When I was in my undergrad for Marketing, I would often hear the phrase “What is your Social Media Strategy?”. Now back in mid 2000′s “social media” was just coming into existence and platforms like Facebook and Twitter were starting to become popular and widely adopted. It also seemed like individuals were quick to sign up for a Facebook or Twitter account and businesses slowly trailed behind a few months of even years later. I once had a conversation with a fellow marketing colleague about “What the heck does “Social Media Strategy” mean?!?!” We were puzzled at how to use this new and very powerful tool to market the companies we were working at. Slowly but surely we learned the power of the platforms and how they could be used to represent and market the companies. Now about 5 years later I am feeling a sense of deja vu when I now hear the similar phrase of: “What is your MOBILE strategy?”. Again it seems like users have been very quick to adopt apps and expecting that companies have apps just like they would have a website or a Facebook page.
In its very basic form having a mobile strategy is a way to interact with your customers through mobile devices, just as a social media strategy is a way to connect with customers through Facebook, Twitter, etc. One of the more common ways of interacting with your customers through their mobile devices is through developing a native mobile application. There are a number of powerful ways we can use a native mobile application to engage customers or even potential customers. I will outline these methods further below.
Another common way of interacting with your customers is through a mobile optimized website which allows your users to view your site easily and conveniently from their mobile devices. This often means you will have a website design for your large site on the web and then a nicely laid out design for your mobile users, as there is nothing worse than trying to view a website when it is not optimized for your phone! Many of our clients like to have their mobile website integrated into the native mobile apps that we build as well.
Native Mobile Applications
Here are a few reasons why developing a native app is very powerful for businesses and organizations:
1. Exclusive Functionality
Native apps can utilize hardware on the phone: GPS, and multi-touch capabilities. As a result, native apps allow for some of the most useful features that are not often available on the web. Native apps can also send text or video messages, modify phone content, read/write contacts, and more. This also enhances the app with potential features such as sharing and saving content, syncing data with contacts, etc. Native apps can also use push notifications, which notify the user about specific events of interest, such as alerts and reminders. It is a great way of getting the user’s attention when the app is not actively open.
2. Fast Operation
Native apps operate faster and often have smoother navigation. This is because they:
- Require less time for content to load; some is stored on the device rather than all on the web
- Designed to meet development standards and user expectations for each platform. Native apps are screened for quality before being allowed on the respective app stores, whereas web apps are not screened
- Allow for essential animations and graphics that enhance the user experience
3. Intuitive Design
Native apps are developed to meet the end users’ design expectations of each platform and are formatted to fit various screens. Meeting these expectations ensures that the apps are more intuitive, and easier to navigate.
4. Limited Internet Required
Content can be cached or stored on the app so that the user can access it without an Internet connection. This is great if you have customers in remote areas or employees that need access to materials when they are offline.
5.Speedy Platform Updates
Once a new platform update is released, our developers have access to guides that ensure they are updated on the latest features. This means users will get new features, sooner than web apps, without any bugs.
6. Mobile Coupons
Another great way to interact with your customers is through offering coupons in your mobile application. Paper coupons and flyers have been around for decades but have a low redemption rate. We were surprised to learn that on mobile devices they have a much higher redemption rate! The convenience of having a coupon right on your device is undeniable and this option is also great for companies who are conscientious of being “green”. One of our clients, Federated Co-operatives, have had great success with launching their coupons through their native mobile application.
7. Location Based Services
One of the really useful features these mobile devices have is the ability to utilize the GPS within the device. By users sharing their location retailers are able to push coupons, advertisements and flyers to their customers through their mobile devices. We are also able to use location based services to help users find places such as these apps we built for Affinity Credit Union, Co-op, Flaman, Ding Free and Credit Union Central of Canada.
8. Mobile Advertising
With users spending an increasing amount of time on their mobile devices, it is worth looking into the possibility of getting creative with mobile marketing. Short and effective advertising can be used to grab users attention and call for their action.
Hopefully this post will get you thinking about your Mobile Strategy and how native mobile apps can play a big part of that initiative. If you would like to learn more about a customized mobile app for your company or organization, don’t hesitate to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 1-800-298-7081 ext 720.
With Apple’s introduction of the iPhone back in 2007 and Google releasing the Android just a year later, no longer is it possible to escape the world of the smartphone. What was once reserved for the aristocrats and Blackberry was the undisputed king, this marvel of technology is fitted in the pockets of millions around the world today. Whether at a social event, at the workplace, or even at Thanksgiving dinners, a heated discussion often arises; which is the best smartphone? Everyone has an opinion on the matter, ranging from people that develop mobile applications to those that only understand how to unlock the phone, make phone calls, and maybe even send text messages (albeit with proper grammar enforcement, I’m looking at you dad). Open vs closed operating system, free vs freemium vs premium games, software quality vs quantity are just some of the typical discussion I’ll hear about on a semi-regular basis but one contender has always been omitted in these “friendly” banters; the Windows Phone.
