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Thinking About The ROI of Mobile Apps? Think Instead About Sports Advertising

As I think back on 2013, so many amazing things have happened – especially on the personal front.  That said, from an enterprise mobility perspective, a lot of people are talking about how BYOD finally came of age this year.  I’m not sure I fully agree with that premise (as I would argue that happened in 2012), but that certainly didn’t stop the blogosphere from talking ad nauseum about the subject.  One of my favorites came just recently when talking about making apps ready for BYOD.  Sure, BYOD is here to stay (at least until people come to their senses) and enterprise mobility management is also finally coming of age (as opposed to thinking about MDM + MAM), but what I’m excited about in the coming year is simply mobile applications.

Now don’t think I’m only getting into the mobile apps arena.  I have downloaded 10…maybe 15 mobile apps for my Windows Phone over the last few years, so believe you me, I’m no novice here (KIDDING!)

All joking aside, I was having a conversation recently with someone with regards to needing to make the case for mobile apps more compelling by demonstrating the ROI of investing in the development and maintenance/update of those apps.  The person kept on insisting that their needed to be a hard ROI.  So I raise the question with you all.  Does there really need to be a hard ROI for developing a mobile application….or more importantly scores, if not HUNDREDS of mobile applications?

Personally, I think the answer is no.

The classic example I like to give is mobile email – THE killer app on a mobile device.  What’s the ROI in having email on your mobile?  Can you quantify it?  I for one, can not.  I also can not live without it – a sad state of affairs in the Winthrop household.  (For the record, I think my wife is even more addicted to her email than I am, but I digress).

But what about developing a mobile app for a retail company?  Personally, I love the Amazon Mobile app for its shear convenience.  But it’s not like I wouldn’t have made the purchase at Amazon later in the day when I got back to my laptop.  Or what about an internally facing app for purchase order approvals?  Can there be a real ROI on that application?  Now don’t get me wrong, there are many, many use cases where there is a demonstrable ROI on developing a mobile app (Field Service is a great example).  My point however, is that there are as many, if not more places where the tangible ROI may be hard to find.

I decided to see what people smarter than me were thinking about this….which means that I did a quick search on the Internet, because as you know, if it’s on the Internet, then it has to be real…right?  So I did a search more “mobile app ROI.”

The first search result displayed came from a PDF from the guys over at Apptive.  I think the summary provided by Google hits the nail right on its head:

Asking about mobile app ROI is similar to asking “What’s the ROI for a website?” Like websites in the late 1990′s, mobile apps are a transformational technology.

Mobile – not just mobile apps – is a transformational technology, and if you’re not in the game, your competition will be…and you’ll lose in the end.  If you don’t cater to your customers via the mobile channel, you’ll lose customers.  If you don’t provide your employees mobile apps, you’ll not only lose productivity (time to action), but you’ll eventually have a harder time attracting new talent because the next generation workforce will be expecting this….and your competitors will be doing it…and hiring that key talent away from you.

So, like the Nike slogan says, when it comes to developing mobile apps, don’t focus (too much) on ROI and “Just Do It.”

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