With the number of smartphone owners exceeding one billion worldwide, there has been a positive and negative effect on mobile application developers and their customers due, in part, to the competitiveness that arises from a crowded market.
On the upside, the consumer and the enterprise have unprecedented access to smart devices, which proves a fertile ground for companies to reach this mass mobile audience. As of September, Apple's App Store counted more than 21 billion downloads in 2012, a 74 percent increase over 2011, according to Gartner Research.
But for companies to successfully monetize their mobile apps, their product must, for one, be visible, and also fit a specific need of the customer, by offering as personal an experience as possible. In ABI Research's latest competitive assessment of mobile application storefronts, Apple's App Store was named the leader, with Google coming in second, and Microsoft third.
While Apple led the pack for its market share, and its ability to maintain strict quality control measures, "Microsoft should be lauded for its initiative to extend its (app) ranking algorithm beyond raw download figures, by including factors that can actually measure customer satisfaction and retention," said Aapo Markkanen, a senior analyst for ABI, in a statement.
The mobile app storefront gives B2B and B2C companies alike more ways to have their applications distributed and downloaded. Electronic signature and digital signage solutions company DocuSign, for instance, hosts its business application both in the Salesforce.com AppExchange and a consumer version of its product, DocuSign Ink, in the Apple iTunes App Store.
With Gartner naming mobile applications and HTML5, as well as enterprise app stores, among the top 10 strategic technology trends for 2013, CRM vendors may look for additional ways to help customers analyze and improve upon application discovery and download activity. SAP's Afaria mobile device management solution, for instance, recently became available on Amazon Web Service, with additional plans for mobile application development to come.
One venture-backed start-up, Appboy, bills itself as the customer relationship management platform for mobile apps. Once an app developer integrates with Appboy, the system can begin to "create a very rich profile on any user of the app," explains Mark Ghermezian, cofounder and CEO of Appboy. "We know how a user came in, that they clicked on one button or didn't go to the next level, or that they didn't authenticate on Facebook."
Because Appboy tracks usage and events with analytics, companies can group app users around actions like a user logging in to the application once only to never return again. This provides a way for marketers and developers to generate one-time or recurring campaigns to push to targeted segments and improve user retention.
Appboy also developed a fully integrated help desk so that users can submit feedback directly to app developers, which Ghermezian says is contributing to an 80 percent drop in negative feedback across the development community.