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Mobile apps…marketing ploy or killer app?

Posted in: Marketing, sales and PR
13 comment

I’m not a big fan of discreetly planting marketing messages in social media so I’ll start with the main reason for this post which is our business app Sage 50 Accounts Mobile. The mobile service was originally launched the service in August 2011 and is compatible with our latest version of our accounts software,  Sage 50 Accounts 2012.

We’ve also just launched our new iPad optimised version and our mobile activity overall has been something really exciting to be part of. I therefore thought I’d use my experiences to share some thoughts around developing an app and how to go about… especially if you want to avoid it just being an expensive marketing tool.

What’s your mobile strategy?

Our increasing reliance and indeed personal attachment to mobile devices means I’m continuously met with instant interest and enthusiasm wherever I’ve been to talk about Sage 50 Accounts Mobile. I also heard a lot of interesting views and questions – one in particular that got me thinking was whether or not our new app was actually just a glorified marketing tool.

You can judge whether the answer was a yes or no from this post but it’s an interesting topic given that many businesses could be forgiven for being wooed by the perceived customer reach of certain app stores and the glamour of having a glossy app to your name.

There are a range of reasons why venturing into app space may benefit your business but in 99% of cases those reasons should be because it brings some form of benefit to your customers (or potential customers) in a way that outweighs the investment and on-going management involved.

What is your strategy and your objectives?

The web is littered with advice on having a clearly defined strategy if you’re considering mobile applications as a route to market. Indeed there are plenty of big brands who haven’t bothered developing applications because their strategies have been to instead focus on delivering other online experiences as priority.

Marks and Spencer is a great example. If you want to buy online from M&S, there isn’t an app for that. M&S have focused instead on delivering a great generic mobile commerce experience  (check out the M&S mobile site) – which of course is compatible cross platform via any mobile browser. It ensures they have the best range of tools in place to maximise sales conversion through whatever medium you decide to buy through (which is of course one of their key objectives).

Another good example is my preference to have a shortcut to the BBC News mobile site on my phone home page rather than the official Android BBC News app. The app looks nice but it’s a clear case of being able to get what I need quicker from an existing service (the mobile site) than an app.

So it’s worthwhile assessing as part of your potential solution whether or not you can actually provide something that adds value to your customers and provides something they can’t already get elsewhere.

Deloitte recently highlighted the pitfalls of big brands developing applications and how tough it is to actually make a success of your app – many of these challenges apply to anyone looking to develop an app in an already crowded market place.

Why introduce a Sage app?

From a Sage perspective we knew we could never recreate the rich experience of Sage 50 Accounts desktop software via a mobile device (particularly a smartphone). We also knew that:

  • existing customers wanted remote access to something that was simple and quick to use
  • they wanted access to key top line data and
  • new users within the businesses we support wanted access to business data without the working knowledge of the full version of Sage 50 Accounts 2012.

Developing a mobile service that connected live with Sage 50 Accounts 2012 meant we could achieve many of these objectives.

Sage 50 Accounts mobile app

If you’ve got a clear strategy and business objectives then you should be able to relate any mobile based activity directly back to those plans – in the same way that any product, marketing or sales activity should be directly linked in whatever format it’s delivered.

Be brave

You shouldn’t be afraid to take brave decisions and either decide applications aren’t for you or even be willing to walk away from development mid-way through a project if it’s not clear where you’re going.

It’s very easy not to think clearly when there is so much clamour around mobile. This year’s tech predications continue to mention mobile http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-16288247

In terms of our own strategy, we are clear that we want to make desktop data more readily available to our customers wherever they are and whenever they want. We aim to make Sage products more relevant to a wider audience within our existing customers and in turn attract new users of Sage. This strategy is of course strongly supported by growing demand from customers and greater evidence that the way businesses work is changing.  Delivering access via Mobile helps us to achieve these objectives.

Geoff Philips, Mobile Apps Team

Posted in: Marketing, sales and PR
13 comment

Comments

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  • http://www.suntico.com Hugh Johnson (@hughcjohnson)

    Geoff – you raise some interesting questions.

    My views -

    1. Mobility is really important – so the ability to conduct and monitor business on the move will move (in 2012 I reckon) from “wouldn’t it be nice if….” to “essential”.

    2. There are a number of technical options – from iPhone and/or Android app to the Marks & Spencer example. My personal view is that HTML5 will take a very large slice of the business apps because it simplifies device management and security of data, and in one go solves the problem of letting staff use their favorite mobile device (who knows – in a couple of years, iPhones may seem rather passé).

    3. Your original question is interesting – I have not done (but would consider) an iPhone app as a front-end to our cloud services purely for the marketing exposure possible through the Apple App Store.

    By the way – I think the Sage 50 mobile app is a great app that serves a particular purpose very well.

  • http://www.sageerpx3.com/ Bruno Gonzalez

    Hi Geoff,

    thank you for this interesting topic !

    It is indeed true that mobile strategy is key. We encounter everyday apps that are a disappointment for the editor, as it is just a presence in a store. It may be seen more as a branding approach rather than a real user centric experience.

    But branding is a good strategy too. Showing your presence and being active are real indicators for customers

    I think it is a matter of being aware of your market you are targetting.
    Even if some businesses have real needs covering all markets:
    - All warehouses needs at some point interactions between a barcode reader and the ERP system. Why not providing this in real time ?
    - Same things for sales reps: Isn’t it a boost to have live inquiries of prices, stock availibility, CRM, without carrying tons of papers and catalogues ?

    Not all markets has the same potential. For instance, if you want an Ipad app that can do dashboards, inquiries, etc. The US market will clearly be a better choice that the European market, as tablets and smartphones are not yet clearly entered in the work mentality of most companies.
    Maybe a cross platform would be a better choice then for Europe ?

    Finally, we could also discuss:
    - about ROI for editors as well as users,
    - Pros & cons about Cross-platform or dedicated systems approach

    Anyway, as Geoff pointed out, mobility is a real challenge that cannot be left aside.

    Thanks again for sharing your experience !

  • http://www.clearhill.co.uk John

    This app has got real potential. User interface is good and simple. However, I can’t use it as we store our Sage Data on a server and that means I can’t use the app. This is pretty poor as I would imagine a lot of SMEs would have their data on a server.

    I was love Sage to sort this.

  • admin

    Thanks for the comments to date everyone – very interesting thoughts and value your input.

    I’ll be posting a few more thoughts in coming weeks around experience such as build, promotion and measurement so I’ll share some thoughts then around things like HTML5 and indeed brand reach.

    John – having data on your server should not exclude you from using the app, indeed it should make your access even easier but I’m not sure on your exact circumstances so if you don’t mind I will arrange for one of our customer services guys to give you a call and investigate.

    Geoff Phillips, Sage 50 Accounts Mobile Team

  • alex kidney

    I have installed SAGE 50 2012 but cannot get the SAGE 50 mobile up and running. The SAGE Secure Gateway will not start and the control panel will open, but I cannot select any configuration items. Neither will SAGE 50 2012 allow me to register my SAGE Passport information – it just gives an application error. I was on SAGE 50 2010 before but was sold this upgrade based on the mobile application, which would be great as this is for a small charity. However, after two weeks and hours on the phone with SAGE it still does not work.

  • Geoff Phillips

    Hi Alex – sorry to hear you’ve been having problems. I believe one of our R&D team is trying to set up a time to investigate further but please email me directly if I can help any more. Hope things are resolved soon.

    Geoff

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