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Region lacks original engaging apps, says Rauser

Region lacks original engaging apps, says Rauser

Localised, intelligent and relevant apps are badly needed in the region's mobile business. Prototype’s Alexander Rauser talks about what it takes to tap into the growing base of smartphone users.

May 16, 2011 4:39 by

Everyone has a mobile phone. Well, almost everyone.

Of the 6.7 billion people on the planet, a whopping 5 billion have one. Purchases in emerging markets will drive global use of smartphones to an expected 1.7 billion by 2014.

So, mobile is here. With it comes a range of opportunities for marketers, including mobile content, SMS, augmented reality, and apps.

Marketing brands on mobiles requires expertise. Creating good content can be costly and is often more appealing to brands with international footprints. However, there are ways to create mobile content for smaller audiences, while still getting some good return on investment.

Extreme engagement is the answer. By providing users with branded applications, relevant to their target audience, companies can engage with their customers on a daily basis. Just as fitness clubs give their members brightly colored bags with their logos emblasoned on the front, it’s all about keeping your brand on your customers’ minds.

According to Google’s AdMob Mobile Metrics research platform, users spend up to 70 minutes on mobile applications each day. This opens the door to extreme engagement. For example, a car dealership that has an application reminding customers when to change their oil or have their vehicles serviced would make it highly likely those customers would visit the dealership for services.

The possibilities for marketing mobile applications successfully are endless, and new technologies are developing that make it easier to optimise business processes.

These technologies are finally making it easier to develop cross-platform applications, as this is one of the challenges of mobile content. Which device is your target audience using? Should you focus on what is hip and trendy, or the platform that provides you with the most exposure? These are all questions that need to be answered before a successful mobile application can be created.
Applications are not the only way to utilise mobiles. Telcos are investing heavily in value-added services. For example, du’s social network and its content portal,, allow users to synchronise settings and consume content on the go.

The idea behind these services is to get users to spend more time using the operators’ core services and, at the same time, develop a local content distribution channel.

Mobile content is not only for big corporations. With a reported 3G user base of 25 million in the Middle East, the market has yet to be tapped into.

Localised applications provide a means to reach this market. According to Yahoo Maktoob, 75 percent of Saudis are keen to receive Islamic content on their phones during Ramadan. Duas (prayers of supplication), prayer times, and the Quran are the most preferred content choices.

Mobile applications have arrived, and are still evolving. Although many different operating systems offer different applications, the time will soon come for these to be narrowed down by consumer preference.

There is also the issue of native, Web-based programs, where the users seek applications that suit their needs.

The future lies with intelligent, accessible applications. These must be localised in order to build better relationships with customers. They are relevant and informative, and give consumers the information they need, while interacting and exposing the brand to a wider audience.

In a culture obsessed with mobiles, and with a growing internet community, there is much opportunity for successful mobile applications. The threat to ban BlackBerrys in the region, and the uproar that ensued, proved this.

There are hundreds of potential consumers out there, all with the necessary equipment to connect with your brand. They are just waiting for the right applications.

Alexander Rauser is CEO of Prototyple, a Dubai-based full service interactive agency.

Originally published in Communicate May 2011 issue, page 58.

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