A mobile app can be a great way to reach customers or improve employee productivity, but without the right mobile app development strategy, you could be left out in the cold. According to VisionMobile, mobile apps will account for 33% of a global app economy worth $143bn by 2016. With the market growing at such a rate that developers are falling over themselves to meet demand, it is no surprise that business is rapidly catching up with the insatiable consumer appetite for smart apps.
In the Middle East, the desire to capitalise on the opportunity to get closer to customers and exploit the potential of mobile apps as business and productivity tools is one of the main market drivers, as is the emphasis regional governments are placing on the roll-out of mobile services.
But this is putting considerable pressure on commercial and bespoke app developers to spot and fill gaps in such a rapidly evolving landscape. Managing release cycles, developing apps beyond their first flush of success and supporting them through lifecycles that move at the speed of sound are major challenges for the most seasoned developer – let alone the endless stream of new kids on the block.
“Although some businesses are a little behind in understanding how apps can help create opportunities, I think the region has quickly reacted and many companies have, or are in the process of developing, apps – not just for the business as a whole, but also specific product lines and individual brands,” said Serjios EL-Hage, CEO at app and mobility specialist EMW Middle East.
“Increased customer engagement and the ability to localise the message will help continue the growth in demand for apps. Also, with the number of devices in the market still growing and the adoption of mobile technology by consumers, the ability to target potential customer through apps in the proximity will help accelerate demand.”
Khalil Shadid, founder of ReserveOut, which has launched an app specifically for the restaurant and dining sector, said businesses in the Middle East have been lagging behind in their adoption of mobile apps. He said most of the industry still has no direct mobile presence, although this is changing as smartphone penetration rates rocket – particularly in the UAE and KSA.
“Mobile apps globally are no longer a nice-to-have for business and have clearly become a must-have for any business to stay competitive,” Shadid said.
Some industry watchers see government as the strongest market influence. “The move towards smart governance has had a huge influence on the growth of the mobile app market,” said Vimal Sethi, managing director at IT consultancy Synechron Middle East.
“Consumers have been using mobile Internet primarily as a tool to access news, social networks and email. However, as the government has started to focus on increase mobility, the market for business apps is [now] on the rise.
“The GCC states are driving the efforts to provide government services on mobile devices, as the region moves towards smart governance. Initiatives are being rolled out across GCC states, covering government services like public utilities, police, customs, transport and municipalities. This has led corporations towards a mobility drive as well. All this has led to an increased demand for business apps in the region and this trend will continue.”
Rohan Tejura, assistant vice president at Focus Softnet, agreed that the government sector is driving demand for mobile apps, but said there are strong signs that the business sector is increasingly hungry for bespoke apps.
“The greatest demands are seen from organisations that are involved in materials management, be it manufacturing, trading, supply, construction, logistics, warehousing, real-estate or retail,” he said. “However, services industries are also quick to adopt mobile apps by providing all services, tracking and status updates and resolutions through these apps. Future growth of the industry seems to be all-inclusive, and all sectors including healthcare and hospitality are moving towards the adoption of bespoke mobile app technologies.”