Brands spoilt for choice as app stores take off

Close to a quarter of online European consumers now regularly access the internet from their mobile handsets, creating new opportunities as well as new confusion for brands unsure about their target audience and mobile strategy.

The figures come from research carried out across 14,000 European consumers by industry analyst Forrester. A year ago, the percentage of European online users regularly accessing the internet from their mobile phones was only at 20 per cent.

According to the researcher, too many brands are rushing to jump on the mobile internet bandwagon by simply offering the hot new thing – an iPhone app. But an iPhone app does not a mobile strategy make, Forrester warns.

The success of the Apple device has acted as a marketing catalyst and showcased the potential of the mobile platform, with leading brands such as l’Oreal, Audi, Kraft, and Bank of America among others, embracing the trend to engage with a high profile audience or appear innovative.

However, plenty of new app stores are opening up. Nokia’s Ovi Store opened its doors this week, Google has launched its own app store in the shape of Android Market, RIM has BlackBerry App World and Microsoft’s offering is due to go live later this year.

But porting applications to different OS and devices has a cost, so Forrester warns that brands need to bet on the horses that are relevant to their own audiences and start wondering about widgets and optimised mobile websites.

Forrester analyst Thomas Husson notes that open mobile internet browsing and the distribution of widgets and applications via app stores represent two sides of the same coin: operator portals are being bypassed, with the result that operators are currently reinventing their distribution models and launching their own apps, sometimes in partnership with device/OS manufacturers.

But Apple is only the tip of the iceberg, as drivers are now in place for mass market uptake of the mobile internet in Europe. The expansion of internet brands, smarter phones, and high speed networks are enabling compelling user experiences that, coupled with all-you-can-eat data plans, are driving usage, Husson claims.

Non-telecom players, such as media companies, retailers and luxury brands are beginning to realise the potential of the mobile internet but do not know always where to start. “Media companies, retailers, and financial services firms must be aware of the mobile market’s unique character as they integrate their mobile internet services into a multichannel and multimedia strategy, and revamp their partnerships with telecom stakeholders,” said Husson.


One comment

  1. Avatar Nico 27/05/2009 @ 2:10 pm

    Spot on. It’s a bit like in the early web days with Compuserve, AOL etc all demanding unique coding and versions of websites. Not to mention the world of BREW and Qualcomm. The lowest common denominator will win, which is good old http and Internet standards, with content (and services) optimised for as many handsets as possible without going overboard on production cost. The mobile internet requires even more updated and refreshable content than the traditional web, and a reduction of design and “brochureware” over real value-add content and info. Which makes rigid apps that only do one thing problematic unless they are utility-focussed or a game.

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