Mobile usage is growing at a fast pace -- in fact, adoption of this platform is happening quicker than any other technology in the last century. Despite that, mobile revenue has a long way to go to catch up. Combine these facts with the complexities of the mobile experience and its multiple levels of fragmentation (e.g., delivering to multiple devices, to multiple operating systems, and to consumers who are experiencing and using these devices in very different ways), and it is crucial that app publishers build appropriately from the ground up. Even more importantly, the management piece of the equation is imperative for a brand achieving ROI. Brands must have flexible iteration, respond to analytics, and adjust appropriately to keep users engaged and maximize monetization.
Do not build to the least common denominator
When building an app, you must optimize for the best experiences and adjust from there. For example, start with high-quality images for the new iPad and make sure that they render well across all devices, rather than starting with the lowest device capabilities. Also, you need to optimize videos across iOS and Android, as they behave differently from one another (and even differently on the multiple versions of the operating systems), and the experience must be fluid across the board.
Define your KPIs
Do this in the planning process and make sure your analytics enable you to track to these metrics and adjust if you're falling short. These KPIs may be traffic or engagement and directly or indirectly tied to monetization and media -- as a result, you have to adjust these differently. For example, you may find your users are spending time or -- even more importantly -- not spending time in sections of your apps differently than you had predicted. In understanding the factors, you can place your best ad inventory where your users are spending time, bringing value to the advertisers as well as the consumers.
Account for the sources of traffic
Mobile web users often come from sources such as social media and come in for specific bits of information while app users have proactively gone to the app or come in from a push alert and will have a deeper experience. Media companies such as E! have come to realize this by paying close attention to the analytics. The E! brand has built its mobile web experience to optimize for both quick hits and for its apps (e.g., "The Soup" and "Fashion Police") to be much more engaging and deep.
Know consumer usage patterns and habits
Understand how consumers use different devices and platforms differently and match monetization to each of them. With this knowledge, brands have built specific experiences into their different platforms so the users get what they need from the platforms -- quick hits on mobile, deeper engagement on tablets. For example, Art.com's mobile web is a version of its commerce site, but it has created an engaging art experience in its iPad app, "Art Circles."
Respond to consumer feedback and iterate
Comments in the app stores are invaluable feedback that cannot be ignored and must be addressed. As an example, Little Brownie Bakers launched the "Cookie Locator" app to enable consumers to find local Girl Scout cookie sales. By listening to feedback, the company realized the messaging within the app did not clearly articulate some of the geographic limitations of the information it provided (the information wasn't comprehensive for all U.S. regions) and was able to improve the messaging for regions it did not cover, thereby driving stronger engagement by improving the experience and communication.
Capitalize on mobile-specific opportunities
Use mobile-specific opportunities such as push notifications and location to drive usage and engagement. In viewing analytics, many of our clients clearly see the traffic driving impact of push notifications. By understanding the impact, brands can drive certain behaviors -- specifically those that positively impact monetization and ROI -- by planning campaigns effectively and matching them to advertising opportunities. Location can also be a key feature in terms of driving usage in different locations and time zones to foster cross-channel campaign effectiveness.
Whether you're a content company or a marketer, the time is now to make mobile a key part of your mix. Consumers are there and spending more and more time on both mobile phones and tablets. The multiple levels of fragmentation starting with devices, operating systems, versions, displays, and formats will only get longer. By understanding that mobile will be an ongoing and iterative process from the beginning, and managing to those changing conditions, you'll be able to maximize your ROI over time. Build apps and mobile web flexibly so that you can respond both to changing and emerging landscape. Pay close attention to analytics and make the necessary changes so you can drive the behaviors that lead to the metrics that enable you to turn these assets into valuable assets and long-term plays for your business.
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"Smartphone earning money" image via Shutterstock.