Showing up fashionably late to the game, Microsoft’s successor to its Windows Mobile platform is a phone that people should keep in mind while running through the shopping list this holiday season for that tech-savy special someone. It integrates quite nicely with other Microsoft services such as Xbox Live and Azure (think iCloud from Apple). It’s attractive, dynamic tiles on the home screen alone seems a generation ahead of it’s iOS counterpart and the option to apply colour themes is something that Android users are fond of. Despite the general consensus, the phone’s store or Marketplace as it’s called, is ripe with applications including games. Some of the notable mentions are Angry Birds, Plants vs Zombies, and Cut the Rope which all work just as well as on other platforms and is backed by major mobile game app vendors including Electronic Arts and Gameloft. The Windows Phone is also an attractive solution in the business sector, each one coming bundled with Microsoft Office. Those with Windows Phone 8 devices can also be assured that their data is secure, having been accredited with the prestigious FIPS 140-2 stamp of approval which is a U.S. government security standard that allows devices installed with the operating system to be sold and utilized by those employed by the government.
At a technical point of view, developing applications for the Windows Phone is better compared to other smartphones in a number of ways. Just like Android, the Windows Phone operating system is licensed by several third party manufacturers such as HTC and Nokia. The main difference here is that Microsoft has mandated a minimum hardware requirement for each iteration of the operating system, giving application developers a base to work on. With its powerful layout tools, applications can be designed to be (almost) completely resolution independent which is great for when supporting the tablet counterpart and to a certain extent, multiple screen orientation, both of which is a huge pain to handle on the iPhone when supporting versions prior to iOS 5. Personally, what I like most about developing for Windows Phone is the fact that both coders and designers can contribute to the project with their own separate development environments thanks to Microsoft’s inclusion of two IDE’s in the SDK. While programmers like myself can code the logic of the application using Visual Studios, a designer can use Expression Blend to develop the overall look and feel of the application. This does not limit the strength of either IDE’s as a person can develop the application entirely using one or the other, but someone exceptionally skilled can leverage the strengths of both IDE’s to reduce development time.
As much as I like the phone, both from a consumer and development perspective, it has a number of fallacies that prevent it from being exceptionally better than iOS or Android. First, Windows Phone 8 devices went on sale less than one year after its predecessor and yet those with 7 are unable to upgrade to the new version of the operating system making them obsolete, and I suspect the same will happen when 9 comes out. Secondly, many of the mandatory apps that come pre-installed on the phone such as Alarm, Calendar, and Hotmail inexcusably have a very poor user interface. In the case of Office, it lacks a substantial number of editing tools found in its desktop counterpart and the ones included are not intuitive to use. Until this changes, my only use for it is to open and view word documents while on the go. Finally, there are no games on the marketplace that stand out visually when compared to games on other mobile platforms such as Infinity Blade rendering the DirectX 9 GPU relatively untouched.
Despite these issues, I still consider the Windows Phone as a strong contender in the smartphone race. It combines strengths from both the Android and iOS operating systems as well as incorporates their proprietary UI framework ‘Metro’ to distinguish itself from other devices while making it familiar with people who use other Microsoft products, namely Windows 8 and Xbox 360. With its dedicated support for promoting the platform, as made evident by their recent acquisition of Nokia, Windows Phone is poised to continue earning a larger chunk of the international market. Without a crystal ball, it’s difficult to know for sure if the trend in sales will continue to be favourable for Microsoft in the long run, but at the pace it’s going, it’s only a matter of time before a friend or family member of yours will gloat to you about the new Windows Phone they have purchased.
Robert Kapiszka is a veteran software engineer at CollegeMobile. His work at the company includes developing RxFiles, Co-op, and the Affinity mobile banking application. He enjoys long walks on the beach, watching sunsets, and fighting crime at night as the cape crusader.
If you’re getting ready to have an app built for your company (or perhaps you already have one and are deciding on your next move), you’re probably asking yourself how you can convince consumers to use your app, in order to make it a worthwhile investment? The answer is to make use of habit forming techniques.
