Blog : mobile apps

Application Programming Interfaces (API)

Application Programming Interfaces (API)

When companies go design their new shiny corporate app, a software engineer might tell the boss that the proposed mobile application will have to ‘talk’ to other computers. In order to facilitate this digital chit-chat, an added program may be needed to facilitate that electronic conversation. These coded exchanges are often facilitated by an Application Programming Interface (API). These may sound complicated, but they really aren’t. An API is just a way for one software system to interact with another. APIs form a set of rules and protocols that are designed to help programs communicate. Through an API, different software solutions can be integrated and work together. This is incredibly important for all levels of software development. 

How Does an Application Programming Interface (API) Work?

Imagine that you are from France and you only speak French. An acquaintance of yours is from Italy and only speaks Italian. How can you talk to each other? Many programs interact exactly like this; they have their own internal methods and processes that they use to complete tasks. A third-party program will need to learn to “speak their languages” and help the first two programs to understand each other. This is needed if they are going to complete a task.

You’re probably most familiar with APIs through eCommerce portals: online shops. When you’re buying something online, you’re often given the option to pay through PayPal. But how does PayPal know how much to charge you? How does it know what items are being purchased and who to send the money to? The website is using PayPal’s API: a series of directions that PayPal has published for interacting with their system.

When you buy a shirt through an online shop, the online shop sends that data through PayPals API. PayPal then collects the information, which has been formatted properly for its use, and uses it to charge you. It then sends information back to the online shop, regarding whether or not the transaction was successful. To you, the user, this transaction will appear quick, easy, and seamless. But there’s a lot going on in the background!

How Can APIs Be Integrated Into Mobile Devices?

Mobile applications often take advantage of APIs for advanced features. One of the most common examples is the Google Maps API, which includes all of the information that Google Maps does and is available for both Android and iOS. The Google Maps API has been the foundation of many critical apps, including the recently popular Pokemon Go. Other commonly used APIs include weather services, social media integration, and local directories. Through APIs, developers can gain access to a suite of features and a wealth of data that they would otherwise have to collect themselves.

Can an API Be Dangerous?

By now, you may be wondering whether an API could be used against you. Can it take you places without your knowledge? Can it transfer your information without you knowing? Put simply, yes: once you hand your information over to a software system, it can use that data as it wants. If you load an app that has a Google Map API, then Google may very well be able to see your location. And an API itself can become a vulnerability within a system.

This underscores the importance of maintaining your own security and using only reputable software vendors. In fact, many recent security leaks have occurred due to third-party software solutions. That being said, most software today contains some element of API usage, and it is impossible to avoid. For mobile devices, security settings can often be managed to control what you do or don’t give out — to anyone.

APIs provide an incredibly useful and necessary method of communicating between programs. For developers, they allow project teams to take advantage of resources that they would otherwise have to build themselves. For users, they ensure a better overall user and are often seamless in integration. Either way, APIs are an essential part of software development.

Messaging Apps

Messaging Apps

When was the last time you asked someone out on a date, face-to-face? This may sound a bit prehistoric. Doesn’t it? That’s because the simple act of social interaction has been redefined by digital interaction. Mobile messaging apps have revolutionized the way people communicate.

Over 2.6 billion people have at least one mobile messaging app installed on their smartphone device. Today’s global market seems to be defined by a small handful of messaging apps. Each app offers the ability to capture a moment in ways the other cannot. The increased competition for content exposure has forced some mobile apps to implement similar features.

Recently, Instagram integrated a story feature to their app similar to Snapchat. Instagram has a much larger following than the “exclusive” Snapchat. If this new “clone” attempt by Instagram discovers a footing in the market, it shows that market disruption is more useful when one company duplicates the strengths of another and turns them into weakness.

Because of their demonstrated income streams, mobile messaging has changed the way businesses advertise. With these apps, companies are less dependent upon selling their product. Through mobile messaging apps, businesses can establish a presence and create a greater brand awareness.

Profits are often affected by who (or what) controls the information funnel. Corporate giants, such as CNN and ESPN will be distributing original content directly through Snapchat’s new feature.

They’re aggregating people’s attention and linking it to other forms of commerce,” Mitch Lasky told the New York Times. He’s a Snapchat board member and a partner at the venture-capital firm Benchmark.

Mobile messaging apps have changed the way we communicate. They are captivating, exclusive, and unique. They have changed how we share ideas and re-shaped the market, all in the palm of your hand.

