Five steps to creating a successful mobile app

The popularity of games like Angry Birds and Candy Crush Saga has led to a fundamental flaw in the strategic thinking around corporate apps.

The line between consumer apps and mobile apps to achieve business results is still blurred in the minds of the corporate majority.

When it comes to consumer apps, games such as Angry Birds, Candy Crush Saga, and Plants vs Zombies are a global phenomenon. Their success lies in the simple and intuitive formula of making them fun, charging money for in-game purchases (or per app), and growing the user base exponentially by social network sharing and invites.

The popularity of apps like these has triggered a fundamental flaw in the strategic thinking of corporate marketers.

Companies unconsciously have the misconception that all apps need to be fun, have a huge user base and promote lots of sharing. When it comes to building mobile apps to achieve a corporate result, this is not the case.

Companies must start to structure a five-step blueprint that gives their mobile apps a distinct business purpose in order to achieve the best results.

Work, not play

The fact is, not all apps need to be like Angry Birds -- especially corporate and enterprise apps. Fun, popular and social are all positives, but you should take a step back and consider your overall mobile strategy and how that fits into your business. You need to firstly eliminate that mindset.

Think strategically

Above all else, and before all else, a mobile solution needs to be strategic. Strategic thinking means that you need to first think about what your business does, and what specifically you want to get out of your mobile solution, whether it be around your marketing (increasing brand awareness, customer engagement) sales (B2B or B2C), or operational efficiency.

Accountability

A fully fledged mobile solution for businesses can be an expensive undertaking to build and maintain, and can’t be justified without measurable results.

It’s no different to a television advertising campaign -- you don’t put an ad on TV just to show off a cool action sequence, special effect or plot -- you want the viewer to do something to benefit your business. While the most recognisable apps are games, the majority of successful campaign and corporate apps are not fun or even popular in a game sense.

Invite meaningful consultation

A lot of marketers have a pre-conceived notion of what they want and can’t be swayed. The apps that succeed result from a collaborative approach between companies and developers. Instead of stacking ‘cool features’ into an app to make it more like Candy Crush as is often the demand from corporates, we will go into a business, strategically analyse the objective, identify goals and targets, and then come up with the product that will achieve these objectives. Only then can you build a mobile solution that will achieve tangible, testable and measurable results.

Prioritise one clear function

Sometimes it’s just to encourage customer usage of the company’s products, such as Nike’s Nike running app. Sometimes it’s to support their core business functions, such as Domino’s pizza ordering app. Sometimes it’s to maintain customer loyalty, like Burger King’s reward app. And sometimes it’s just pure craziness and fun to generate publicity, like Mini’s Getaway Tokyo campaign app. But at the end of the day, they all have a strategic reason to exist.

Paul Lin is chief executive of mobile app strategy and development agency Buuna.