flow, like a game and a good deal of attention should be spent on ensuring that the app works well for users. Part of this means it needs to be easy to use.

Fortunately for us, HBF had already considered the first factor (the utility) and we could focus on the app’s flow. Our team spent hours locked in a room working on the key features and trying to understand how the app would work. Our top priorities were making it simple, intuitive, yet also very powerful.

This can often mean reducing the number of features, and consolidating the top level categories. In this case we managed to distill the app down to profiles, events and search. We considered how we could make it simple to use, and yet still be powerful. We ended up recommending that the main event interface be a list, in reverse chronological order; something we’ve become very accustomed to with weblogs, photo streams, and apps like Twitter and Facebook. A long list of individual events that can easily be filtered makes a lot of sense on a small device. The app also needed to explain itself quickly to a user. Adding buttons to the main view provided a quick way to add an array of health events with only a few presses.

We think that, along with HBF, we’ve helped create an incredibly useful app. So if you’re a HBF member be sure to head over to the App Store and grab yourself a copy. (Android version coming soon). Remember, you’ll need your myHBF login details to create your very own Pocket Health account.

Let us know how you go. We’d love to hear what you think.

Posted by Richard in Mobile, News, Projects

Australian Smart Device Saturation Point Is Closer Than We Thought

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Next time you’re in a café, airport departure lounge, or any other place in Australia where phone/tablet usage is acceptably explicit, take the time to do a quick count of those using smart devices compared to those folk texting away on their ‘appless’ mobile.

And the result? Well according to mobile analytics company Flurry, your ‘café survey’ should show almost 8 out of 10 people using a smart device. Flurry’s most recent mobile usage report finds 79% of Australians aged 15-64 years actively use an iOS or Android capable device.  It’s an impressive figure (particularly given its omission of other operating systems such as Windows Phone and Blackberry) and places Australia 4th in the league of smart device penetration, beating technology loving nations such as the US (78%), South Korea (76%) and the UK (74%).

Chart showing Smart Device Penetration by Country

This rate of growth is making a mockery of respected industry forecasts. It wasn’t supposed to happen this fast. According to Flurry, the growth of iOS and Android is happening 3X quicker than our recent uptake of social media and 10X more rapid than the 1980s uptake of personal computing. And very soon the vast majority of these smart devices will be downloading and pushing data at 4G speeds transforming the experience from super convenient alternative to our undisputed Internet of choice.

Make no mistake, this hyper-connected mobile audience presents the greatest opportunity for industry since the creation of the worldwide web. And as per the desktop web, the service industries have been first out of the blocks: Banking, Insurance, Telecommunications, Travel, Government and Health were first to mobile optimise web sites and build self service apps. After all 100% of Australians connected to a mobile Internet means 100% of Australians capable of serving themselves, anytime and anywhere, massively reducing the all important cost-to-serve.

But mobilising pre-existing company services is just the beginning; think of it as the necessary housekeeping before moving onto the important stuff. Creating entirely new mobile services for existing customers and the wider market is where the real opportunity lies. The banks are a case in point, after taking the standard online banking experience to the phone, the banks quickly turned their thoughts to the creation of new services such as mobile-to-mobile payment.  The result has been a race to market between ANZ’s goMoney and CBA’s Kaching, with both banks actively campaigning the new services.

The health insurance industry has also been quick to respond. The first apps in this sector focused on mobilising existing services such as online claiming and account management but quickly progressed to entirely new applications like Bupa’s FoodSwitch app, a food nutrition aid and HBF’s ‘Pocket Health’ app*, a personal health record to help members document their family health. These apps serve not only as a retention tool to existing health insurance members but also provide compelling reasons to recommend the brand to others.

And so as Australia’s big brands move from ‘mobile housekeeping’ to ‘mobile innovation’, so they will be rewarded with unique opportunities to disrupt the market and differentiate through utility. It has already begun, even the slowest moving organisations are restructuring for disruption, creating internal innovation groups charged with harnessing the power of ‘Big Data‘ to provide highly sticky applications that customers simply cannot give-up. So it should come as no surprise, that with 100% smartphone saturation fast approaching, many of these innovation groups are taking a ‘mobile first’ approach.


