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Why a mobile app-only approach is a mistake

Many marketers believe that a mobile application is all they need. However, a mobile app is just one piece of the puzzle and companies need to branch out and implement a variety of channels into their repertoire to accommodate tech-savvy users.

Often, marketers roll out a mobile app because either their competitor has one or just the sole need to put one out there. When thinking like that, marketers are faced with many challenges and clearly are not taking the right approach.

?At the very least, a mobile Web site should also be available for users who are not able to access your mobile app due to their device,? said Kunal Gupta, CEO of Polar Mobile.

?An app should be integrated into a larger campaign, or be a part of a larger mobile presence that should also include mobile Web and social campaigns,? he said.

It is important for marketers to have a rounded strategy.

Marketers should realize that by simply having a mobile app, that does not mean they have a full mobile strategy.

While mobile apps are engaging and a great way to drive brand awareness, they are not everything. Marketers need to test the waters and think about other channels such as mobile sites, SMS, QR codes and mobile advertising.

?After working with large media companies for over five years, we've learned that a best practice is to make content available on as many screens as possible,? Mr. Gupta said. 

?It's nearly impossible for anyone to predict which devices will be popular in a few years from now, or even next year, so a best practice is to ensure users can easily access your content from whichever device they choose,? he said.

Marketing tactics
According to Kevin Dillon, president of Ratio Interactive, depending on the type of product a marketer is marketing, a mobile app-only strategy can or cannot be effective.

Mobile is becoming an increasingly larger part of the way audiences engage with brands.

Based on the type of content, we are seeing some brands lead with mobile, while others have a more integrated marketing approach.

?What tactics marketers decide to lead with inside their digital strategy should be completely defined by the use case and the audience segment,? Mr. Dillon said.

?By in large, serving your customers via a mobile app-only strategy will most likely not be effective and will require an integrated marketing approach, whether that be just digital or offline,? he said. ?At Ratio, we feel that a mobile strategy should be an extension of a company?s overall brand.

?In order to effectively achieve that we need to support the tenants of that brand. That requires us to conceptualize and create a mobile strategy that support other marketing tactics, one should be an extension of the other.?

Mobile should continue to be represented as a tactic that is part of a digital strategy, which rolls up into an integrated marketing strategy.

Furthermore, a mobile strategy should be dependent on the use cases for how a company wants to serve its customer segment, and it should be a part of a larger integrated approach.

?While a mobile strategy is an important extension to a company?s brand and its audience, it is important to remember that mobile is only one channel for reaching or serving your customer?s needs,? Mr. Dillon said.

?Marketers should breakout their audience segments and define the best methods to serve their customers,? he said.

?By doing this they will find that some audiences will be best served with mobile being the first-screen experience and other audiences will be best served with mobile being a third-screen experience supporting desktop and television.?

In today?s hyper-connected, multichannel world, marketers need to optimize every digital channel. 

Simply rolling out a Web site, Web app, or native mobile app without dedicating resources to enhance each will have a disastrous impact on brand image and loyalty and therefore bottom lines. 

"The problem is that although optimization solutions exist for Websites and Web apps, there has been no similar solutions to optimize native mobile apps," said Bob Moul, CEO of Artisan.

"To successfully drive brand loyalty, conversion, and revenue, it is absolutely imperative to reach customers across all digital channels," he said. "It?s important for marketers to understand, however, that an app is not a Web site and vice versa ? each channel is unique and requires a purpose-built platform that allows marketers to create, modify, optimize, and personalize the user experience. 

"Consumers and business buyers are increasingly using multiple devices to interact with brands, and organizations who do not implement an effective strategy for each channel will be left behind."

According to Mr. Moul, to increase the likelihood of native app success, companies need an effective way to manage the mobile experience.

"An app should be dynamic," Mr. Moul said. "Brands should be able to quickly and easily distribute A/B tests, collect detailed usage data, and then continually refine the experience to meet users? wants and needs.

"On a Web site, companies can assess what?s working and what?s not, and make changes to improve results ? mobile apps should be no different," he said. "Only by changing how the app development and publishing processes work can marketers improve user engagement and drive mobile conversions."

Mobile evolution
Marketers should have very good reasons for choosing to go down a path focused only on native mobile applications.

"Although an app-only approach might be a fit for certain unique business models, the majority of businesses would not be served well going that route," said Tom Nawara, vice president at Acquity Group. "To be truly effective, marketers need to consider and address customer acquisition, engagement and retention via a variety of mobile tactics: mobile apps, mobile Web, SMS/MMS and more.

"It is absolutely essential for brands to have a plan that addresses their business drivers and customer needs across digital tactics," he said. "Specifically in the area of mobile tactics, brands should first ensure they at least have a mobile compatible web presence.

"Optimally, brands will have Web and email experiences optimized for audience interaction occasions across key mobile devices. Beyond that baseline, brands should then branch out to those tactics that make sense for engagement with their particular audiences."

According to Mr. Nawara, it is very important for marketers to think omnichannel and ensure they are considering the full customer lifecycle and all of the engagement touchpoints along that path, not only mobile.

"Although it has become clear that mobile technologies are the hub of consumer/brand engagement, creating a holistic and contextually relevant experience across touchpoints should be every marketer's goal," Mr. Nawara said.

Final Take
Rimma Kats is associate editor on Mobile Marketer, New York