This semester we teamed up with Applique, which is trying to transform the mobile application development space. Applique has developed software that allows non-technical users to “drag-and-drop” common plug-ins and design features into their own app so that making a mobile app is as easy as PowerPoint. Applique allows users to develop their own apps at a low cost and as quickly as they are needed.
Right now, developing an application requires technical know-how, is costly, and can take months. Of course, the field is never clear in the mobile app world. It seems that many companies have recognized the potential value of addressing this need, so the space is crowded. The key is to get the technology, business model, and target market right (and, of course, before your competitors do.)
We’ve spent the past two months working with Applique’s founders to refine their customer identification and marketing strategy by asking basic questions. What users could benefit from an app, but do not currently have one for lack of expertise, time, or money? Which customers might churn through customized apps in short periods of time? Who would easily be able to direct users to actually use their app? (Many apps are ignored shortly after they’re downloaded.) These questions led us to some specific market segments to explore and cultivate: event planning companies (major events, weddings, etc.), schools and after school programs, museums and art galleries, and endurance events, to name a few. We also explored other approaches such as deploying easily constructed apps as a management tool or offering an easily customizable app template as an app aggregation (rather than fragmentation) play, targeting companies like Weebly, Intuit, VistaPrint, and Angie’s list.
The exercise has been a valuable one for Applique, and certainly for our team. Now we have some experience thinking strategically about how a company with a great technology and promising business idea can convert that potential into an advantage and capture a large share of a new, but competitive market. We’ll be watching Applique’s progress with great interest!
This post was written my Michael Lekas, Columbia University Phd Candidate