What The Hell’s An App Strategist? (And Why Every Agency Needs One!)

What The Hell’s An App Strategist? (And Why Every Agency Needs One!)

In this opinion piece, Steve Molloy (pictured below), founder of mobile app firm LOMAH Studios, says brands need a mobile strategy which includes an app. And it should be up to agencies to fly the app flag for clients…

Stephen Molloy
Posted by Stephen Molloy

It’s crucial for brands to have an app as part of a marketing plan. Advertising agencies should have an app strategist to help clients develop an app.


When a brand makes a decision to release an app, it is tied to marketing. When Pizza Hut made their app available, it was simply to facilitate orders. When the ordering process can be easily done from anywhere you can access your smartphone, it is bound to have a positive impact on sales. Grocery giant Coles released an app with features that include helping consumers find sale items and create shopping lists on the fly. Logically, if you can make it easier for people to shop at your store, they’ll do it more often. Apps must be working; 91 per cent of the top 100 global brands have one.

Despite this, most companies do not have a solid mobile strategy. Some don’t have one at all. However, in an increasingly mobile-first environment, a mobile strategy is essential to future growth. Much like social media became essential to marketing several years ago, moving forward with a mobile strategy in mind is imperative to a brand’s growth.

Because apps are tied to marketing, the reasonable step for a brand that wants to implement a mobile strategy is their advertising agency. It is logical. Apps help brands create more marketing space and to use that space in unique ways. They are free of the constraints of third-party rules, such as those on Facebook, or restrictions like Twitter’s character limit. There’s the opportunity for gamification, decreasing the chances that your app becomes a zombie app. The app becomes a representative for your brand, just waiting to be used.

So who creates these amazing technological tools that allow brands to better engage with customers? An app strategist helps brands create this tool. You may be asking yourself, “What on earth is an app strategist?” An app strategist is a combination of a UI designer and marketing specialist; someone who can help develop an app to drive your marketing goals.

Most businesses aren’t large enough to employ a full time app strategist. Because apps are tied to marketing, it’s sensible to turn to the company’s advertising agency to handle this responsibility. However, today, many advertising agencies do not have an app strategist on staff. App development is passed on to the IT guy, or Stacy who works in graphic design who once designed an app for her brother’s band. In this environment, apps are not designed with a focus in mind, so while your customers may be excited to download your app, if it is poorly designed, or doesn’t have features that they find useful, they are not going to open it again.

While app strategist is a new job title, finding one should not be as hard as it is. Quite simply, an app strategist should be offered by every advertising agency. Apps are a critical part of marketing today. They are often lowest on the totem pole in terms of budget, but they are being decidedly undervalued. However, think about this: by early 2014, Pizza Hut saw more orders on mobile than they did online. The average Android user has 95 apps on their phone. If you are looking to increase customer connection, there are no better ways than apps.

Additionally, some companies are designing apps to work solely within their business. Employee communication, file management, project management, cloud syncing and customer retention can all be handled with specifically designed apps. As companies increasingly rely on outsourcing specialist positions, effective communication and CRM is essential. A custom app allows the company to achieve this.

Designing an app is not a one shot deal. Only 20 per cent of companies see mass adoption of their apps, which means that app design is an ongoing process. Much like any strategy, an app strategy should be evaluated on a regular basis. How can it be made better? What changes can be implemented to improve adoption rates? Even if a company is seeing stellar adoption rates, as customer needs and technology evolve, the app may still need to be updated. There should be a strong focus and specific goals tied to an app strategy. An app designed for the sole purpose of putting your name on customers’ devices is sure to be deleted the next time they get the warning that they’re using too much space.

An app strategist should work with a company to develop a long term strategy that is fluid and capable of evolving, much like a social media strategy. There should be specific goals, a budget, and an expected return on investment. An app strategy should be evaluated on a regular basis to measure performance of the app. Metrics to measure include:

  • User acquisition cost – How much does it cost you to earn a download?
  • New leads – Is the app bringing you new leads?
  • Influenced customers – How many customers actually made a purchase because of the app?
  • Abandonment rate – How many download the app, never to use it after the first use? Fifth use? Twentieth?
  • Session Length – How long are your customers staying on the app? This can measure several things, depending on the design of your app. If they’re spending longer than expected in the ordering process, is there a problem there? Or are they spending a long time in your app because they’re reading product descriptions or enjoying the functionality?

As you can see, putting together an app strategy and designing an app aren’t projects that can be done in a day or two. They are tasks that should be handled by someone who knows what they’re doing, and can help you develop an app that will do exactly what you need it to do. Advertising agencies are not going to begin keeping app strategists on staff until businesses demand better apps. If you want to be competitive in the global app game, you need to demand that your advertising agency bring in a specialist. If you want an app designed to be functional, to help you meet your marketing goals, and to be used by your customers, then it is imperative that you work with a professional app strategist.