MAUs: Monthly Active Users vs Driving Downloads

MAUs: Monthly Active Users vs Driving Downloads

Business Basics

Online businesses need to identify their customer base to understand the relationship between themselves and their clients. How do companies measure success? Why do businesses keep track of their performance? How often should companies even keep track of certain information? These are questions critical to a business’ survival. Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) allow companies to measure almost every facet of their respective businesses interactions. With this data, they can understand their performance relative to the marketplace.

For some companies and mobile apps driving app downloads is the KPI but for those companies that operate solely digitally, a central KPI measurement is the Monthly Active Users (MAU). A standard definition of the MAU is defined as the number of “unique” users over the course of 30 days. This performance indicator is commonly used by social networking sites, digital gaming platforms, e-commerce businesses and mobile apps. MAU measurement allows digital services know who is using their product and how they use that product.

An active user is not just a person that may randomly access a site/service. An active user is determined as an individual who has created an account through email or username to access a site or service.

There are also two types of active users. There are first time users and recurring users:

  • A first time user is a new user who has accessed a site for the first time.
  • A recurring user is a user that frequents the site. It is important to clarify data to this extent when you are trying to track performance.

Ultimately it is up to the site or service to distinguish who they believe is an active user. Traditional social networking services like Facebook and Twitter have both have differing definitions:

  • Facebook defines a Monthly Active User as anyone that is a registered Facebook user, who has accessed the service through the website, messenger app, or mobile app at least one time in the last 30 days.
  • Twitter employs a slightly more complicated approach than its competitor. You must follow a minimum of 30 accounts and be followed by a third of the number of accounts you follow to be considered an active user. To put that in simpler terms, if you are a registered user who follows 30 accounts, with at least ten followers, and uses the site at least one time in 30 days, you are considered an active Twitter user.

It is crucial to measure user activity on digital platforms when examining performance especially with mobile app marketing. Calculating the metrics of Monthly Active User data is a practical industry practice. The proper manipulation of this data will help companies find the information they need to succeed.

If you need help tracking your audience’s habits, contact Colure.

Top 5 Mobile Apps of 2015

Top 5 Mobile Apps of 2015

2015 has been a year of record-breaking, innovative, and truly impeccable mobile apps for both iOS and Android users alike. Where would we be without our beloved apps? While there are countless mobile applications that have emerged in 2015, here are a few that have been exemplary in their design, performance, and popularity over the past year.

From entertainment to everyday tools, the following list of apps represents a diverse selection of must-have apps for your everyday mobile use.

Clash of Clans (iOS/Android) – 2015 was the year Clash of Clans rose to stardom. The highly addictive game has gained a cult following and broke revenue records – making it the top-grossing gaming app of all time.

Snapchat (iOS/Android) – 2015 has been claimed as the ‘Year of Snapchat’, the past year has witnessed the rapid growth and success of the mobile-only social app.

Mint (iOS/Android) – Mint is a finance and budget manager for the modern man. It’s clean and sleek design makes managing your spendings surprisingly easy – and fun. 2015 witnessed a large usage of this app in various demographics.

Hopper  (iOS/Android) – A must-have mobile app for the frequent traveler, Hopper helps you predict the best times to fly and maximize your savings on flights. Named among the Best of 2015 in the Apple Store.

Paper (iOS) – An extension of your typical Notes application, Paper takes note taking on your mobile phone to the next level with tasks such as lists, charts, and sketches.

The collection of these mobile apps will surely keep you in the loop, highly organized and prepared for the upcoming New Year. However, the past year could not be defined without discussing one of the advertising industry’s greatest threats – ad-blocking. With businesses scrambling to find new ways to promote their products online, this influential app has given them a run for their money:

AdBlock Plus (iOS/Android) – Browse your Internet free from pop-ups and on-site advertisements.

As 2016 begins, we are excited to see the release of even more innovative and excellent mobile apps that will surely influence our mobile usage. Happy New Year!

How to calculate an advertising budget

How to calculate an advertising budget

Every company must stake its own space in the marketplace to survive. In order to successfully interact with your customers, each business must decide on the best course of communication. This function is facilitated by your company’s marketing budget.

Each business owner is an expert in their given area of practice. Everyone needs customers, yet often, stakeholders haven’t been provided with a game-plan of how to reach those customers through advertising.

We’re providing a roadmap for your future marketing budget. The purpose is to help the business owners focus their resources for the best ROI on their investment. If you begin with a focused process, your odds of success greatly increase.

When deciding on a typical marketing budget, there is no definitive answer on the dollar amount a business should spend. How much you plan to allocate depends on a number of variables including the industry you are in, the size of your business, its growth stage, your annual revenue goals, your projected sales, your cost per acquisition, whether you are willing to spend on websites, mobile apps or some other long term project.

