The next big idea for your business, by Renier Kriel

01 June 2016 ‐ 5 min read

The world’s next big idea might be a mobile application, but is it your entire business? 

If you think your business is an app, we’d recommend heading back to the drawing board. Our CEO, Renier Kriel, shares his insights into developing a mobile application that’s effective and purposeful, while keeping in mind that your app is not your entire business – it’s the vehicle that empowers it.

Apps that have rocked the world and continually attract global attention, like Facebook, YouTube or WhatsApp, have confused us, leading us to believe that their power and market share is all thanks to the technology behind them. It’s a fairy tale story really, because it’s not actually about the next big idea – it’s about meeting a need and solving a problem in a way that no one else has using effective technologies that make it simple for users to access the service. Finding the balance between solving a problem, building a scalable, useful service that’s presented through a mobile application and then looking towards growing a loyal user base is where the magic lies – not just the actual application.

Many people look at the big name apps, and especially ones that have disrupted entire industries, like Uber, viewing them as shining examples of the ideal mobile application. But there’s a misconception inherent in this – we call it the Uber problem, where people become fixated on creating the next “Uber Of” and think that the next big idea is all about having a revolutionary app.

Disrupting Industries

Uber has dramatically transformed the way we think about a business with a mobile app at its core, and AirBnB has done similarly for the world of hospitality and accommodation. But there’s a crucial element to understand and remember - Uber is not about the app – it’s about people finding safe, reliable, on-demand transport with a convenient payment method. It just so happens that because of portability and the contextual nature of smartphones, mobile apps can really help a lot in achieving this. And don’t get me wrong, the technology is great, and it is important, but that’s not what makes Uber a great product – it’s the experience and solution as a whole.

In a similar example, local payments app SnapScan is not the world’s most advanced payment application. What SnapScan did to differentiate itself was to create an end-to-end solution that was more effective and efficient than its competitors. Nowadays, making a payment using SnapScan is faster than paying by credit card. Of course, it’s thanks to technology that SnapScan processes payments and transactions so quickly, but this was a key differentiator that attracted consumer interest, thereby leading to a quick uptake in application usage.

What Uber Did

Uber got the balance right by creating a useful service, that solved a real problem, and moved on to create a loyal user base that keeps coming back to use them, over and over again..

People think too much about the tech and too little about the business.

Getting your Focus Right

So when considering building the “Uber of ” one should carefully consider how to balance consumer demand, price disruption, scalability, growing of loyalty towards the platform and making it lucrative for suppliers by simplifying the business process while increasing potential income. Typically, people think too much about the tech and too little about the business. But it’s in the development of both, through purpose-driven design and application that you’d be able to truly disrupt an industry and create a world-rocking application. Bear in mind too, that mobile app development companies are generally far more skilled at conceptualising and developing technology than the founders of a business typically are. That’s why finding the right partner and collaborator is key.

Prove the Concept before going all Gung Ho

One of our clients approached us recently with a concept for an app where they already had a working model using a free tool - WhatsApp groups. Their offering was so popular that they had multiple groups running simultaneously, and it became impossible to manage, hence the need for a mobile application. Because they’d already proved the idea and had a captive audience, they enjoyed more than a thousand downloads from the moment the application launched, and were assured of more than a thousand active users who immediately engaged with the platform, contributing to its core purpose.

Want to build the next “Uber Of”? Here’s how:

- Solve a problem, add value to a consumer and ask a fair fee for doing so

- Get this balance right and find a decent tech partner to execute on the vision

- Remember: Your app is not your business – it is a facilitator to empower it. Can you imagine your business without the application?

- Ask yourself how the solution to the problem would look, rather than imagining what the app should look like. Can it exist without an app?

- If so, would building an app make it easier?

- Try to launch your concept without building an app.

- Cost effective tools are available to help get you started:
- Could you use WhatsApp?
- Could you use HTML?
- Could you use anything else?

Over the last seven years, we have developed a number of world-class mobile apps that have helped both corporates and scale ups to drive their business objectives. Our experience in strategy and consulting enables us to deliver beyond the brief by helping clients find the balance between business objectives and user needs, which is the very thing that justifies having an app to start with.

If you're looking for the next big idea for your business, start with this suggested approach; and if your findings determine that your idea requires an app to empower it, get in touch with our amazing team at hello@4imobile.co.za.