Archive for September, 2010

The costly risk of ignoring Wapps…

Posted: September 29, 2010 in Mobile
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[tweetmeme source= “jsnrss” only_single=false]A problem is looming of the scale of the Betamax vs VHS HDDVD vs Blueray days. With the mobile app market growing at an astonishing rate, the number of app platforms (iPhone, Android etc) to consider is increasing in complexity and Wapps (Web apps) might just prove to be the solution.

The problem
There is no denying the iPhone app market evolved much faster than anybody predicted. With over 250,000 apps on the iTunes app store today, their popularity is undeniable. The iPad has been another string to the app store success and ensures Apple will remain king of the hill for a while longer.

However, as time goes on and other mobile manufacturers refine their smartphone capabilities,  other app stores (Android Market,  Samsung Apps, Nokia Ovi Store and Blackberry Appworld for example) are gaining popularity and distorting the app  landscape. Smartphones are not the only devices distorting the landscape, as new tablets like the Blackberry Playbook and Samsung Tab emerge, ensuring that the confusion over ‘what platform to develop my app for?’ deepens – making the choice(s) potentially very costly.

To add to this, you have the big mobile operators (AT&T, Vodaphone, Orange, NTT DoCoMo, Verizon to name a few) joining forces trying to cash in on the mix by forming the Wholesale Applications Community [http://www.wholesaleappcommunity.com] aiming  to ‘provide greater choice for users by enabling portability of applications across devices, operating systems and network operators’.

The end result is an ever more complex landscape for deciding what mobile platform to develop for. Whilst this is lucrative great news for app developers, it makes the creation of mobile content (increasingly so) more costly.

Will Wapps be the answer?
Wapps – or Web apps – are nothing new, but they are the ‘not so spoken about’ alternative to developing apps. Wapps can provide the same user experience provided by apps but require nothing more than just pointing your mobile web browser at a URL (as opposed to actually downloading an app). Unlike device specific apps, Wapps are practically device independent and provide a very similar user experience to that of an app.

Apple for example has the (shhhh) Web apps store. Google does too – their whole Google experience (search, maps, gmail, iGoogle and more) is available as Wapps.

iPhone homescreen Google mail on iPhone screenshot

From a launch icons on the desktop through to a smooth browser based interface - Wapps provide a platform independent 'app experience' via a browser.

In summary
I am not saying that Wapps will not eradicate the need for apps  – they do have certain limitations such as they cannot (yet) cache local data – so would not be useful for apps that require offline availability for example.

But, I would argue that many apps installed on your phone today could have been developed as Wapps. This would not only make them immediately accessible  on most smartphones but from a cost point of view provides huge savings by eliminating the need to create an app per mobile platform.

As the number of mobile platforms increase and the better developers get at developing Wapps, the question won’t so much be “what platforms should I create my apps for” …but will more likely be “could my content be delivered as a Wapp instead”.

Not considering this could prove to be a very costly mistake.

[tweetmeme source= “jsnrss” only_single=false]Over the past few years there has been a subtle yet significant change in the communications agenda.

Taking a look back, it seems clear that many successful corporates have been busy understanding how to communicate their successes online; and from this, a form of ‘best practice’ approach has been created. Stakeholders sit at the heart of this approach. Just take a look at the similarities at the Bowan Craggs Index of Corporate Website Effectiveness Top 5Shell, BP, Siemens, Roche and Rio Tinto to see what I mean.

Whilst I don’t think that there is anything wrong with addressing investors, press, careers and communicating the business successes clearly (hell, one of those top 5’s is our doing!), I do think that change is upon us. In part this change is being driven by businesses starting to ask “where’s the ROI in spending on our online strategy?”.  But it’s also being driven by the good work that communication teams around the globe have been doing in implementing the best practice approach and are now all starting to ask “where to from here?!

So, where to from here indeed! Things like Social Networking and the CSR agenda have proved to be interesting interludes, but interestingly it’s the recession that has brought the next real agenda to the table – true alignment with business strategy.

Looking back, it’s easy to see why we are here too. After all how many CEO’s and executive boards really understand the benefits that online can bring to their businesses? How many agencies have even bothered pushing this angle? Knowing that it would fall on deaf ears, falling back to the common line – the stakeholders – has clearly been the easiest door to push against. Coupled with strong design and clarity of message, you can begin to see where todays best practices have derived from.

The recent downfall of a major UK company, Connaaught serves as a perfect example of this. They too have gone through the journey from poorly communicating their business to a place where their business is being very well represented today. Now, I’m not professing that ‘online strategy’ would have changed the outcome of their recent issues but certainly looking at their website today does give an indication of what they could have done differently online and indeed provides lessons for others to learn from.

Previous Connaught Website

The Connaught Website as it was just a few years ago

Connaught website today

Connaught website, as it is today - a much clearer presence, but is that what it's all about?

Being a company that services a diverse mix of end customers with a range of different services, Connaught spent little time leveraging their online presence to … SELL.

The site does ‘best practice’ very well – branding – tick; successes shared – tick; industry talk – tick; CSR agenda – tick! But this is yesterdays agenda drafted in a time when business was flowing. Today it has be about clarity and alignment with the broader business strategy. Selling and selling more must sit at the heart of this. Demonstrating your services and value. Leveraging your customer base to cross sell. Translating interest in your business into tangible business leads.

And this is the agenda that we see many more large businesses defining for their digital strategies. Taking it beyond the stakeholders. To focus less on delivering investors with new tools, communicating the latest CSR agenda or the organisational structure (after all, this is now simply – best practice!); and to focus more on bolstering the bottom line, turning interest in the business into interest for the business!