Whats in a brand? In business your brand is everything – it represents and encompasses your culture, your vision and reputation as a business. A branded app is an extension of your brand, providing a far reaching and direct medium for connecting with customers. It is therefore vital to plan, execute and deliver a solution that represents your brand and business as best as possible.
Unless your business model has sprung from a viral photo sharing app or you’re creating mobile games, chances are you’re an existing business or person with an innovative idea, looking to add value through a branded app. A branded app can add value to your business in many ways; improving the customer experience, providing a competitive advantage, simplifying and streamlining processes, collecting useful customer insights or providing a direct sales and communication channel, among many others.
Assuming you fall in the latter category, developing and implementing the right solution at the right time, will add stacks of value to your business. If you’re the next viral hit, then the development and timing of your app is going to be the make or break for your business.
Why are you looking to create a mobile app?
Needless to say, but this question is far too often overlooked when creating an app. Building an app isnt necessarily about ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ – you’re not buying a new washing machin – although it is important to stay up to date in your industry.
Knowing your customer, your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats will provide a solid understanding of your position for planning and delivering your app effectively. And hey, a routine SWOT analysis of your business probably isnt a bad practice regardless of your situation. From here, you should be able to define a clear purpose and goal for your app. If you cant define this, you need to consult an expert or consider that a mobile app might not be the best solution for your business at this point in time.
Has your target market’s consumer behavior shifted and traditional sales channels are shrinking? Do you see an opportunity to reduce costs by tracking assets better? Perhaps you just want to make informed business decisions and understand your customer better? There is a multitude of reasons WHY you might want to add an app to your arsenal of tools, however it is essential you know what this purpose is, before you spend thousands of dollars building an Uber for dog walking.
What is your current technical and financial position?
Your technical know how, funding status and support team are important factors that determine the best approach for creating your app. You know your business, your app goal and your current position. These factors combined will determine how you are going to approach the app development process and best way to bring your idea to reality.
If you´re the CTO of a multi-national with an in-house development team then you probably don’t need this article. If you’re a start-up or entrepreneur with limited funding or lack of technical knowledge, then you need to carefully evaluate your options to avoid costly pitfalls and to best achieve your goal.
Why your app is different from my app!
Not all apps and ideas are born the same. Whilst a tour guide app and a ride sharing app may share some characteristics, they are different on so many levels. Some projects are going to involve developing something completely new, connecting complex databases and infrastructures and others will be as simple as uploading a logo and color scheme.
Do you need to build a team to develop and support your app or can you contract a firm to offer a turn-key solution? This comes back to your current position and the requirements needed to fulfill the intention of the app.
There are plenty of businesses out there that have done the hard yards when it comes to research, testing and development of app solutions. Some businesses will be able to take advantage of this and purchase an off the shelf white label solutions. Often these solutions will be as simple as choosing a color scheme, uploading your content and publishing to the App Stores.
Some businesses will have a brand new innovative idea and need to build a team around the app: UI design, systems integration, signal processing, electrical engineering and the list goes on. If this is you, you need to contact a development team, IT Consultant or hire a CTO to manage this process. If you have a truly unique idea and you want to scale globally, this may be essential. Either way – choosing the best method and managing this process is going to be one you want to get right the first time.
Key features and questions to consider for delivering the right app!
While it may be cool to include a Pac-man game in your Uber for dog walking app, it probably won’t help the intended user. There’s an unlimited number of feature possibilities with each solution requiring a unique combination of features to deliver the desired user experience and achieve the business goal. Below I list some common features and propose some questions with relative context to help get you thinking about what your app needs:
Content available offline (Who is your intended user and what circumstances will they use the app? Does the user need an internet connection to access content?)
Cloud content management system (Do you need to control the content in your app and make regular updates? Does the menu at your restaurant change weekly?)
Does your app require large amount of hosting? (Is there going to be a large number of users at any one time using large amounts of data?)
Connecting to other systems or databases (Do you need to connect to a Retail POS system or inventory management system?)
To code or not – (Do you have coding expertise or do you want a simple drag and drop style process?)
Native Android, iOS or is a web app sufficient? (What type of devices does your customer use? Do you really know your customer?)
Third party content integration (Do you have the license to use or time to produce content?)
E-commerce store (Do you plan on directly selling through your app?)
Community / Social Media integration (Does your business benefit from hosting a community forum?)
Messaging (Do you need to sent timely messages to app users?)
Publish under your own App Store account or developers account (Do you plan on developing more than one app? Does it add or detract from your brand to associate the development with a third party?)
Indoor positioning and way-finding (Do you require hardware or new infrastructure?)
Education tools (Is this an educational or entertainment tool?)
Proximity based marketing and content delivery (Is delivering content time and location sensitive?)
Real time location systems (Are you tracking assets, people or trying to derive location specific user data?)
Social Media integration (Do you want the user to be able to login and interact using their social media profiles?)
Customer reviews (Does your user base benefit from crowd sourced reviews?)
Analytics (What type of data do you want to collect about your users and their behavior? Is it enough to know their profile or do you want to understand how they’re using your services?)
These are just a handful of examples to consider for a beginners guide. If whats been mentioned has you scratching your head, it is recommended to search for and engage a third party to help with your development process.
Whose going to make your app?
At this point, you’re armed with some key questions and knowledge which should help refine what is required to go ahead with your app. With all of this in mind, you will need to search and choose the best option for bringing your idea to reality.
If you’re a technically minded entrepreneur, search for an SDK and team to provide what you can’t create yourself.
If you require a local team you can meet with face to face? Search locally for independent developers, recent grads or local sales offices of established development teams.
If you’re on a budget, prices for developers vary greatly around the world. While there is inherent risks with engaging services from other parts of the world, development teams can be much cheaper in some places with places like Eastern Europe and India becoming hot spots for cheap development.
If you require a simple web based app or turn-key solution that has been done before, check out the variety of white label app solutions available on the internet.
For custom projects, search for a development team with a proven track record in providing solutions and who can meet your time and budget restraints.
A branded app, whether it’s a white label solution or full scale development project – can offer tremendous value to your business. Developing an app for your business can be simple and easy, or it can be costly and frustrating. Without getting lost in code, it is vital you inform yourself, set realistic and measurable goals, and build a team or engage suitable third parties to deliver your app on time, on budget and to your standard.
About the author
Sam is a New Zealand born entrepreneur with a focus on Tourism and Technology start-ups. He is currently based in Iceland leading the marketing and sales team at Locatify, a software company who specialize in custom and white-label location aware branded app solutions and precise indoor location systems. Contact Sam to discuss your branded app idea or follow Locatify on Facebook.