It may be helpful to examine some methods of determining marketing budgets and average percentages that companies use in their calculations. You need to determine your marketing budget wisely and not depend on what is left over after your business expenses are covered. We are here to give you some guidelines that you can use to determine your marketing budget.

As a general rule of thumb, Colure Media suggests that the marketing and advertising budget should be on an average 10% of the company’s overall revenue. This budget should be split between brand development costs including the channels you use for marketing and the costs of promoting your business (campaign, events, and advertising etc.). The percentage of revenue calculation should account for possible additional factors such as new product launch, new market entries, and mergers/acquisitions.

For companies who are unsure of their revenue goals or don’t know their exact overall revenue, we suggest calculating their marketing budgets using cost per acquisition (or CPA). Using a CPA, we help companies reverse engineer their budgets by understanding their sales goals. For example, if a company wants to sell 10000 units of something and if they know their CPA, they can calculate their marketing budget by multiplying their sales goals of 10000 by CPA.

It is very important to re-examine your CPA, as this is a number that you want to optimize. Your goal is to make it lower since you want to receive a higher rate of return on every dollar you spend on marketing. Continually look around for new and more effective methods of reaching out to your target market. The use of new and improved technology can help you optimize your cost per acquisition.

If you are seeking out the development of projects like mobile applications, website development, and mobile marketing (or some other long term project), our advice is that you pull that project out of your total budget and calculate its own budget as a separate line item. The reason being is that these long-term (5 to 7 years) marketing tactics require an initial heavy investment and small investments later on. You are better off doing an initial investment of around 8 to 10% on these large projects and then 2% of your annual revenue towards web development for the next 3 years. After that, you need to put money only for updates and maintenance for the next couple for years.

Once you have set your marketing budget, remember that it is not a fixed value. There might be times when you will be throwing in another unplanned event or campaign. The main thing is to know whether your spending is giving you your required ROI.

One of the biggest issues facing new and existing businesses is that they may not know what their marketing and advertising budget should be. Often, businesses don’t understand the process of media planning. Many times budgets are set blindly, with a number just being thrown into the air and hoping that it lands on the success outlined in their business plan (if they have created one).

There are three components to every business:

     1. Unique product/service

     2. Profit

     3. Marketing/Advertising/Sales

At the end of the day, a business with unlimited funds can spend plenty of money and time running test after test, but they may sacrifice market share to competitors (who may have inferior products/services) who are knowledgeable and have navigated these seas time and time again. Blindly throwing money at your advertisements is not the answer. Define your goals. Examine your numbers. Start with a solid plan that can be modified, with purpose, as time passes. We hope that this will help your gain a better perspective on your marketing efforts.

If you want to discuss your advertising needs, contact Colure’s Project Managers to help you reach your target audience.

To many, video is the king of content.

To many, video is the king of content.

Chris Trimble, writer for The Guardian asked, “If it were five years in the future, would you be reading this article or would you be watching it?” Good question. Today, video is being selected by users as the preferable format of content on social media. “In 2015, video is predicted to dominate as the social media content format of choice.” In August 2014, Facebook surpassed YouTube in the number of video views via desktop according to ComScore. It’s important to note that YouTube still has more views on mobile apps and across all devices. As of September 2014, Facebook attracted a billion video views per day, a roughly 30-fold increase since July.

Video content is critical to anyone building a business or brand, big or small. Video has the ability to entertain and inform in a short amount of time. Currently video usage, “more than half of companies are already making use of video”. According to a Neilsen Neilson study, not only will 70% of brand marketers increase their usage of social media, but 64% of individuals indicated that video content will dominate mobile advertising strategies in the future.

As the information overload continues to pile on, the use of video will continue to play a vital role in relaying more information in a short amount of time. On many platforms, video is already a necessary format of content. Today we have the likes of Youtube, SnapChat, and Vine. All of these platforms depend upon video to deliver their services to their customers.

Most individuals use the internet to interact, consume or create information. How we choose to use the tools available to us will be critical to our success as storytellers.

Advantages of mobile applications for small businesses

Advantages of mobile applications for small businesses

A smartly developed mobile application can help level the playing field between companies of any size. The key to success lies within the quality of the user experience (UX). If a customer has a meaningful interaction, there is a better than average chance they will return to your company’s application. Much of a consumer’s attitude toward a company is molded by the quality of the interaction created by the company’s mobile application.

