How To Fail at Mobile

Mobile software development takes persistence and patience and an innovative spirit to succeed.  The number one recipe for success is release, understand feedback and observed measurements and iterate.  Some companies seem far better suited to this model than others ones, but clear expectations, vision and persistence can bring success to a variety of mobile strategies in a variety of organizations.

There are many ways to fail.  Here are some you can avoid with understanding, planning and expectation setting.

Which way?

Don’t Measure

If you expect to learn anything from your efforts, take the time to build in the hooks to appropriately measure your application.  Understand what people do, who those people are and how they relate to your mainline business.

If you propose to support transactions on your mobile platform, who are those custotmers?  Is a positive, but less than online conversion rate for customers good?  Some in your organization will slap one another on the back and assume that you’ve succeeded if you convert some, but less customers on your mobile platform.  Did you succeed?  Unless you understand your customers and your app’s usage, your results are inconclusive.  Be honest about the data and seek deep understanding.  If you don’t have the time to measure, you probably don’t have the time to succeed.

  • Are the mobile conversions incremental to your business?
  • Are the customers that “should” be converting in the mobile client, but not converting going elsewhere or to your “main” system?
  • If your mobile app targets a more immediate need, i.e. people need your product immediately because they are mobile, is accepting a lesser conversion rate for mobile transactions acceptable?

Get Caught in the Religious War

HTML5?  Native Apps?  Hybrids? determine a strategy and go.  If you believe mobile is valuable to your business, try to create that value.  Measure your response and continue to work on your pitch.  Technology rarely stands still.  If you’re waiting for your internal technology to be “ready” or waiting for some magical universal technology to make everything easy, universal, better or whatever there will be another glittering technology on the horizon.

Let App Store Comments Determine Your Fate

The app store comments will provide good feedback and terrible feedback all wrapped in one neat little package.  Don’t dismiss it and don’t take it too seriously, but struggle to understand the message.  In every one-star slam, there may be the kernel of improvement.  Understand what your customers want, rather than what they’re complaining about.  If your users seem off the mark, how can you educate them or get the app in the hands of the people it is targeted toward?  Bad comments may simply be the result of mismatched experiences and expectations.  Align the users and the application and perception will improve without writing another line of code.

Don’t Promote

Promote your application to the people you targeted it towards.  If you’re building a brand extension app for a specific purpose and have a channel to promote it to the people who will likely find it useful, use that channel.  You can stack the deck in your favor in terms of app store perception.  Research has shown that the expectation of a bad experience creates a bad experience, and conversely, the expectation of a good experience creates a better experience.  Get your app into the hands of the people who will have the best experience with it tell them what to expect and how the app will help them.

Don’t Iterate

If you don’t have resources to continue to make progress on the application, maybe you shouldn’t have started.  No application hits the market perfectly, and software never gets better without intentional effort, feedback and iteration.  If the comments show that you’re on to something for some set of people, figure that out and make it better.  If you miss the mark for others, understand them and set a course for the next release.

Don’t Innovate

Your business may be cut-and-dried, but the effect of mobile may reach beyond transactional power.  Brand loyalty and customer acquisition costs are high in many industries.  Assigning correct value to creating improved customer experiences, reduced customer service cost and a feeling of consistent customer support may help you better understand your mobile strategy.  Looking at your app as a marketing tool and a brand extension tool rather than an engine of direct transactions could be helpful.  On the other hand, maybe you are about driving transactions at this moment at the customer location.

There is no question that mobile is a bit different animal than your current business.  You have an opportunity to be a leader and ride the mobile buzz.  Contact me for more information on I can help your mobile strategy succeed.  You can reach me at matt at