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Apps: the secret to marketing?
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Apps: the secret to marketing? 

Apps represent an opportunity for brands to convey their message quickly and easily. Yusuf Bhana, digital marketing manager, TranslateMedia, believes that apps are the latest marketing tool for companies. He offered his advice on how to use them effectively to reach consumers.

Deciding to create a mobile application might be simple for a company. However, the difficult part comes when the business must choose which type of app it wants to launch. “App development can be expensive, so launching into production without establishing objectives would be foolish,” Bhana said. “Businesses that are considering an app should conduct research to identify whether there is demand for the app and if so, what functionality is required to be delivered by users.” He added, “By looking at how users are interacting with their desktop or mobile sites, and by checking which devices are being used to access these sites, businesses should be able to identify the types of customers to target, the functionality to include and the platforms and devices to support.”

Bhana provided the example that a business engaged in the social media sphere should launch an app that makes it easier to connect with the user’s friends and family. A game would be a natural fit for a video game retailer, and an e-commerce site would be an appropriate app for an online store. “Mostly, it’s important that the app provides a benefit to users while solving a business problem and providing a return on investment,” Bhana commented.

What features should an app possess if it will be used as a marketing tool? “The usual factors that affect uptake of technology should always be considered which include visual attractiveness, ease of use, speed, usefulness and cost,” Bhana remarked. In addition, developers must build a capability within the app that allows it to share content with others. “The more people that use the app and talk about it with their friends and family, the more likely it is to attract new users. Building social sharing tools into apps should help increase shares….and attract new users,” he noted.

Businesses must also consider the nature of their market before launching an app. Bhana pointed out that English speakers comprise less than 30% of the total number of Internet users globally. “By only releasing an English language version of the app, businesses may be missing huge opportunities,” he warned. Although it might be tempting to translate the app’s user interface into other languages during the development process, Bhana suggested carrying out market research first. “Before embarking on a global app localisation project, it is important to establish a presence in your domestic market. If the app isn’t successful locally, then it’s probably unlikely to succeed globally,” he said. Bhana recommended utilizing the domestic market as a laboratory. “You can test new ideas and improve the app’s functionality and as a springboard to launching globally,” he remarked.

Marketing the app is the next step after development. Bhana offered some advice on how to promote a mobile application. “One of the best ways to gain initial interest is by contacting prominent journalists and bloggers in the target regions within the relevant business areas to see if they can provide any exposure,” he commented. After gaining press exposure, Bhana advised optimizing the entry in the app store by populating the title and keyword fields with terms associated with similar applications. “Research into the key terms used in various languages and regions would increase the likelihood of success,” he suggested.

Bhana urged marketers not to neglect a valuable tool: social media. “Creating some buzz and building a community on social media is another good way to gain exposure quickly and relatively cheaply,” he remarked. However, brands should not take a blanket approach. Bhana reminded marketers that social networks have become highly regionalized. While Facebook might be popular in the West, Sina and Weibo have the most users in China.

Although Bhana emphasized the importance of applications designed for local markets, he explained that it is not necessary to hire a team of multi-lingual developers. Instead, brands should focus on finding multi-lingual product and marketing managers. “Modern software is created in such a way as to allow for the separation of data and presentation,” he remarked, which eliminates the need for multi-lingual developers. “This means that the text that needs to be translated is normally separated from the logic and design of the app itself, often in a database or within XML or JSON files,” Bhana added. “The typical app translation process involves translating the text within these files and therefore requires little technical knowledge.” Product and marketing managers, conversely, should possess the requisite translation skills to enable the brand to introduce the app in different markets. Therefore, brands need to assemble a broad team to expand their global reach.

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