Here are 5 key advantages of a mobile application for any small business:
  • Access to the customer at all times – Possibly the greatest advantage is being able to interact with your customers in a truly meaningful way. The mobile app allows the consumer to decide when they are primed for your specific service or product. The user decides when and to which extent they are willing interact with you.
  • Marketing – Develop a meaningful relationship with the customer. A quality user experience (UX) will allow you to provide an interactive relationship that cannot be developed through other media. Take this opportunity to market not only your product but more your industry to your customer. By providing additional information and resources, the customer will probably engage your application for a longer period of time. More attention directed toward your application can often equal more revenue generated by that customer base. Think of this as a digital version of the free classes provided by home improvement stores. They’ll hire an expert to teach a free class on tiling or plumbing. When class is over, all of the students start grabbing tools and supplies off the shelves. It provides a great ROI.
  • Direct customer feedback – the amount of real-time data gathered by your app has a value that extends far beyond simple transactions. It reaches the very mindset of the consumer. You are able to decipher the specific wants and needs of the user.
  • Specifically craft your product to interact with a specific audience – Most media sources provide a one-sided relationship. Mobile applications allow you can craft an interactive product that targets a finite audience, with a specific interface. No other format allows for such an engaging experience. Creating a truly rewarding user experience must be “Goal #1”.
  • Brand Identity – Crafting your brand requires a labor of love. It takes time and commitment to craft a brand with whom the consumer truly identifies. Your brand includes a living, breathing relationship with your customer. Be sure to respect your customer as you would any relationship. By providing a truly remarkable user experiences, your audience will return time and again to your app.

Separating yourself from the competition takes a quality product, planning, and skill. The interactive relationship you develop with your customers will help determine your future growth. Don’t leave that development to chance. Never take your relationship with your customers for granted. The greatest downfall for many companies is to negate their customers’ true wants and needs, in favor of their own vision of the same. Being blinded by your own biases can be a very costly mistake.

Success is built upon many well measured steps. When you are ready to take your first steps in the development process, contact Colure’s Project Managers to explore your vision of success.

Why is the mobile app industry worth $25 billion?

Why is the mobile app industry worth $25 billion?

 

Mobile apps usage continues to grow. They’re a tool used by more and more companies. As the volume of applications grow in the business world, so do the dollars spent on app development. In a MarketsandMarkets report, the mobile app industry will be worth an estimated $25 billion (US) in 2015. Does your company need a mobile app developed? If so, how will you proceed?

You need to keep a few thoughts in mind while you consider developing an app:

  • The first questions you should ask yourself are, “Is this a task-oriented mobile app?” “Does it have a function, a purpose?” “Is it filling some void in the market?” “If so, specifically – what is that need?” Don’t put out an app ‘just to put out an app’.
  • This app should be the justification for all of the effort, pain, time, money and stress that you and your staff will allocate for its creation. In other words, ‘will it be worth all of the effort?’
  • Who is my target audience? Am I putting this together to help my customers understand my services or products? Am I creating this to aid my sales staff to better market their products? Will this app help streamline our employee’s workflow by eliminating paperwork?
  • Is it affordable? Should we try to do this ourselves or hire an outside firm to do the work? Is it possible to go mobile on a budget?

Your answers will help shape your course of action.

Here are several other considerations that may modify your choices. Remember that:

  • customers establish a strong connection between the value of your website and the value of your company. They will make the same connection between the quality of your app and quality of your company. If your app comes off as cheesy, or as having little value, that same correlation may very well be made to your company.
  • affordable apps can be made quickly and cheaply, but the real value is measured in terms how that app connects to your customer. If your customers see ‘older looking’ graphics, or find less functionality in the application (than should be reasonably expected), those deficiencies will translate into a loss of customer trust in your company.
  • To you, what is the true value of your customers’ experience? To which level do you honestly appreciate their quality of interaction with your company? To which extent are you willing to invest to provide a positive, proactive experience to your customer?
  • What happens if there are problems with you mobile app? Will you have support, if any (in terms of expertise and time) to help you? What happens if things go sideways?

In the end, the questions of quality, support, cost (expenses vs. effort), and the cost-benefits gained will determine how you establish your budgets for the application. You know your business better than anyone else. If you are not impressed with the application, there’s a good chance you customers too, will not be impressed.

With that said, apps have a critical role in today’s business world. They facilitate function and access. As with everything in life, you only have one chance to make a good 1st impression. Be sure that your app is the finest that it can be, for both you and your customer. Embrace the challenge. Speak with Colure to define your application’s development and marketing.