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Get an APPetite for APPS! Andy McCourt’s ReVerb.

Tuesday, 12 February 2013
By Andy McCourt

Mobile Apps set to ignite the next print revolution. News that spending on marketing-oriented print is set to decline by 6% over the next two years is sobering indeed but the intoxicating counterfoil is that mobile marketing dollars will increase by 8.8% over the same period.

So, Mr Printer; you have digitized your workflow. Well done indeed. Files come in, are checked, preflighted, colour corrected, imposed and proofed before chemistry-free CTP rips the plates that are automatically loaded onto your press; or the files are sent directly to a digital press. Great.

Of course, you have also installed W2P on your website or already have your head in the Cloud? Fantastic, that’s the way to go; make it easy for any customer to send in files over the internet, pay for the job and receive the fruits of your craft within days. Terrific; you’re up to date.

Now that you are digital and online, it’s time to sit back, make sure the software is kept updated and watch the work come in, right? Sorry mates, the digital world never stands still – you should know that. I’m here to tell you about the next wave of change that will impact on the Graphic Arts and the good news is: now is the perfect time to start planning for it.

The fastest growing communications medium in human history is the mobile Smartphone and kindred devices such as Tablets. By October last year, the number of Smartphones in use worldwide exceeded one billion. Analysts such as Gartner and IT Strategies predict it will pass two billion sometime in 2015 and three billion by the end of 2017. The total population of the world including children and the aged is around seven billion.

While the first ‘Smartphone’ launch is claimed by IBM with its Simon device in 1992, current logic would suggest the modern Smartphone revolution began in 2007 when Apple introduced the iPhone. This was quickly followed by the development of third-party ‘Apps’ – short for Applications or Applets – that offered extra features, games and graphical experiences.

Six years later and we have Samsung leading the global Smartphone market, Apple still posting strong sales and every other phone maker jumping on the bandwagon including electronics giant Sony. Larger touch-screens all the way up to ten-inch Tablets are facilitating more sophisticated graphics but the overriding success story in Smartphones is the App. Approximately 50 million iOS Apps are downloaded from the Apple Appstore or iTunes every day. A slightly lesser number, but growing faster, are downloaded from the Android Appstores such as Google Play.

Many of these Apps are games and simple business/lifestyle tools but increasingly we are seeing B2B applications involving printed output.

One of the first was www.mypersonalpostcard.com. Yes, I know this is a website but the product is an iPhone App that enables you to take a picture, enter a name and address or select from your address book, add a greeting message and upload. A few days later a glossy postcard using your photo arrives at the designated address. The cost? $2 including postage – cheaper than many stand-alone postcards. All production is on HP Indigo presses, starting with the original Swiss site but now including multiple production hubs in Singapore, USA and elsewhere. Millions of printed cards have been sent this way.

This success was emulated in Australia by Matt Sanford’s www.yellowpostie.com.au with the addition of greeting cards, calendars and spoof magazine covers. Online greeting card pioneer Moonpig has also gone App for both iOS and Android, http://moonpig.com.au/ , licensed here by David Minnett’s Momentum Group in Crow’s Nest, Sydney,

It’s not a long stretch of the bungy rubber to see how postcards and greetings sourced via mobile Apps can lead to other printed products, with the unique advantage of marketing the concept to almost half of the world’s population! Business cards would appear to be a natural progression, using Apps with templates, design ideas and finishing choices.

Tablet computers such as the iPad and Samsung Galaxy Tab offer large, almost A4, screens and lend themselves to more adventurous graphic design. The new breed of higher resolution phone cameras – 8MP+ – even offer the possibility of a brochure being designed, written and illustrated, all from an App. Most current printing Apps such as PrintShare: http://mobile.eurosmartz.com/products/printnshare.html tend to be restricted to plain sheet production on remote printers but a clever App developer should have no problem building in finishing options, fold choices and so on.

The secret is in APPtitude

Developing new Apps involves coding and design that is probably outside the field of expertise of most printers. Using a hobbyist APP developer who has just written a game may not be advisable. Good Apps need to run bug-free on at least iOS and Android platforms and nothing will kill your ‘Killer App’ faster than bad reviews and problematic user experiences.

So, ‘where d’ya geddit?’ Answer is a proficient App development studio. They are the rock stars of modern IT – stimulated by stories of $5,000 Apps generating $3 million in downloads within weeks – very few do that. The popular Angry Birds game App reportedly cost around $140,000 to develop and has generated close to $500 million in sales – but we’re talking games here.

A good A2P (App-to-Print™) program can cost anything from $10,000 to $50,000 to write and test. Then it needs launching on the App stores, a sister website, marketing using all the tricks of online affiliate plans, google Adwords, SEO and more conventional means. Once developed by a professional App developer – it’s yours and you can sell to the world or just to your local customers but it would be folly to restrict it to just one country.

The most important part of any App development program is the initial brief and you will be met with questionnaires to determine the desired features – accurately. Just as there are really no two identical workflows, even from the same supplier, there will be many variations on successful A2Ps. Oh, and don’t forget the Non-Disclosure Agreement.

The beauty is that A2P is in its infancy, there is plenty of time to get on board. Sure, as with W2P, there will eventually be ‘off the shelf’ customizable A2P programs and plug-ins to W2P but for the moment, your best bet it to talk with an App development studio because it is not as simple as it might look.

So, as the great Johnny O’Keefe sang “If you wanna be ‘Appy, sing an ‘Appy song!”

I hope you APPreciate the advice…A2P Apps are here to stay.

 

 

 

3 Responses to “Get an APPetite for APPS! Andy McCourt’s ReVerb.”

  1. February 13, 2013 at 9:40 am,

    said:

    Excellent article and all too true. The digital age doesn’t sleep nor wait – it reminds me of the earlier internet days when everyone was scrambling to build and launch the next big website.

    Applying mobile device technology to your workflow is a great marketing point as well as letting your customers know that you’re here for the long term.

    I can’t agree more with you Andy – the devil is in the detail and setting expectations for the deliverables and outcomes is, in my opinion, the most important step.

  2. February 13, 2013 at 12:27 pm,

    Andy
    said:

    Thanks for the feedback Craig. Good to see there are people taking A2P Apps seriously out there. The main thing is to make sure a print-service App works on all chosen platforms and works well and is simple to use. For the moment iOS and Android platforms, perhaps with xPads and xTabs added should be enough. The jury is still out on Windows mobile but it could grow to be significant. Blackberry’s new smart phones seem to lag behind and Symbian platform is going backwards since Nokia went Windows.
    I see Mozilla (Firefox) is also toying with a new mobile platform……how many mobile platforms do we need? It costs $$ to port or re-write an App to each platform. With Apple iOS and Android dominance, those two should be enough for quite a while.

  3. February 13, 2013 at 5:41 pm,

    said:

    10/10 Andy. Printers take note this guy knows what he is talking about. Bravo on an excellent article.

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