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What are your options for Mobile app development?

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What are your options for Mobile app development?
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Connecting loyalty program members to your brand via a mobile device makes sense. The question is: do you develop your own custom app or select a mobile web solution? Or, do you consider a third option, more prevalent today than ever, by working with pre-built mobile apps from a  solutions provider that are customized to meet your specific needs?

Determining the best choice among the three paths can be debated, and it’s clear the decision process for establishing a mobile presence is worthy of some planning cycles.

As mobile phone penetration has increased, the need for brands to create a communications channel via the mobile handset has become more important. The tipping point occurred during 2012 as smartphone penetration in the US surged over 50% among all mobile phone users.

The Millennial group we began to study in 2005 are now grouped between ages 25 – 36. Their careers have taken flight and purchasing power is growing each year. Brands operating loyalty programs need to meet their preference for rewards that are portable and able to be used at the time of purchase, but also communicate clearly and deliver a customer experience with ease and utility.

At the recent LoyaltyExpo in Orlando, two mobile solutions providers were in attendance, Omnego and Mobilozophy. I had the opportunity to interview Peter Maselter, Director of Business Development at Omnego and learned more about the rapidly expanding space.

Omnego builds apps that open up new pathways for communications with customer groups. According to Peter, the platform supports expected wallet features including digital coupons, offers, gift, loyalty and payments cards. More importantly, their apps enable a business to originate digital artifacts in other marketing channels (email or SMS campaigns, websites, Social Media, Direct mail, etc.) and issue those artifacts, from the original channel, to the consumer’s mobile app. For example, a business could send a digital notice to vote on a topic, enter a contest or take a survey.By engaging the mobile user with relevant and timely information, brands can increase conversion rates among customers using the mobile app and closer to achieving a 1:1 relationship with its customers. 

As proof positive, Peter shared that the app launched for Scrubs & Beyond, a provider of medical uniforms and related products (online presence plus 27 retail outlets) has led to thousands of app installs in the 3 months since launch. Adoption is continuing at a fast pace and about 50% of the app users are “active users” (defined as accessing the app at least 1 x / month). Peter shared two other examples of how their apps are driving mobile customer engagement in different settings. You can read here to see how Indiana State Teachers Association is using what it considers a “mobile engagement app platform” built by Omnegoand also watch this video describing how Bell & Howell is using its apps to deliver mobile statements (Utility Bills) with in-app payment and monthly bank statements.

While some organizations find that a mobile web solution is sufficient to meet needs of their customer groups, they can also be viewed as a starting point in mobile communications. In time, some brands demanded more, and many chose to develop bespoke mobile apps via offshore outsourcing.

Omnego and others in its category are offering standardized, mobile apps that encompass the majority of the feature set demanded by mobile users.  Reduced cost to build and launch, quicker time to market (weeks vs. months), and less complex integration with existing business systems are all benefits of the model.  Working with an app provider, the business can be freed from maintenance and upgrade issues in order to keep up with changes to iOS, Android, Blackberry and Windows operating systems.

Peter told me that even organizations that first went down the path of implementing a mobile web solution can leverage that investment and integrate their mobile web solution into the Omnego mobile app platform. Scrubs and Beyond is one example of an organization that followed this path.

Positioning the mobile app as an enabler and central point of 2-way communications with your brand is a powerful idea. Finding the right solution for your own mobile strategy deserves time and thought. The category of mobile app developers is still in a youthful stage, but holds promise to allow your business to tend to its core needs while leaving mobile to the experts.

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