Tools of Change – Selling in Mobile Markets (tips for apps)

Selling in Mobile Markets – Rana Sobhany, VP Marketing at Medialits in NYC  (

TOC Conference – Monday Feb. 22nd, 9 – 12:30

I came to this session after the morning break, so I missed the first 90 minutes.  Rana was a great speaker – lots of stories, examples, and practical information – no death by powerpoint!  The notes below are from the last hour of the presentation, which focused on building applications. While this presentation was directed to publishers, the information is pertinent for libraries too.  We surely won’t spend $50K to develop an app, nor charge anyone to download, but the marketing, measuring, and testing are all relevant.  The very last bullet point is critical for libraries wanting to develop mobile apps.

Tips for building an application for mobile devices

  • understand your target market and the platform they will be using
  • Expect to pay about $50,000 to build a high quality iPhone app (not sure what her figures are based on)
  • how do you justify the initial cost $20 – 100K of a free app?  Rana suggests to offer a cheaper free app with option to purchase a higher quality version or use internal coupons to track use and lead customers to purchase opportunities
  • test on all devices, all operating systems
  • users aren’t forgiving when it comes to bugs from a brand they respect – make sure the quality is there.
  • you aren’t married to the platform’s primary app store, but you should be.  Don’t dilute your brand. The promotion you get from the primary app store is important, they are dedicated to you since you used their platform.
  • pricing is key – $4.99 on app store is the sweet spot. if you provide enough value, this is the right place to be for ebook publishers. $.99 is just fluff.
  • $2.99 base price on BlackBerry App World, so $.99 is not an option
  • 20 MB limit on mobile download of iPhone apps – keep this in mind when developing your app
  • launch date – set this to capitalize, everything (marketing) needs to come together at the same time, put it far in advance, get it approved, then move the launch date to about a week after that
  • speak to the press 1-2 weeks before the app launches and give them screenshots of the app’s functionality and value proposition to users
  • be innovative, but not too innovative.  not too flashy with too many widgets and fancy things.  Focus on adding value to what people are already doing with your content (annotate, dog ear pages, etc) – the culture of this industry and the people who use ebooks/information is important to consider
  • be consistent – similar look/feel for all apps, app family (consistent logo or other corporate branding consistent) – it will encourage them to purchase more of your apps
  • measuring success – mobile is incredibly measurable, make sure you use the data to manage your app and information.  google analytics, flurry, and other companies offer this service for free
  • icons on the cell phone are a constant brand reminder, view it as a relationship
  • pick someone on the team to be responsible for metrics and analysis around the mobile program
  • fail quickly, iterate rapidly
  • 30% – apple and blackberry take this from paid applications, this pays for the infrastructure of the software.  Having the central repository for apps encourages people to download more
  • what techniques will help get momentum for your app? – 3rd party validation, spend time being engaged in media, use your own platform, more people that download in the first 48 hours the higher it will be ranked
  • what do you get from apple? when someone downloads your app you don’t get much info from apple, that’s why people use the 3rd party  vendors
  • Stanford University has their entire iphone software building course on iTunes, for free.  This is where a lot of people are learning how to create apps.