Over the last few months, we have researched the use of mobile by enterprises and spoken with leaders within the enterprise about the areas that they are looking to leverage mobile in within their businesses. Below are some of the categories in which have seen larger companies build or commission apps:
Gaming: Consumer facing companies are looking at games as a way of engaging their audience. Many of the apps built in this segment can be considered "use and discard" apps (i.e., they are used as part of a specific marketing campaign to promote a product or a service and then discontinued). A typical example of this is a media brand licensing or developing a game in conjunction with the launch of a movie or the start of a new season of a TV show.
Gamification: Here, a brand tries to combine online with offline experience to drive consumer behavior. A very simple example of this includes the Starbucks application which, among other things, allows their patrons to visualize their star rewards earned and incentivizes them to buy more products to earn rewards. Some of the best apps here overlap with apps in the mobile health and fitness space (a separate category below) that reward people for achieving specific fitness goals (e.g., the Nike+ app that allows users to track and achieve fitness goals and is tied to the Nike+ fuel band).
Instructional: These apps work in conjunction with a product that consumers have purchased. The most basic versions of these apps are along the lines of digital "how to" manuals. The trend is that the development of these types of apps is becoming a mandatory check point, similar to the production of a PDF instruction guide prior to launch. However, more interesting applications in this category combine the physical world with the the digital world through augmented reality. For example, Audi's eKurzinfo app allows owners to experience the full range of functionality their car has to offer with the help of augmented reality.
Catalogs: These apps are particularly useful to field sales teams. Consider, for example, the Medtronic app used by their sales teams in field sales calls. Prior to the launch of this app, Medtronic sales reps routinely carried with them about 25 pounds of product literature. Again, the trend here is towards this becoming a mandatory check list item for any company that sells a large number of product SKU's.
Mobile commerce (mCommerce): These are generally direct to consumer apps whereby a consumer can place orders for a product through the application. Companies are approach to mCommerce in one of two ways - through native mobile apps or through mobile optimized web apps. Like with mobile portals (see below), we are not sure if companies will continue to build native applications or simply move towards making their web sites responsive, but as of right now there are some great examples of native mobile mCommerce apps out there.
Productivity: Most of the best personal productivity apps (e.g., Evernote, Clear, Mailbox, etc.) are products created by startups, but there are also some great organizational productivity apps built by enterprises. Consider the app created by the global construction firm Bechtel that helps its engineers fill out and report safety incidents while on a job site. We had some early conversations with an transportation company to help them build an app that will enable their technical operations personnel to perform hands free inspections of their fleet.
Mobile health (mHealth): Here we are primarily concerned with apps that require some level of regulatory approval because they:
- serve as an accessory to a regulated medical device, viz. the Mobile MIM software that displays images on iPhones, iPads and iPods originating from PET scans, MRI's, x-rays, ultra-sounds etc.
- transform a mobile device into a medical device viz. Kinsa health's smart thermometer
While the examples cited above are of apps or products created by startups, we believe that as the regulations around mHealth become clear, this category has the potential to be truly game changing.
Mobile portals: These are essentially mobile versions of companies web portals. It is unclear what the future holds in as far as this category of apps is concerned. Does building responsive web sites eliminate the need for building native mobile portals? Or, do companies continue to build native mobile portal separately from their web portals? A great example of the latter is hospitals that have done a pretty good job of creating native mobile portals to help their patients navigate services offered, as well as navigate their physical facilities.
Health and Fitness: This is a very broad category of apps and it includes apps that help users manage (rather than monitor, which tends to be in the mHealth category) every aspect of their health, from allergies, to quitting smoking, to motivating kids to brush their teeth. Fitness apps help people with everything from reaching their weight goals, to tracking their sleep patterns, to getting them ready for their next marathon.
Travel: Again, this is another extremely broad category of apps. It includes apps created by every major US and international carrier to help users with flight reservations and check-ins, as well as digital versions of travel and restaurant guides, and also mobile bus and subway maps. This is a category that we think will only get better as wearable tech and augmented reality systems improve.
In conclusion, we believe that larger companies have only begun to scratch the surface of mobile. As technology improves, and knowledge about what can be achieved through mobile increases within the enterprise, we will see an explosion in mobile development both within and for the enterprise.