For a sales and services company, one of the best ways to entice users into using your application is savings. Provide them with discounts and monetary rewards, and you’ll see your application’s usage grow. Remember, every time somebody uses your application, they’ve seen your logo and your branding. You’re building and maintaining your customer base by encouraging more people to use your application. So, how can you make users come back to your application?
There’s a hot topic in technology and marketing called “gamification”. The idea of gamification is to make consumer experiences more fun and “game-like”. Some examples of this are McDonald’s yearly Monopoly game, collecting stamps or stickers to reach a free product (ex. buy eight coffees, get one free), and Tim Horton’s “roll-up-the-rim” promotion.
These types of promotions have very obvious benefits for these companies. At McDonalds, people get in the habit of collecting Monopoly pieces, and will go to McDonalds more and more frequently. On top of this benefit, they encourage customers to come back into the store by giving out frequent prizes that customers are unlikely to come to the store to claim, without buying more products.
How can you take advantage of ideas like this and what does this have to do with your mobile application? Ideas like this are easily translated to mobile applications.
Here’s a few examples I’ve come up with of how these techniques could be leveraged:
- Every time a customer makes a purchase at the store (of over X dollars) give them a token/code (perhaps on the receipt) that can be scanned with your mobile application for a reward (5% off the next purchase, for example).
- Give your customers the option to tweet about or share compelling parts of your application (deals or offers, for example), for in-app points. These points could be redeemed for money off, or to unlock additional offers, within the application. This, or a similar tactic, is employed by many viral marketing campaigns.
- Give your users in-app points for entering your store (using a technology like iBeacon alongside your app) that can be redeemed for rewards.
- Have special (more valuable) promotions that last only a short period of time (one day or even one afternoon) that are pushed as a push notification to the customer (note that it’s important not to push notifications to application users too frequently, or your application will quickly be uninstalled or silenced). This will encourage the user to interact with your application more frequently, for these big deals. Your cost would be relatively low, because a lower percentage of people will be able to take advantage of such a short term offer.
- Digitize any current promotions you have, to encourage more interaction with your application. For example, McDonalds could have a game board application for their Monopoly promotion. In this way they could have users interact with their application every time they wanted to add a Monopoly piece. As a side effect, users may look at other offers and content within the application.
These are just a few examples of how you could prepare your mobile application to take its next steps alongside your business. Simply building an application for the sake of having one will not cut it. You and all your competition will soon (if they don’t already) have mobile applications. Having an application with great user engagement and lots of functionality will help continue to grow and maintain your business.
A few blog posts ago we talked about how we were nominated for the ABEX award for Exports. Even though we do make a lot of apps outside of Saskatchewan, I wanted to highlight some of the Saskatchewan based organizations we have worked with in the past, as we have worked with many wonderful Saskatchewan-based clients. Some of the apps below will sound familiar as we featured them in our Saskatoon Mobile App Development blog post a few month ago, but we still wanted to highlight them along with the other great apps from Saskatchewan companies.
Flaman Group of Companies
Flaman is based in Saskatoon but has offices across Saskatchewan and even in BC, Alberta and Manitoba. Flaman worked with us to develop an application that would allow them to connect with their users, offering them information on what is currently available and featured in their catalog. They have a really diverse set of products that cater to very different audiences which made the app a challenge to design to meet all the needs. However, the resulting app seems to have captured the desired effect and covered all the different bases the client wanted to cover.
The app offers the following features:
•Find your local rental dealer
•Browse pre-owned and clearance inventory
•Download our catalogues
•Read the latest blog
•Watch our informative videos
•Find and contact your closest store
•Get notified about new deals and products
The Saskatchewan Party
The Saskatchewan Party is a Saskatchewan political party. In the previous election we worked with the SaskParty to build an app that would give Saskatchewan voters information about the party through a News Feed and Multimedia section. The app also gave users the ability to donate to the party, volunteer and even find out where they could cast their vote. The app was available for iPhone, BlackBerry and Android smartphones. We were honored to work with the SaskParty on their multi-platform mobile app to represent their party.
Wapos Bay is an award winning television series created by Saskatchewan-based Wapos Bay Productions. We worked with Wapos Bay Productions to launch the interactive multi-lingual iPad app for Wapos Bay TV Show. The app provided a read-along experience for users in Cree and English as the app was multi-lingual. The app was developed for iPad and targeted at a younger audience. Working with the creative people at Wapos Bay Productions gave us deeper insight into the creative process that artists go through to create TV programs.
Pinhead productions was the first company we worked with and they remain our customers to this day. The Regina-based company worked with us most recently on an app called Football Plays. Built for coaches, the app allows the user to define and save a play and then can see how a defense might react to that play if they were using Man-to-Man or Zone defense. There are more announcements coming around FootBall Playmaker-related projects, so stay tuned!