Editor’s note: (16/10/2012) The title of this article has been changed from ‘Smartphone’ to ‘Smart Device’ to more explicitly show the inclusion of tablets in the referenced research data.

[*Disclosure: HBF is an Adapptor client]

Posted by adapptor in Mobile, News, Observations, Opinion | Tags: , ,

How Much Does It Cost To Make An App?

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In July, 60 Minutes televised a story that explained how anyone in the world can become a multimillionaire by making apps. By the number of enquiries Adapptor now receives, it seems a lot of people watched the show, and are hoping to make that quick buck.

Charles Wooley showed everyone just how simple it was by creating his very own app in a matter of days; The App Revolution. His app wasn’t that amazing, it helped people make decisions by letting them virtually toss a coin. I guess it’s for those people that don’t carry coins around with them anymore.

After the show aired, Adapptor — like probably every other app developer — gets a few phone calls a week from a wannabe “appreneur” with a great app idea. In most cases we disappoint them when we explain just how much that 99 cent app will cost them to make.

So why is there such a disconnect between the 60 Minutes story and reality? It’s what Charles Wooley neglected to mention in the 60 Minutes story that is really telling.

Wooley chatted with “appreneurs” Phil Larson from Halfbrick, Chad Mureta, and also mentioned the success of Angry Birds. All great case studies that surely add weight to Wooley’s claim. However, they’re not overnight sensations.

Halfbrick, a highly successful company with a few mobile app games under their belt, has been developing games since 2001. It’s not an overnight sensation. Nor is Rovio, who’ve been producing games since 2003, almost went bankrupt in 2009, and created 51 games before they created Angry Birds.

Then there is Chad Mureta, a clever guy that’s worked out an interesting business model (based on the 4 Hour Work Week by Tim Ferris). Chad’s claim to fame is that he has created a range of successful apps that have earned him a very tidy profit. It’s a fascinating story, based on some savvy business understanding. Chad monitors the market, finds an app that is not only successful but also very simple, emulates them and improves the concept, hires a cheap overseas developer, builds and tests the app, and then publishes it.

It’s a great idea, but still likely to take a good amount of effort. He also creates very simple apps; not the same type of apps that we get approached to build. They’re almost all gimmicks, and not a long term business model.

Chad now lists himself as an author, speaker, consultant and entrepreneur, and sells his book online. So, I’m not sure that he’s as dedicated to building apps as 60 Minutes implied.

So why isn’t it as simple as Wooley makes out? Well, apps can actually be complex pieces of software. In fact Fruit Ninja and Angry Birds, those simple games that he mentioned, probably took hundreds of hours to develop and likely cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to produce.

Even simple apps like Instagram and Currently Tech News are complex pieces of software.

Kent Nguyen, a developer from Anideo, explains it really well in his article “Dear business people, an iOS app actually takes a lot of work!” It’s a great article that I won’t bother duplicating, but it’s worth a read.

In summary, Nguyen explains that often there are complex systems at work when you use an app, and in many cases these exist on servers on the Internet. These take time and skill to build well, and in essence are the engine rooms of the app. Even the apps themselves take a lot of skill to develop, and without a lot of experience and skill can fail badly.

The long and the short of it is that apps aren’t as simple as they can seem. Not only are they often complex pieces of software, but they also require some clever business understanding.

Coin Toss Charlie’s Choice is actually a great example; it might have ranked number one in the productivity category the day it was launched on national television, but today it’s ranked 295. Highly unlikely to have made Wooley a millionaire.

Posted by Richard in Mobile

2012 – The year Australian mobile apps get down to business

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According to research house Flurry, Australians downloaded 28 million apps last week. That’s 46 apps a second. Not too shabby.

But it’s far from topping out there. Despite this being an all time record, no doubt boosted by the Christmas rush, Flurry predicts that 28 million downloads per week will soon become the norm as the addressable smart-phone market continues to grow. And grow it most definitely will, the Telsyte/AIMIA’s Digital Nation Report forecasts 87% of Australians will own a smart phone by 2015, up from 45% ownership in 2011.

