March 15 marked the 25th anniversary of the first “dotcom” Web address registration (by computer firm Symbolics Inc., right here in Cambridge, Mass.). With symbolics.com, a new platform was introduced to the world, one that enabled computer users to experience a brand beyond a brick-and-mortar environment. Smart companies quickly staked their claims on the World Wide Web, but many hesitated, partly due to cost of entry as well as doubts about return on investment. Now, of course, there’s no questioning the value of online marketing and there are more ways than ever to wrap your customers in a virtual brand experience.
First, there’s Web 2.0. Bowen Craggs & Co., which advises firms on website effectiveness, reported that 44 percent of corporations rebuilt their sites in 2009; roughly a fifth spent more than $1 million in addition to the cost of creating promotional microsites, landing pages, mobile applications (“apps”) and social media channels.
The Internet has no doubt become a powerful platform for sales, communication, learning and exchanging ideas, but with the recent explosion of mobile apps, companies are arming themselves with the next generation of utility-based tools that co-exist with the Web to deliver a comprehensive brand experience.
Good thing. A survey by Manhattan Research estimated that about 80 percent of all US physicians would be using smartphones (e.g., iPhone, BlackBerry, Palm, Droid) by the end of this year. And this trend is likely to grow beyond the typical physician and patient-support applications to comprise a true B2B business model, especially in the medical device industry.
Here are some ideas and examples of utility-based mobile apps that medical device companies can benefit from:
- Information management to go. Information can now be made available anywhere and at any time, moving seamlessly between on- and offline environments. For example, Quest Diagnostics (NYSE:DGX) developed an intuitive program, Care360, that provides physicians with access to managing lab orders, results and medication through an iPhone app.
- Palm-sized sales toolkit. A well-developed app should enable a sales rep to locate and share pertinent information (e.g., interactive demos, pricing, parts locator) at his or her fingertips. The ultimate goal here is to shorten the sales cycle and take full advantage of a customer interaction, one that is truly meaningful, even if it’s at the scrub sink. Promega Biotech‘s iPhone app is a great example, albeit from another industry, where users are able to quickly access pertinent information covering most common laboratory procedures.
- A parts library in your pocket. With hundreds of parts involved in making medical devices operable, the need for an app that enables intelligent referencing is perhaps inevitable. Imagine if your service technician were able to point his smartphone at any object in a customer’s work environment and automatically obtain the required information to diagnose a problem. Such an app is still being developed, but you can read about object recognition and download SnapTell’s book recognition app through iTunes.
And this is only the beginning. The good news is, you won’t have to wait another 25 years for the virtual world to change. So get smart while smart technology is hot, because you never know: Today’s mobile app may be tomorrow’s floppy disk.
Nik See is Seidler Bernstein’s director of brand planning & strategy. He has worked with a diverse list of organizations including Macy’s, Best Buy, Pillsbury, 3M, Cargill, Second Harvest, Ten Thousand Villages, Kohler, General Mills, Royal Caribbean International, Target Corporation and Levi’s. See earned a BS in Mass Communications and Advertising from St. Cloud State University. He speaks fluent Mandarin, Cantonese and Malay. See is a member of, and an active contributor to, the Taproot Foundation; he is also a member of the Design Management Institute, AIGA (formerly the American Institute of Graphic Arts), the Advertising Federation and the Asia Pacific Brand Council.