Prior to CollegeMobile being started several of the members of the CollegeMobile team worked on the first versions of the University of Saskatchewan mobile application iUsask. The app was released in 2009 by the University of Saskatchewan and was the first iPhone app in Canada targeting university students. The app and related work in the smartphone programming class which were also first of its kind in Canada were covered by CBC National, Macleans Magazine, Globe and Mail and many other media outlets across Canada. The app is available for iPhone and Android.
Trusted Online Directory
We also worked on the Trusted Online Directory. It’s an app which lists a set of local businesses across Saskatchewan which have undergone a vetting process to make their businesses trusted. The app features a directory with different businesses as well as a contest where you can win prizes. The app is available for iPhone and Android.
Federated Cooperatives Ltd
Federated Co-operatives, or Co-op as they are known to their customers, is a multi billion dollar company with over 3000 employees and over $7 billion in revenue in 2010. Their head office is based in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan and they have a number of offices across Canada. Co-op recognized the need to provide an app for their vast array of customers. The app we developed for Co-op was for all their locations across Canada. The Co-op CRS App offers features such as a locator that works no matter where you were in Canada, Coupons which can be redeemed just by showing them at the till, and flyers unique to each location. We worked closely with them to define what had to be shown in the app and what data was needed to make the app work across Canada. Working with a large organization, such as Federated Co-operatives, meant meeting with many stakeholders to design and build the application. The application is available for iPhone, BlackBerry, Android and Windows Phone platforms.
Affinity Credit Union
Another Saskatchewan based organization is Affinity Credit Union that offers financial services to members as well as typical banking services. They wanted to offer their members a banking app that had typical banking features but also wanted to include a new innovative feature that would be useful to their members. The new innovative feature was DepositAnywhere which allows you to deposit a cheque from the app, anywhere, any time by taking a picture of it. Affinity, along with two other Credit Unions, was the first in Canada to launch an app with this innovative feature. None of the Canadians financial institutions had this feature before the Credit Unions and CollegeMobile built Affinity’s application. Look for more innovations in the future from this Saskatchewan-based Credit Union. The Affinity Credit Union App is built for iPhone with Android and BlackBerry 10 coming soon.
NuuNest is another client based out of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. NuuNest is a company founded by two Registered Nurses/Lactation Consultants, Cindy and Jana, who have assisted over 20,000 families with their newborns in the first year of their lives. Over their many years of experience they continued to find that the same questions and concerns would come up over and over and there wasn’t a single source of trusted information they could point parents towards. Instead they had to point to many different pieces of information, some on paper and some scattered around the internet. Their app, NuuNest, brings together all of the helpful information in one place, gives timely baby care tips based on the age of your baby and also allows parents to track feedings, diapers and weight to help ensure their little one is on the right track for development. The application is available for iPhone.
Axon Development Corporation
Axon Development Corporation is another example of a company based in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan that needed a mobile app developed for its customers. Axon offers trucking software to trucking companies to help them keep track of shipments so the companies can get paid in a timely manner. By offering a mobile version of their software on iPhone, BlackBerry and Android phones it allows truckers in the field to enter in all the relevant information rather than having to wait until later to get paid. Axon’s trucking software is used extensively by trucking companies to help automate their workforce.
Another great Saskatoon-based organization is the Saskatoon based Saskatoon Regional Health Authority that wanted to work with us to build RXFiles. RXFiles is a popular information resource in the medical community that allows doctors to prescribe drugs properly by knowing the correct doses and side effects of each set of drugs. RXFiles worked with us to help define what software format would work best for busy practitioners and help to make the app the best fit for their client base. RX Files is available for iPhone, iPad and Android smartphones.
If you have a great app idea that you would like our CollegeMobile team to develop contact us at email@example.com or call 1-800-298-7081. We are always interested in hearing your great ideas and figuring out how a mobile app can solve your business problems!
BlackBerry has, in an explosive fashion, finally released BBM on Android and iOS. The popular chat application is now available for the two most popular smartphone platforms in the world. The Android application has exceeded 10 million downloads in just over 1 week (SOURCE). Between Android and iOS, BlackBerry claims to have added over 20 million new users to BBM since its launch (SOURCE). In its current form, BBM is simply an instant messaging application, a better way for two (or more) people to communicate. Many people have asked themselves what BlackBerry’s plans are. How do they intend to make money giving away a free application?
