Building a Mobile App 101: Interview with Dan Katcher, Rocket Farm Studios
Research shows mobile apps are growing at a rate of 29.8% each year, and that the 1.2 billion mobile users currently using apps will climb to 4.4 billion by the year 2017. According to a recent report from the Ericsson ConsumerLab global research program, in the year 2014, “mobile apps will continue to transform society.” Sixty percent of smartphone users surveyed by Ericsson predict that “sensors will be used in everything from healthcare and public transport, to cars, homes, and places of work” by the end of 2016.
Indeed, mobile usage is moving fast in today’s digital landscape As 2013 draws to a close, we’re seeing tremendous explosion in not just smartphone and tablet usage, but also in wearables like Google Glass, Sony SmartWatch, and more.
To better understand the rapidly evolving mobile app industry, KoMarketing Associates sat down with Dan Katcher, CEO & founder of Rocket Farm Studios. Dan was kind enough to share insights and perspective on mobile app development in the near and long term. Excerpts from our interview are as follows:
What are some of the common points/questions marketers should consider when developing a mobile app?
- Dan Katcher: Start with strategy. Ask yourself what you’re trying to do and how you’re going to accomplish it. Mobile technology is fundamentally different than what we’ve seen before (i.e., it’s not a browser), so companies have the opportunity to be with the user “all the time.”
It may help to think of it this way: What are your ideas? What are you really good at? What are consumers looking for? How open are you to change?
VideoIQ, for example, was a client who initially saw themselves as a hardware company selling cameras (memory/processing) until they launched a mobile camera solution. Now that their camera is on mobile to cloud (they have a lot of video/processing data in the cloud), they see themselves as an analytics company, getting out of hardware and into SaaS business.
What resources do marketers need to have ready to develop a mobile app?
- DK: Well, first of all, they need to have a handle on their core technology and IT infrastructure so that they can coordinate a data transfer. It helps to be willing to make mistakes and adjustments on the fly.
In other words, they should have a mentality of trying new things/putting things out there and learning from their experience to make improvements in the future.In terms of deciding between Android and Apple, it may be helpful to choose just one to get started.
There’s the argument that Android can iterate faster because of the approval process (Apple requires a 7+ day approval process, on the other hand), but always check demographics/the user base to determine what’s needed.
How do you promote a mobile app? How do you work the ecosystem?
- DK: Rocket Farm advocates putting something out with a series of release plans, which extends beyond the app itself and into the content marketing effort. You have to factor in the so-called “mobile mentality” of users and understand that the mobile consumer has a short attention span by virtue of always being connected.
What sort of questions should marketers ask when determining mobile site versus mobile application?
- DK: Off the top of my head, I’d say “Do you want your brand to show up in the App Store or not?” (This is important to many users.) Another is “What’s possible/feasible for the user’s benefit?” (Apps move faster than browser experiences, plus the browser has to integrate with the functionality of the device.) Another might be, “Do you need/want push notifications (mobile app) for engagement?”
What are some of the common complexities you find in mobile app development? Where do you see people stumble in the launch?
- DK: During the design phase, people often try to do too much/be too perfect. But, at some point, you just need to get something out. In development, the biggest hurdle is not being ready on the back end and the challenge is getting all the dependencies worked out.
Another challenge is having the content ready in order to feed the app, which you can’t do unless you’ve done enough market research. People stumble on the marketing side, too. They seem to put too much faith into the “it will be awesome and people will download it!” mentality. It’s important to scour the competitive landscape and understand how a product/service will be integrated into an app.
The bottom line is: Don’t be naïve about marketing: You have to understand that, in order to be effective, you need to be willing to make the financial investment.
Any final takeaways you’d want to share?
- DK: I guess just that, in today’s landscape, mobile is becoming very personal and there’s the opportunity to relate to an individual and establish a one-to-one relationship. Because of this, individual/specific analytics are much more important for measurement and ongoing marketing analysis than they have been in the past.
Thank you, Dan, for sharing your thoughts on the evolving world of mobile apps!
About Dan Katcher
CEO Dan Katcher founded Rocket Farm Studios in December 2008 to help companies capitalize on the exploding market of smart phone applications. With over 40 apps launched for a range of companies from venture backed startups to global 500 firms, Rocket Farm seeks to be an innovation partner for both mobile and cloud technologies.