According to mega-successful VC Bill Gurley, “we are in the midst of a critical platform transition,” from browsers to mobile apps.
Consumer-based platform transitions like this one, he says, only come around once a decade or so. The first was from DOS to Windows in the late 1980s, followed by the client-server model, and then the rise of the browser in 1996 (several companies working with the new browser-based internet “achieved market capitalizations in the billions”).
This latest transition is a shift away from the browsers that ruled the 1990s and 2000s, but this time towards discrete mobile apps. No one takes out their phone and enters ‘http://www.facebook.com’ into the address bar of their mobile browser; instead they use the Facebook app, as well as Snapchat, Instagram, and other social apps that have come to dominate our devices and our collective psyche.
But not only is the way people are accessing the internet changing, the apps they are increasingly using to access the internet are changing too. Marketers who have used search engine optimization (SEO) over the past ten years to popularize their products will be powerless in the market that lionizes mobile app above all others. Instead of traditional SEO, Gurley offers the following tips for people who want to use mobile apps to market their product – or who want to use mobile apps as their product:
1) This year especially, clean, simple design is king. People want simple apps that serve their purpose quickly, and then go away (Gurley unsurprisingly mentions “the Uber experience,” and Instagram, in which his company Benchmark Capital is an investor). “Mobile values the single solution,” he continues, “one sharp blade rather than a Swiss army knife.”
2) You’re going to need an army of developers. In addition to a well-designed desktop browser function, companies need not only a great iOS app but various varieties of Android. As Gurley says, “these are table stakes; you don’t get to choose not to play.” The bright side is that startups have an advantage over big corporations, who might not be able to move quickly enough to develop apps as needed. But don’t scrimp on design; user experience needs to be the paramount priority, even at extra development cost.
3) Make payment seamless. If you can figure out one-button payment, for which Gurley and Team Silicon “have been waiting for 15 years,” you’ll be in a “very strong position, especially if [you] can disrupt the processing fee.” Of course, in the Middle East, this is trickier, but several pioneers, like PayPal, Gate2Play, PayFort, and CashBasha.
“Consumers prefer mobile and they prefer mobile apps to the mobile web,” Gurley closes. “Deny that reality at your own risk.”