BlackBerry’s answer to making money with BBM isn’t news, although many people may have missed the announcement, made several months ago on May 14, 2013 at their BlackBerry Live event (this was the same time they announced their intentions to make BBM a cross-platform application). These two announcements coincided for a reason, BBM Channels is BlackBerry’s strategy for generating revenue from the millions of new BBM user’s they’re acquiring on Android and iOS. Currently, BBM Channels is only available with BBM for BlackBerry, and the feature is in beta.
While the app will always be free, Andrew Bocking, EVP of BBM for BlackBerry, appeared on CBC’s The Morning Edition and declared that “We have other ideas on how to monetize that service.” Bocking hinted at BBM Channels, BlackBerry’s new “social engagement platform within BBM.” This initiative was announced last May and allows users to expand the “BBM experience to brands, artists, businesses and communities, you will now be able to connect with individuals and groups in real time.” (SOURCE)
What are BBM Channels? At first glance you’d be reminded of both Facebook and Twitter. BBM Channels is an expansion of BBM that allows brands, figures, and businesses to connect with users of BBM. Having a BBM channel is similar to having a Facebook or Twitter account. You use your channel to garner followers, which you can then post to and interact with. The ways you can interact with your followers is what sets BBM Channels apart from Facebook and Twitter. The primary method will be through a “Post”. You can create a post, with or without an image title, including a description (of up to 400 characters). Posts can be compared to a short blog post, Facebook post, or tweet. One unique feature of BBM channels is that you can optionally turn on one-on-one chat with your channel followers. You can interact directly with your followers or customers.
As a brand, if you see BBM catching on with people in your target demographic, what should you do? It might be time to familiarize yourself with the technology. You should check out the BBM Channels beta, on BlackBerry 10, and get a feel for where the technology is headed and what opportunities it might present you to interact with your consumers.
BlackBerry’s game-plan is almost definitely to charge for “featured” or “sponsored” channels or channel posts to get high visibility to end users. However, it is free for any person or company to set up a channel, and to start reaching people today. Getting a head start with the new technology could prove valuable for any company, moving forward.
BBM Channel’s may soon become an integral part of a company’s mobile strategy, just like Facebook and Twitter before it. The technology space moves lightning fast, and there’s no time for companies to make strategic errors with the pieces of technology they choose to support.
It was once time again for me to comb through the app stores to make my app recommendations to CTV Morning Live viewers! You may have already noticed that I like writing “themed” app blogs (Summer, Spring, Valentine’s Day, Christmas, etc.) and this CTV App Segment was perfectly timed with Halloween! I was surprised to find that there are not that many apps that are for Halloween. One app that I really wanted to find was an app that would help you track your children to know their whereabouts in the neighborhood if they were out on their own (of course with the caveat that an app is not a substitution for actually watching your children. I thought this app may be good for those kids who are old enough to go out by themselves with a group of other kids in a safe neighborhood). While I couldn’t find specifically a Halloween tracking app I did manage to find some good substitutions that can be used all year round to track your children’s whereabouts.
Without further ado, here are the apps:
This fun little app is a great way to get some ideas for carving your pumpkin. Back in the days before apps I remember looking through books my mom would get from the library with ideas for carving your pumpkin, this app is a great way to get some ideas before you begin carving. You can also upgrade to the pro versions of the app for $1.99 which gives you more ideas and ability to see templates.
Free for iOS
Track your kids and share locations with family and friends, anytime, privately. Parents can keep track of their children’s whereabouts and see where they have been and also set boundaries using “Geo-fencing” which will alert the parent if their child has gone outside of that boundary.
GPS Tracking Pro
Free for Android
The GPS Tracking Pro App makes it simple to track all of your family and friends. Parents love the App for keeping track of their kids. The ability to know the exact location of your child and getting real-time updates can be a life-saver for any parent.
creepOmatic Halloween Sound Machine
Free for iOS
This app has over 130 unique environment and melody combinations and over 30 spooky samples each experience will be unique. This app would be perfect for a Halloween Party, Haunted house or for playing at your house on Halloween for the trick or treaters! This app definitely delivers, the sounds were so authentic that I actually felt a little spooked!
Hope you all have a safe and Happy Halloween! If you ever have an app idea of your own and would like to explore the possibilities of bringing your idea to life, don’t hesitate to email or call me: 1-800-298-7081 ext 720 or firstname.lastname@example.org
We were excited to learn that over the weekend the Co-op CRS app we developed for Co-op was #14 in the Lifestyle section of the top free downloaded apps on the Apple App store. Also, incredibly, the app reached the Top 300 app out of ALL apps on the Apple App Store!
Co-op is a great example of how to use mail-out advertising (flyers) to promote your app to your customers!