We recently completed a review of iPhone apps for a bricks-and-mortar client looking to develop a mobile shopping guide. Casting a wide net, we reviewed a range of offerings from luxury goods retailers in Singapore, to a niche location-based social network that awards points for ‘checking in’ to your local mall, to my personal favorite – Lucky Magazine’s fashionista-friendly app, enables shopaholics to browse a mobile version of the magazine and place orders to be delivered to their local retailers.
Launched last year, Lucky At Your Service is featured on the ‘Recommended’ List in the app store. In late April, Lucky extended the real-world capabilities of the app through a partnership with Mall Networks, a collective of 700 on and offline retailers.
For most of the apps we reviewed we were left scratching our heads and wondering: ‘where’s the money?’ The business models behind most of the apps we reviewed were less than evident. All the apps we looked at were available for free, so no audible “ka-ching” coming from the app store.
A couple of apps integrated sponsor logos, or had placement for ads, but by our back-of-the envelope math based on the number of downloads and moderate estimates of utilization, these won’t be delivering enough eyeballs to warrant a sustainable revenue stream.
Our review was not completely exhaustive, but only in the case of Lucky did we see an effective brand extension married with an end-to-end transactional model in full effect. In addition, with their recently announced deal with Mall Networks, there is a clear focus on extending the utility of the app and integrating mobile commerce with real-world retail. Presumably among the hundreds of Mall Networks partners there will also be cross-marketing and cross promotional partnerships that will build awareness for the app beyond allocated promotional pages in the magazine.
Clearly companies are jumping on the apps bandwagon for different reasons, but top of the list should be building a sustainable mobile extension of your brand or business. Over the next 18 months as the hype and ‘me-too’ mentality subsides and more robust measurement methodologies emerge, the clear winners will be organizations that have integrated and aligned their mobile product strategies tightly with their overall business goals.
On May 26th, The Realtime Project will host Mobile Apps Smackdown: A Rapid Prototyping contest in which teams of developers will be challenged to design the ‘killer app’ as a solution to a real-world client brief.