Couple this growth in market size with the rapid shift in Internet consumption habits (we now spend more time using apps than the desktop and mobile web put together) and what should now be obvious is that apps are here to stay, they won’t be superseded by some miraculous conception of superfast, easy to use mobile websites. Sure the mobile web will continue to grow but Tim Chang’s ‘Appification of Everything‘ is certainly upon us and the question for big business is no longer whether to invest in apps but what type of app to invest in, what service to provide or process to improve.

This will be the year of service delivery apps as the enterprise starts to realise the potential of business process improvement through mobilisation. For business the fun but ‘throw away’ apps (think branded games and novelty utilities) will be replaced with business critical applications that enable the delivery of new and improved services to customers, members and employees wherever they are.

It’s already beginning, insurance companies are making it easy for members to claim from their phone, tourism authorities are helping tourists to roam free of charges and banks are letting customers shop without cash or cards. These aren’t apps for the sake of apps, once distributed they can’t be thrown away or left unsupported; like the business itself they must evolve, improve and stay relevant. These apps provide valuable services, improve NPS and in some instances single-handedly sway a joining or purchasing decision.

As this realisation takes hold, 2012 will see Australian companies embrace mobile apps to deliver and socialise company services, gather business intelligence data, deliver product recommendations and serve customers in places (and at times) that were previously unserviceable. It will be the year that Australian apps get down to business.


Posted by adapptor in Mobile, Observations, Opinion, Recommendations

Roam the West Without Roaming Charges – Tourism WA Launches the Experience WA App

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Yesterday the Western Australian Minister for Tourism, Dr. Kim Hames, launched the new Experience Western Australia mobile app.

The free app, built for Android and iPhone, allows users to browse over 7,000 listings from around the state. It incorporates a range of different ways to discover new places and experience the best of what the state has to offer. If you’re stuck for an idea and need some inspiration the app will make suggestions based on your current mood and if you’re planning a specific trip then you can browse some suggested itineraries or even build your own.

But the key differentiating feature of the app is the ability to choose between online and offline modes. An optional preload of all data from the application server (and a flick of the switch to offline mode) allows visitors to use the app on their long flight down-under or explore the furthest reaches of our vast state without having to worry about ‘roaming’ charges. The local copy of the database syncs with the application’s cloud based server, so any changes to the data can be pushed to users’ phones without needing to update the app itself through the store.

A special thanks to HOST and Tourism WA for the opportunity to work on this project.

Posted by Richard in Mobile, News, Projects

World Wide What?

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mobile app vs web consumption

The folks over at Flurry know how to fish and the tech blogs (including us) happily snapped at the bait; a plump piece of wriggling research that tells a story of mobile apps leaving the web in its world wide wake.

Measured in minutes per day of consumption, the figures are certainly impressive, at least to the founder of an apps development company. Mobile apps are getting more share of attention than the web but read on and you’ll find that 47% of this time is spent playing games, not exactly apples with apples because unless you’re engaged in a ding-dong battle of Words With Friends, you’re rarely using the Internet to power your app driven gaming experience.

Having said all of that, one can’t help think that the tipping point for mobile apps as the preferred method of internet consumption (not simply media consumption) isn’t that far away, even without Angry Birds et al skewing the results. Playing mobile games is patterning a certain type of behaviour after all and in this case the behaviour is an ever increasing reliance on apps for all our media needs, online or otherwise.

So the web isn’t dead just yet, but don’t forget what WWW stands for, as it’s likely to pop-up in quiz nights of the future and you could be the nerd at the table who knows the answer to the “World Wide What?” question.

Posted by marc in Mobile, News, Observations

The Australian mobile Internet

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Australian internet subscribers graph

The Australian mobile Internet is just as big as its slightly dorkier older brother the desktop Internet. Have a look at just how many people have access to the net on their handsets when compared to how many have access through a fixed line DSL or mobile wireless service.

I understand that some of these “mobile handset” subscribers will rarely use the Internet on their phone but this group of users is only likely to dwindle as smart phones become the default and organisations improve the quality of their mobile specific content.

NOTE: In case you were confused, “Mobile Handset” means users subscribing to the Internet directly via their mobile handset (e.g. iPhone, Blackberry, etc) through a dedicated data plan or standard phone/data bundled plan, whereas “Mobile Wireless” means users subscribing to the Internet through a datacard, dongle or USB Modem.

Thanks to the trusty old ABS for the data.

Posted by adapptor in Mobile, News