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Apps, A Converting Traffic Bonanza?

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I have long been fascinated by the concept of mobile applications: software residing on users' devices designed primarily to connect the device (and user) to particular site(s) and/or service(s); and secondarily to best/appropriately display/communicate/interact with specific devices and/or groups of devices. In essence, enhanced bookmarks: a method to promote and assist direct return visits.


Although I've switched my sites to a responsive design (using fluid grids, flexible images, media queries, et al) framework that progressively enhances pages depending on device viewing contexts that is a passive defensive action: they can come and they can see, do, and, hopefully, decide to return. Or not.


My initial concerns were that my sites are rather static information offerings - who would need/want a mobile app to access info, and why? And what could offer better benefit for desktop/laptop users than ye olde bookmark and newsletter options?


There are two things that do change on my sites: the ads and affiliate offers. Not so much the advertisers (putting AdSense aside) but what they are advertising and associated offers; not so much the merchants I affiliate with but their offers; and hey! coupons have become big business. For marketing reasons such 'presell' sections can not be directly bookmarked or linked to externally (such attempts are redirected). But...a controlled software solution? Hmmm.


So, I've been dissecting a number of available offerings (mobile and HTML5 apps, HTML5 local storage) and building prototypes. I've had an HTML5 test version on a couple of sites for a while now and the uptake looks promising. Some things I've learned:

* simply labeling something an app appears to give it a cachet.

* an app that provides updates to niche topical ads and coupons and offers has a (still undefined) market.

* app users tend to access the site(s) via the app even when looking for info and not offers.

Note: I'm finding this an interesting dichotomy: browsers accessing site for information with ads/aff as secondary play; apps accessing ads/aff for deals with info as secondary.

* and perhaps most import going forward: how one markets, sells the apps/service is critical to ramping up the numbers. Don't just add a button or link, treat it seriously. Obvious, yes; common sense, yes; but, golly gee, so many app providers are apparently oblivious - so a reminder.


I am hoping to have a mobile test app live later this month and will be watching to see where the similarities and differences (with HTML5 and desk/laptop) lay.


A major concern/holdup with the mobile apps has been that a number of my advertisers and affiliated merchants have their own apps and I wanted to access some of their data, i.e. users geo-location pulling up nearby retail outlets for sales announcement or coupon, all without stepping on their own apps promulgation and general marketing and as part of my added value service to them. Another revenue stream! Yummy.


I must say that the learning curve has been - and is - quite steep but that the benefits appear both real and substantial. Have just added apps to my traffic referrer breakout. Should be another interesting year.

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I am challenged to understand these things... it's like a new dimension of play.... But I think that the level of competition between offline and online just jumped up a big notch. I can imagine that there could be apps that can give affiliates an in-store attribution... or apps that check in-store items against a group of affiliate sites to see if same item can be obtained at lower cost online and reward the app developer if an order is placed.


I have heard of B&M stores offer to match advertised prices from other B&M stores but I have not heard them offer to match prices found online. These things sound great for consumers but problematic for B&M merchants - unless when a shopper connects from their building their affiliate account is credited. I think that would be fair since they were the ones who offered the merchandise for examination.

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It's funny you should mention this topic. Just this week I decided I would like to learn to program for the iphone. I've started a course on Objective-C and have found some amazing free lectures from Stanford University on itunes that teach how to program iphone apps.


In my mind this is a relatively new field with so much opportunity!


I recently bought an iphone and then won an ipad and I have spent a good amount of money on apps. And yet when I search there is so much lacking.


I would like to create an app for my website, but I also have great ideas for kids apps and veterinary apps. I can picture me producing an "Ask the Vet" app. The first time they use it it is free and then to ask more questions there would be a charge for it. That way, people are walking around with a connection to my website in their pocket. When they're walking in the woods and their dog cuts their foot, or they're at a dog show and the dog starts vomiting, or something happens at obedience class they're not going to spend time browsing the web on their phone to find a vet to ask a question. But, if they've got instant access to me (for a few bucks) then they're more likely to use it.


I can also see so many opportunities for businesses. For example, as a veterinary clinic, why not create a free app for my clients to use? It would contain all sorts of useful tips and pages (so that they would want to download it) and also would connect them to the clinic, and give emergency numbers, etc. What a way to retain clients and possibly gain new ones.


One of the main problems though, is, like you said, the learning curve. But then my thought is, "If it was easy, then everyone would be doing it."

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