Mobile Apps and Mass Customization

The Mobile Tsunami

A recent industry forecast predicted that mobile internet traffic would grow at 100% per year, compounded, from 2010 to 2015.  The iPad sold over 3 million units in its first 3 months of sales.  This is the fastest product adoption rate in history. What did it beat? The iPhone! It sold over 1.2 million units in its first 3 months to set the previous record. Collectively Apple is expected to sell north of $25 Billion in iPads and iPhones in 2011. And the Android phone market is even bigger than the iPhone market. Mobility is the new reality.

We all know mobile app stores are booming worldwide.  A new market research report by MarketsandMarkets acknowledges that trend. According to the research firm’s World Mobile Applications Market (2010 – 2015)report, the total global mobile applications market is expected to be worth $25 billion by 2015 (up from about $6.8 billion in 2010).

And the PC decline is well under way.  “IDC today nearly halved its worldwide PC shipment growth forecast for 2011 on the back of continued sluggish consumer demand in mature markets.” –published June 2011.

The Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) and the Attention Economy

We all now compete in an Attention Economy. Consumers are drowning in information overload.

Small and Medium Enterprises are particularly affected because their traditional marketing vehicles – the yellow pages, direct mail, local mail flyers, local TV spots, local newspapers, etc. – are all suffering from declining relevance and effectiveness.

Even the basic internet technologies, those accessible to SMEs, are declining in effectiveness as consumers evolve to new technologies and habits.  According to TechCrunch “Total web email usage was down 8% in the past year (YOY), with a whopping 59% decline in use among people between the ages of 12-17. Usage was also down 1% among 18-24 year olds, 18% among 25-35 year olds, 8% among 35-44 year olds and 12%among the 45-54 demographic.” According to a recent Google email, titled Analytics Benchmarking Newsletter, visits to websites are experiencing an overall decline. “Compared to a year ago, websites have seen reduced pages / visit, average time on site, as well as bounce rate.”

As defined by Alex Iskold – “The basic ideas behind the Attention Economy are simple. Such an economy facilitates a marketplace where consumers agree to receive services in exchange for their attention. The ultimate purpose is of course to sell something to the consumer…”

Attention Economy

So how does the SME participate in this marketplace?  How does an SME earn the right to compete for the target consumer’s attention?

Building an Effective Mobile Presence

As consumers shift their behaviors the SME must respond by creating a new contract with their constituency.  Real estate on the mobile device is the new marketing land-grab. Mobile apps are the edifices that businesses need to build on that real estate.  Having a mobile app on your customer’s device gives you a platform for alerts, news, searching and shopping.  However consumers are fickle.  If you app does not entertain and engage the consumer, if it does not continue to deliver them real value, they will delete it.

Building a credible app is complicated and expensive but it is just the tip of the iceberg. As in most software products the cost of the initial development is only a small percentage (historically about 10%) of the cost of maintaining the software over its useful life.  In the case of mobile apps it is not only the software that needs to be enhanced and maintained, it is also the content.  To maintain the attention of the consumer, new and engaging content needs to be delivered continuously.  Offers, news, updates, information, education and other content that is valued by the consumer must be continuously refreshed. Large companies can afford to hire and retain a significant staff to develop a mobile app and to maintain the technology and content of that app.  In this way they can constantly evolve the app and the app’s content to reflect the constant evolution of their market, their customer and their competition. The investment required to do this right is staggering!

This is a severe handicap for the SME.  Building and maintaining a mobile app is well beyond the resources of all but the largest SMEs.  Furthermore, updating content to continue to engage and retain the consumer is technically very difficult and few SMEs have the requisite expertise.

Mass Customization and your Branded Mobile App

Definition: Mass Customization is the customization and personalization of products and services for individual customers at a mass production price.

For the SME, the key to creating an effective and engaging mobile experience for their market lies in the emerging technology of mass customization.  The costs of initial and ongoing development are shared by many SMEs in a similar industry segment so that each can afford a technical solution which none could afford on their own.  Mass customization further allows each app to reflect the brand and values of a specific enterprise. A branded static app is not, however, enough to win in the attention economy!  To retain the consumer’s engagement and loyalty, the app must evolve and provide richer and deeper value over time. This requires a long term partnership with the app provider. Furthermore, the app must support a simple and low tech solution enabling the enterprise to continuously refresh the content. Continuous app and content updates are the “attention economy currency” required to engage the customer, reinforce the value of the relationship and sustain the customer’s loyalty and attention.

The SwitchCase Solution – Branded Mobile Apps

The SwitchCase Group has developed an architectural solution to cost-effective mass customization of powerful and compelling branded mobile apps.

For each industry, a specific Framework is created that supports the features and capabilities which are required to build an engaging experience for the consumers in that industry.  That Framework is then continuously updated to add new features and services as the industry and the consumer’s expectation evolve. The Framework is built so that, for each enterprise, a specific branded apps is published for iPhone, Android and mobile web consumers.

Underlying the Framework is a sophisticated Content Management System (CMS) with a simple but powerful user dashboard.  The CMS allows each enterprise client to configure and control the branding, the look and feel, the suite of services delivered, the unique content and the consumer experience delivered by their branded app.  When their unique configuration and content is loaded into the framework, the result is published through the appropriate app stores.  That enterprise can now offer a completely customized and uniquely branded app for their consumers.

Once the app is published, the enterprise can (and must) continuously update the content of the app, delivering alerts, news, updates, music, videos, new products, and new services on a regular basis.  The CMS dashboard provides a simple and powerful tool for content updates.  No special technology expertise is required.

The SwitchCase Commitment

Deliver a powerful, compelling, and unique branded app for each client at an affordable price.

Continuously invest in and update the app Framework and CMS so that the app remains compelling to the consumer in a changing and dynamic environment.

Provide a powerful and easy-to-use dashboard that allows the enterprise to retain their customer’s attention and loyalty by constantly delivering new value.

Enable the SME to compete and thrive in the new Attention Economy.

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