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As businesses move to exploit the opportunities of mobile app services, it is important to recognise that an app is not just a pretty marketing tool: it is a vital customer touchpoint.

New research from the GSMA shows smartphone users spend more time with their apps and messaging than they do on calls and web browsing. Mobile apps drive 667 minutes of use per user each month, almost as much as messaging (671 minutes), followed by voice (531 minutes) and web browsing (422 minutes).

Smartphone usage declines at weekends but averages more than 70 minutes per day, with apps capturing more use than any other activity at weekends. The findings showed that SMS usage is higher in the mornings than voice and usage of social networking apps builds up through the day peaking at 9-10pm.

Although apps have overtaken the Web in terms of usage, there are certain categories where the mobile Web is still dominant. News, search and commerce categories receive more usage from mobile Web browsers, with 86%, 85% and 66% of mobile Web browser users respectively using them monthly.

TBusinesses are seeking to utilise mobile devices as a channel to market and/or as a strategy to deploy mobile flexible working for employees. Businesses increasingly appreciate the benefits of a packaged and branded app that has good usability, rich experience and mash-ups of key data sets, when needing to do something specific versus the search and discovery nature of the web.

For example, Pizza Hut teamed up with Vodafone to launch a smartphone delivery app that allows customers to order pizza and pay for it on their monthly phone bill, with Vodafone's location-based service identifying the nearest Pizza Hut to the customer's location. This type of mobile application can transform the customer experience and also introduce new business models and revenue streams. Pizza Hut recently launched an iPhone delivery app in the US and in just three months it had been downloaded by almost one million customers.

As businesses move to exploit the opportunities of mobile app services, it is important to recognise that an app is not just a pretty marketing tool: it is a vital customer touchpoint that will increasingly provide a primary route to market. As such, any app development should consider back-end integration into business intelligence platforms, conform to mobile security standards and be engineered for innovative future capabilities such as augmented reality. Vodafone Global Enterprise has a services division that can partner with you to evolve apps with a rapid time to market and a low barrier to entry. An app brings your brand closer to the customer 24/7 and can offer prolonged and repeated brand engagement.

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