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Brands beware the mobile app

Not every mobile app is worth building and investing in the wrong app can waste resources and damage brands, says Gartner research director RICHARD MARSHALL.

There is an app frenzy at the moment that’s leading many companies to rush into building apps because they feel they have to be on trend. But if an app is going to succeed, there must be a good reason for it to exist, and for people to download and use it. For example it might seem like a great idea for an insurance company to release an app that their customers can use after a car accident, to record all the information they need. But nobody ever plans to have an accident so who’ll download an app to help them manage one? Apps that will be used seldom or never are not worth building. In many cases a mobile web site will do the job more effectively and cost a lot less. Apps are an expensive investment and they need constant maintenance and tuning if they’re to work properly on multiple smartphone platforms. Companies need to take a systematic approach to identifying useful app opportunities and calculating the likely ROI and to broaden their focus beyond consumer-facing apps. Sales force automation is one area where a well-designed mobile app can deliver solid commercial returns. Cadbury South Africa increased their van sales by 450% in six months by giving drivers an app that enabled them to check inventory and pricing in real time, process orders and print instant invoices. Apps can deliver real business value. But they must be well planned and executed, and properly maintained and updated. * Richard Marshall will present a session at the Symposium on calculating app ROI, as well as a workshop on how to identify the business processes that are the best candidates for mobilisation. * For more about Gartner Symposium/ITxpo Africa, to be held at the Cape Town International Convention Centre from 16 18 September, visit


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