The mobile app is fast becoming one of the single most important means of doing business in the world.

That shouldn't come as a surprise to anybody. Our mobile phones are with us all day long. In fact, recent research suggests we check them over 150 times a day - which tallies with my own experience! And the tablet is rapidly replacing the PC as the favoured device in the home, with sales ahead of laptops and desktops combined during the holiday season in 2013.

Within those environments, consumers consistently prefer the app to the mobile internet. In some instances (such as games) that is understandable, but it is also true for a whole range of verticals. Research indicates that the typical user spends four times more time in mobile apps than on the mobile internet.

So whatever business you are in, you need to think about your mobile app strategy. That’s a given - and something readers of this blog are almost certainly aware of already.

Beyond The Install

But it’s more than that. The fact is that creating a great app is what we might call a necessary but not sufficient criterion. Sure, there’s no substitute for that creative spark. But it won’t get you all the way. We’ve seen countless examples of great apps or games that simply failed to take off. Or worse again, despite being installed and used by hundreds of thousands - or even millions - of users, they failed to deliver on their business objectives. And to our way of thinking, there’s no greater crime than that.

So beyond creating a great app, beyond even knocking the ball out of the park when it comes to acquisition, or ‘getting people to install your app’ as the person in the street would call it, you have to think about what happens then. And that is where mobile marketing automation comes in.

Building Relationships

Take any obvious example you like from the online world: Amazon, Priceline, eBay, Zappos - whoever. Having a great product isn’t enough. Bringing large numbers of people onto the site isn’t enough either. Their success depends on selling to that installed base, which in turn means learning from an individual user’s behavior, and optimizing their user experience in real-time to meet (or indeed anticipate) their needs.

So that’s the kind of ‘marketing’ we are talking about. Of course what form that takes is up for grabs. In the online world we’re talking about changing onsite user experience, emails, notifications within the site and so on. On mobile, you can add in push notifications in addition to personalized content and in-app messages and campaigns.

And to a great extent that process is:

  • Automated - this is not a world of painstaking manual segment creation - it’s about automatically delivering content in real-time, based on user behaviors, whatever they happen to be.
  • Tested - when choosing what to show, or what campaigns to deliver (or even what the subject line of an individual email) - alternatives are tested and the ‘winners’ delivered
  • Multi-touch - campaigns do not exist in a vacuum. The personalized email with an offer just right for me leads to an optimized landing page with that specific UX change (offer) available. And if I take up the offer (or not) - further steps may be triggered

So What About Mobile?

How is this relevant to mobile? The answer is in the first sentence of this piece. All that traffic, and revenue, is migrating to mobile, and specifically the mobile app. And getting an ‘install’ of an app is not enough.

Mobile app businesses need to drive engagement and monetization. They need to build long-term relationships with their users. They need to adopt these techniques from the onlinen world and they need to do it now - before it’s too late. That’s mobile marketing automation - and it’s about to take mobile business to the next level.