Do You Have an App for That Yet?

by · August 8, 2011

Mobile marketing is finally starting to get more attention in the Middle East as one of the critical components of integrated marketing campaigns, much like social media experienced just a few years ago. According to Business Monitor International, the number of mobile subscribers in Qatar is over three million, making opportunities for promotion in motion bigger than ever. No matter what industry you are in, every single one of your customers has a mobile phone. So, why wouldn’t you want to literally put your brand into your customer’s pocket?

To me, as a marketer, mobile is one of the most promising forms of media with near limitless opportunities for integration. Mobile devices – tablet PCs, PDAs, especially cell phones – are always available, and this alone makes it a marketing opportunity unlike any other, not to mention ubiquitous Internet connectivity, built-in payment mechanisms and opportunities for gamification.

More than 33% of Qatar’s mobile subscribers have smartphones, giving marketers a go at reaching these people at the most relevant places with feature rich content. You are interacting with consumers at the point of decision, giving promotion the whole new meaning. Imagine receiving a 25% off mobile coupon for Unilever’s CloseUp while shopping for toothpaste at a local grocery store and being able to see how this product rates with other customers? It’s a win-win situation for everybody – consumers get relevant and timely information and marketers benefit from a sense of immediacy that encourages dialogue with their customers.

Mobile Applications
There are countless ways of how to integrate mobile into your already existing marketing mix – text messaging, apps, mobile search, mCRM, and proximity based marketing being just some of them. Today, I would like to focus on mobile applications. It seems like everyone has an app these days – artists, celebrities, schools, governments, and even events – hundreds of thousands of apps are already available on app stores like iTunes and Android Market, increasingly becoming a staple of digital media, thanks in large part to the ease of purchasing experience with just a tap. However, some businesses perceive building their own apps as something that is overly complex and expensive. The reality is — you don’t have to have a monster budget in order to build your own application. Companies like Mobile Roadie make it affordable to build an app from scratch for about $500.

Abed Agha, who manages Mobile Roadie’s MENA business is enthusiastic about customers’ interest in developing applications in Arabic. So far, Myriam Fares, a popular Lebanese singer, Al Alan TV, MBC FM, as well as Ittihad Jeddah, a Saudi football club, are just some of the regional customers that have kept on top of the mobile trends and successfully launched apps to connect with their fans in a whole new way. Not only these brands are keeping their audience engaged using bells and whistles like location based notifications and QR codes, but also fans can easily forward messages and update each other, making the whole experience a lot more personal and viral.

Check out this introductory video available in both Arabic and English:

“Making apps interactive and social is very relevant in MENA, more so than any other part in the world and our usage data confirms that,” says Agha. “We have added a whole set of gamification elements like leaderboards for most active users, earning points, unlocking customizable badges, and other ways to encourage users to share and interact with content, and our regional users love that.”

Localization of mobile apps is pretty straightforward as well. “Once the app is developed, it detects the user’s language settings and accordingly provides the appropriate language as far as the User Interface goes,” says Agha. “Therefore, if you load your content in Arabic and the user has his phone set to Arabic, everything will show in that language.” Additionally, it is possible to rename the app sections to Arabic words, where even English users will see an Arabic application. It’s that easy.

If you are still not convinced about building your own application, you can sponsor one. There are ad networks such as AdMob, InMobi and Jumptap that will allow you to run ads within applications Whether it’s building your own app or sponsoring one, marketers today cannot afford missing out on mobile.

What is your experience with mobile marketing? If you could build an app, what would it be?

Post By Julia Astashkina (25 Posts)

Julia Astashkina is heading the Marketing and Outreach Section at the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology in Qatar. She runs organization’s multiple communications and marketing initiatives and is a guest blogger of the Digital Qatar blog. Julia has extensive experience in strategic marketing, communications, and social innovation. She has an MBA and other degrees from Georgetown and ESADE, and is the community lead for Creative Commons Qatar.


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