Earlier this week I had a very unique conversation with a friend who owns a regional distribution company.  He’d been thinking about mobile apps for his business and how he might use them to engage his customers, potential customers, and create loyalty.  The challenge, he indicated, is that he really only saw two choices in the market.  First he saw what is commonly known as MEAP vendors.  These vendors provide multi platform support with a substantial list of API’s and integration that could surely help him in tapping into all of his internal systems.  One of them even offered a “trial” of the software that he found interesting and went through the process of signing up.  Herein lies the problem.  After signing up he came to a screen where he didn’t even know where to start.  He clicked around for a few minutes, watched a training video, and then gave up.  Why did he give up?  He did that because in order to use one of these platforms you either already have to be an Iphone, Android developer or have some solid development experience.  In his case not only is he unable to rationalize hiring any developers (at approx 80 to 100K per headcount) he hasn’t even proven to himself that he can rationalize going to market with mobile.  There is simply too large of a barrier to entry with this process.

His second “find” was a number of vendors that offer an “easy” development product, that allows anyone, without development knowledge, to build their own mobile apps.  He indicated that he tried at least a half dozen of these. What he found, however, was even more disappointing.  Several of these solutions didn’t in fact offer a native phone experience, but were simply “build your own website” redux that created weak html5 experiences that failed to provide him with the engaging experience that he had in mind when envisioning his mobile future.  Several others offered him a template that he could plug in his information, even some connections to his internal applications.  While these options were certainly easier to use than what the MEAP vendors offered, none of them gave him a “unique” experience.  The fact was that the best of those he saw was the exact solution that was obviously used by his closest competitor to build their apps (what sent him into this process in the first place).  How could he possibly use this solution and be seen as “chasing” his competitor.  The more he invested the more he realized that these options were simply a new play on the “template” solutions of old….not good enough for most, and surely not good enough for him.

In the end he left this effort defeated.  What he wanted was the ability to make the quality application offered by the MEAP vendors with the ease of use provided by those that offer template solutions.  The great news to this story, one that surprised him, was that he had already seen such a solution in action.  I asked him to look at our app that was built for our church using our mobile platform.  I popped open my computer and showed him how I could quickly build an experience for him that was truly unique, allowing him to take complete advantage of his creativity and at the same time avoid both a template feel and the need to invest in technical resources to help develop the app.  “You built this?”, he asked.  “Yes I did”, I responded.