Every week as SmallBizLady, I conduct interviews with experts on my Twitter talk show #SmallBizChat. The show takes place every Wednesday on Twitter from 8-9 pm ET. This is excerpted from my recent interview with Michael Annichine – @MetroMeVIP, a seasoned entrepreneur with over 20 years’ experience developing businesses. Michael is currently the CEO of FlyerCity Media, an interactive media and entertainment company with a multi-dimensional approach to mobile marketing. For more information www.metrome.com
SmallBizLady: How do I decide if my company needs and an app?
Michael Annichine: If the needs of your company aren’t being met by off the shelf products and you can justify the expense of building one with a realized savings, you may need to build an app. But, if you want to build an app for sale or distribution, then that’s a different conversation and a different set of questions. I would say that anyone who wants to be relevant to a mobile consumer needs to have one. For instance when building MetroMe, we looked very hard at what activity users were performing on the web and what things we could translate to real time in order to enhance their experience – those are the things we wanted to put into the app and then we tied the two together.
SmallBizLady: How much should I expect to pay to have an app built?
Michael Annichine: Depending on their functionality, many apps can be built for $5k-$50k but if you want complex functionality you could very easily spend 5 or even 10 times that.
SmallBizLady: What’s the biggest mistake you see companies make when building an app?
Michael Annichine: I don’t feel comfortable commenting on mistakes other companies make but I can tell you that aggregating multiple activities seems to me to be a must for mobile consumers in today’s world. We seem to be inundated with apps for every activity, but the more we can simplify our consumer’s lives by putting multiple activities into one place, the better we will position ourselves to add real value to their lives and build that customer loyalty that seems so elusive in the mobile app market today. What we’ve attempted to do with MetroMe, for example, is to consolidate and meet the various planning needs associated with traveling to and in an unfamiliar city.
SmallBizLady: What user needs should I make sure to address with an app?
Michael Annichine: You have to be realistic – what needs does your product or service address now for the customer, and are there any partner services that will be required to address those needs if the user is not at their desk or in their home or in your store or wherever your marketplace is now.
SmallBizLady: How can I decide if I need an app or just a mobile website?
Michael Annichine: That is tricky because I have seen some mobile web sites that work great, but I think the question you need to ask is what does the user experience look like and is that an acceptable level of service? Reporting to a customer can often be easily handled by a mobile site but if real customer interaction is your goal, then the app is definitely the way to go.
SmallBizLady: What are the limitations of using a DIY turnkey solution for my app?
Michael Annichine: I don’t know I have never used a turnkey solution. My guess is that they would be hard to aggregate multiple activities since most are built for very simple one product, one app purpose. A pro might be that they have UI strategies based on best practices and commonly accepted customer behaviors – so my guess is that you will have to individually weigh the pros and cons.
SmallBizLady: How can I convert app users into customers?
Michael Annichine: The app itself should have some inherent design to do that but realize, if the app user is not a customer and you don’t have a conversion strategy, then maybe the app is not needed for your core business and maybe it’s just a great hobby app. I would think through that conversion strategy before I built my app.
SmallBizLady: How do I get attention for my app?
Michael Annichine: There are lots of mobile platforms to get attention to your app. You can buy downloads, advertise on mobile banners or in games – I think you should think of your customers and where their eyeballs are, to develop a strategy to gain attention and then look for a simple customer friendly user interface to gain traction.
SmallBizLady: What’s the best way to integrate my app into my overall digital strategy?
Michael Annichine: Decide what percentage of revenue your app users will account for and then appropriately section off a percentage of your digital budget for that, I would say the same holds true for traditional media as well. Also figure out what customers really will use the app for vs. your web services and cater your advertising to those services.
SmallBizLady: What standards should I use to gauge the success of the app?
Michael Annichine: Many metrics already exist and you should be measuring all of them – you will know which ones matter most to you but some key things that we measure are: daily active users, duration per use, customer engagement or percentage of active user to downloads, customer migration (what pages within the app are customers hitting most) and revenue trends, customer acquisition costs relative to long term value.
SmallBizLady: How can I maximize end-user engagement?
Michael Annichine: That’s the secret sauce and if I could tell you I would be picking lottery numbers as we speak! You will need a really good user friendly user interface to start and then the content and the interactive touch points from there will depend on your product
SmallBizLady: How do I decide which platform to build on?
Michael Annichine: As many as you can. Why would you limit your market by building an app for IOS and Android when Windows seems to be making a comeback? With some of their new phones, Windows will likely make a push for some market share, but you definitely want IOS and Android, too because they both have lots of customers.