Apps as an Economic Growth Driver

Look around you: It's clear that conditions are coming together to produce a "perfect storm" that will rip across the mobile app space, paving the way for apps that enable everything-from games and entertainment, to education and healthcare, to retail and daily productivity-and leave an indelible mark on our daily lives.

"The Geography of the App Economy," a report released last September by CTIA, paints a positive picture. From job creation driven by companies that must scale up to meet massive demand, to an avalanche of opportunity unleashed as companies contract apps to boost productivity, support marketing, and deliver engaging content, mobile apps are emerging as the growth engine of a new and vibrant economy.

Connect the dots: The App Economy has officially arrived! Now it's time for you to get to work and reap the profits. Whether you are an individual app developer poised to take your good idea to greater heights or a company mapping out a more comprehensive content engagement strategy with mobile apps at the center, you will need to focus resources on creating a winning app.

It's a mammoth task, which is why I have created The Everything Guide to Mobile Apps: A Practical Guide to Affordable Mobile App Development for Your Business and purposely brought together the insights of more than 25 mobile professionals, practitioners, and pundits to identify market trends, best practices, and lessons learned in developing and distributing mobile apps.

The most important takeaway is that you must have a broad base of knowledge that allows you to indentify your target audience and delight them again and again. Get ready to be an expert in applying design basics, conducting app testing, managing constant maintenance, encouraging mobile commerce, collecting payment, respecting personal privacy, leveraging location data, enabling app discovery, choosing mobile advertising networks, and managing social media marketing.
The good news is that you don't need to be tech-savvy to get in on the action and the profits.

The app ecosystem is quickly evolving to accommodate everyone-not just programmers and the content companies that can afford to pay them to develop awesome apps. The full-scale arrival of app-component marketplaces, the growing availability of easy-to-use programming tools, and the advance of cloud-based support and distribution are making it possible for anyone, anywhere to build an app.

One company showing the way is, headquartered in London's Tech City. It provides a platform that enables anyone to build his or her own apps that work on any smartphone. What's more, AppShed has purposely embraced a freemium business model that equips everyone with what they need to make an app-and only those who have extremely successful apps pay AppShed a fee for using the platform.

AppShed has also carved out a niche for itself in educational content and technology. The goal, according to AppShed CEO and founder Torsten Stauch, is to "enable teachers and students to make the apps they need to master tasks and-ultimately-create and synthesize borderless knowledge." Imagine children building an app in a morning and sharing a link to the app with their teachers by midday! It may sound incredible, but AppShed's Stauch assures me this is happening today.

AppShed democratizes knowledge and innovation by providing real people a simple platform. It also grows the App Economy, the health and longevity of which depends on there being an abundance of apps that people value because they are relevant, helpful, or just good fun.

It's both exciting and terrifying to think about the opportunities ahead as more individuals and companies overcome technological barriers to produce apps and get their content, services, and brands in the hands of people on the move.
But success is not just about mastering all the technology challenges of doing business in a multichannel, multidevice, multimedia world. Turning your app into a serious business requires you to know your audience, understand your market, and plan for success.

Mobile devices are fiercely personal. Apps are an ideal means to reach consumers at every step of their daily journey to deliver value, encourage interaction, deepen engagement, boost customer loyalty, and, ultimately, recruit true brand advocates. In a way, it's Retail 101 all over again, but there's a much bigger benefit than just a one-off sale. Get it right and you may have a customer for life.