Application fixation

APPS. All the cool kids have them. And there can be a tendency to panic if you are a business owner and you don't have one showcasing your products or services.

But two experts in this intriguing digital space have warned against developing an app for an app's sake.

Digital agency The Creative Collective chose apps as the theme of one of its most successful Web Wednesday events last week, drawing a record number of questions from the audience.

Jude Anderson, executive manager of the Commonwealth Bank's Mobile Innovation and Payments division, spoke on the night.

He leads a team that develops the bank's mobile channels, including the CommBank and Kaching apps, and NetBank for tablet.

"I talked about creating Kaching and the updates and innovations we've introduced," he said.

"I also highlighted the growing popularity of mobile banking. Fifty per cent of all NetBank logins now come from mobile/tablet devices.

"We are using new technology to make banking simpler and more convenient for customers.

"Across Kaching we have introduced a range of new innovations and updates recently, including Kaching for Android, Bump for iPhone Kaching users, and announcing that we will launch a Kaching Facebook app later this year.

"We've also introduced exciting innovations like NetBank Vault, a virtual safety deposit box, and Ideabank, which allows customers to showcase their ideas on what the future of banking looks like.

"All of these technologies give our customers more control over the way they access and manage their money."

Mr Anderson said Kaching was a highlight as it was an Australian first.

"It has redefined the way Australians can pay each other - through mobile, email and to Facebook contacts - and has changed how many of our customers view mobile banking," he said.

He said the bank's apps had attracted more than 3.5 million downloads, more than 500,000 for Kaching. But he had some words of advice for businesses investigating apps.

"Listen to what your customers want and use this insight at the heart of everything you do," he said.

"Equally important is to always look towards the future and how you can continue to innovate.

"The cost will ultimately depend on what you are trying to achieve and the number of people you want to reach.

"However, before considering the cost, the first thing businesses should consider is the value the app will offer to customers.

"Ask yourself, is it engaging, simple to use and will it deliver a benefit?"

The sentiment is echoed by Mooloolaba apps creation firm iApps chief executive officer Rick Hoy.

"(At the event) I was asked how much an app costs, and ours start from $20,000 and go upwards," he said. "So why are there cheap apps out there for 99 cents? There are a lot of kids who have come to this market who can work at home and put together apps who are being paid $1000, but that wouldn't cover my staff's wages.

"Plus it's all about return on investment. We just did an app for MLC to alleviate problems around paper for their agents on the road.

"Using this app, they can now sign people up while mobile and they don't need to go back and forth to the office. That has saved three hours a day for each agent.

"So their ROI was three days, if you multiply 2500 agents by three hours per day. It's all relative."

iApps has made more than 50 apps in its three years and now has 32 staff and an office in Bangalore. The average app takes three to six months to develop.

"If an app doesn't do something people won't use it," he said.

"Consider whether the information you might be thinking of putting in an app would be better simply on the web.

"Plan it out, think about it and don't jump on board because it's the thing to do."

WHAT DOES AN APP COST?

IT'S a bit like asking how long is a piece of string. You get what you pay for.

A full app project with iApps starts at $20,000. This includes idea discussions, workshops, software architecture and development, business analysis, graphic design, beta testing and tweaks.

But it can cost as little at $499 with other developers.



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