After seeing the lines and frenzy outside Apple stores the last few days with the launch of iPhone 4 with iOS4, there's no question that the iPhone is red hot. That is, if Apple's sales figures and the interest in the last 3 iterations of the iPhone didn't tip you off. One would think Justin Bieber was in there or something. With the growing openness business is showing to the iPhone, for many businesses and especially start-ups, the barrier of entry into the app store is cost vs. features. It makes perfect sense to want only to develop an iPhone or iPad app that has functionality that mirrors the company's products or services. Anything less wouldn't be worthwhile, right? Not so fast...
There are a host of reasons why having a branded mobile presence is a sound investment. In the same way having a website isn't really a choice anymore, a simple, proper application available from the app store can be achieved for sometimes less than the cost of creating a custom mobile site, and take advantage of more handset features.
Brand Awareness & Differentiation
A presence in the app store where your competition may not be, or if they are you level the playing field. You can tout and market the quality of service over competitors because you have an iPhone app and therefor may have greater appeal to that segment of your audience. Many users delight when brands they care about have a branded iPhone presence - I know I do, and am equally disappointed when they don't.
A proactive approach to customer service by connecting to your users where they do their everyday tasks will create brand loyalty and spark word of mouth referral.
Connect With and Grow Your Audience
You can take advantage of social media integration, and tap into the iPhone's functionality to distribute company information via SMS, easy sharing of links, and even collect user generated content via upload such as comments, posts, testimonials. Notifications can help keep those users engaged. Even add a referral feature akin to "Like" this company to spread the word.
Tracking and Analytics
Learn a lot more about your users beyond simply tracking browser stats, such as usage habits, location, and get their direct feedback from the only device that is next to them usually 24 hours a day.
One very important thing a mobile website can't do is be accessed offline. Depending on the features of your app, offline access to crucial data and features could be clutch for your customers.
A simple application that repackages content and features and rolls it into portable experience that is accessible anytime and enables two-way communication with your customers and sharing is a win for your brand. Especially if the can be achieved at a certain reasonable price point. It can educate and empower your existing customers to spread the benefits of your company to others. It can help journalists and the media to passively follow you on the go aiding in Public Relations efforts.
Without question, the mobile experience of your brand is an important consideration. One thing is becoming increasingly clear, having no presence for the small screen at all is no longer an option.