Digital companies are adapting to the shifting boundaries of digital technologies by pursuing continuous innovation strategies. Any organisation needs to develop their web presence to foster new channels of customer engagement and product distribution.
In this context, an app provides an interesting marketing mix. An app is both a Product and a Place (or a means to reach our customers). An app has a unique revenue model (Price) and is in itself a Platform for other services (Promotion). An app, therefore is a whole marketing framework, requiring a uniquely oriented mindset.
In this post, we are going to discuss app development and present some practices that can help you develop a great app.
Here’s a breakdown of this post’s content:
1. A few quick facts about apps and the app market.
2. When apps are “a solution in search of a problem”, you are off to a rocky start.
3. How to come up with an app idea that people will be willing to purchase.
4. Best design practices, and wireframing elements to put your idea onto paper.
5. Revenue models, and in purchase apps to fund your app development.
Before getting too excited, we need to realise that the app business is often seen the new frontier of a get-rich-quick scheme. In the early days, apps have provided great first-mover advantages to those who have dared to enter this market when entrepreneurs had little or no knowledge of its potential.
Now, 10 years down the road, we can’t keep thinking that developing an app is, by all means, a form of innovation. On the contrary, apps are a saturated market, with a threshold to access which is getting lower every day.
By no means we intend to discourage you, but here are some quick facts to put your ambition in check.
If this has not made you change your mind you are in the right track. Now think of your business as a boat sailing onto the ocean, sailing away from red oceans and always seeking blue oceans. Red oceans are highly competitive markets which rely on fierce competition to acquire or maintain market share. This is where we find large and small players alike competing in price, adopting cutthroat techniques.
What we’re looking for instead are blue oceans or untapped pockets of market potential. In many cases, this can be done “simply” by changing our mindset.
Blue Ocean Strategy is a management theory which provides many insights and visual tools to help founders create value and reduce costs, by applying a create\eliminate, increase\decrease framework in order to generate demand and maintain a 10 to 15-year early mover advantage into the newly created ocean of value and opportunity. However, this value innovation approach is hardly followed by entrepreneurs, who instead start the race from the finish line and move backwards.
Start with a problem, not with a solution. In my experience as a business angel, I’ve often met teams of founders starting from technological innovation (such as for instance ‘blockchain’) and then moving back towards the provision of an online service. This approach does not lead to understanding what jobs your customers are looking to get done, and therefore does not lead to a persuasive value proposition.
We need to start with understanding human behaviour and customer behaviour before we can understand what kind of technology may help us provide value and reduce costs.
So in this crowded market space, what can we do to come up with a successful app? In order to understand this question, at the most basic level, we need to study consumer behaviour, by delving into human behaviour. While we answer this question we need to realise that we might be discussing two separate tracks: (1) how to start a digital business, and (2) how to design a digital product. In most cases, the two things overlap because many companies are founded in the perspective on launching a product. In this post, we discuss how to start your own digital business and using crowdfunding to test its potential.
Focusing on the creation of a digital product, we need to consider the following:
1. In order to help our customers, we have to understand their needs.
2. In order to understand their needs, we need to understand their behaviour.
3. To understand their behaviour we need to understand their culture.
Simple enough, right? Well yes. But here’s the catch: all cultures are different. If you rely too much on the culture dimension you risk developing a hard-to-scale product. This is no small issue, as an app is the perfect packaged item to be downloaded and adopted worldwide.
This is why the 67 Human Universals are our starting point. These universals relate to needs and habits which are found universally across the globe. This is a good place to start in order to develop an app which potentially appeals to a wide audience: humanity.
You need to start from a wide audience, because as you develop your product, you will need to pick niches and market segments, restricting your market every step of the way.
But here’s the real challenge…
Not only you need to develop an app which may be interesting for a wide audience of individuals, but you also need to make sure, but the app is also worth paying for.
In order to address this additional challenge, we can rely on Maslov’s Hierarchy of Needs Theory.
According to Maslov’s Hierarchy of Needs, not all of our needs and behaviours are on the same level, there is a very strict hierarchy to follow when we satisfy our needs. Starting from the most urgent, the order goes as follows:
Pursuing the satisfaction of needs which are universal and low in the hierarchy of human needs will allow us to develop apps that will help our customers solve urgent needs, and become more willing to pay for our products.
Going through the challenges of the previous paragraph will require a lot of effort, but on the bright side, once you have figured out what problem you are going to devote your time to, you will be able to start creating your unique solution.
The next step is making the intangible, tangible.
To approach app design, we don’t need to be developers, “just” creatives. There are a million ways to design an app, and we need to navigate through each option to develop the best app design possible.
Wireframing can help you create the user interface and realise the vast possibilities when it comes to displaying information, images and menus within a very limited ‘screen real estate’. If you’d like to try it out, with Balsamiq.com it’s fairly easy to get started and try it out with your own hands.
Don’t worry you don’t have to start from scratch, Google is here to help you with a list of best practices to follow. Here’s a link to their data-driven guide.
This research analysed 6 areas where design and workflow optimisation impact on the app’s functionality and user experience. Here’s a short summary of what you can find on Google’s guide to UX optimisation.
As we’ve seen in the article on the Business Model Canvas, as we try to give our best answers to our start-up questions we need to take into account revenue streams.
In the case of digital apps, there are three revenue models which can be applied, aside from the vast variety of hybrid models.
Here are the most notorious revenue models:
As the AC\DC used to say, “it’s a long way to the top if you wanna rock and roll“. Coming up with an App is not a technological challenge, as much as anthropological one. In a market that is growing more and more ‘red’ because of competition (in the words of Blue Ocean Strategy), we need to find new mindsets to innovate the way we serve our customers.
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