Do I Need an App for That?

As schools and teachers continue to shift demand to software and online products, you may be looking at your products and asking, “Do I need an app for that?” With today’s students using games and educational apps on iPads and smartphones, mobile applications are becoming even more commonplace in the classroom, as this AP story highlights. Though your mainstream customers may not be clamoring for a mobile version of your product just yet, now is the time to consider developing mobile apps that can help you reach not only early adopters, but also those customers who are looking at where your product will be (namely, school administrators and principals) – a prime example of developing products that meet your customers’ needs now, and in the coming years.

With any product, you need to satisfy those who are buying your product for what it is, those who are interested in where it is going, and the early adopters who have to have the next big thing. The mainstream customers are where the profits are today, but the early adopters and visionaries are where the future is, and the key is to balance the needs of those groups. In many cases, teachers are looking for the practical application of your product will be used in the classroom, while the district administrators and superintendents are looking at the vision of where your product is going to be.  Early adopters, meanwhile, want to make sure they have the latest thing. While a mobile application may not make sense for every company, (though with smartphones projected to be more than 50 percent of the U.S. market by the end of the year, mobile apps are certainly something that should be at least strongly considered by every company) it provides a perfect example of how to meet the needs of administrators and early adopters in a way that delivers for your future mainstream customers.

For now, if you are hearing from more than 10 to 15 percent of your customers about a need for a mobile app, you need to develop a product to meet those needs as soon as possible. But even if you aren’t yet at that threshold, now is the time to get a jump on developing a mobile app that can complement your existing core product. In particular, you should consider making some of the administrative functions most likely to be used by a district administrator or superintendent available as an app, along with some basic practical tools for early adopters, and then and then build from there to show how your mainstream customers might also benefit from a mobile application. Moving forward, you can work to fine-tune applications that can be used by teachers, and eventually, by students and their parents. It is probably not yet necessary to move your entire product to smartphones, but by beginning the process of building an application that shows the possibilities of where your product can go, you will go a long way to satisfy your early adopters, show principals and administrators where your product is going and get a jump start on your future mainstream customers.  A little bit of innovation now focused on a small percentage of early adopters and influential users is a strong strategy to build the products that will eventually meet the needs of your mainstream customers, and drive the success of your company.