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The Humble Introduction of…HairHunt

Final Project - Retro PhoneClose your eyes for a moment and think back to a simpler time…to a time when talking to your best friend meant picking up the house phone, spinning her phone number on the dial and talking to her for hours no less than four feet away from said house phone. Remember that? It seems like ages ago, right? Well, all things considered, it really was ages ago!

Now, we rarely talk on the phone and most of our time is spent texting or hanging out online. In fact, in 2013, research found that “the average user spends 23 hours a week emailing, texting and using social media and other forms of online communication” (Mielach, 2013). Those long nights of spending hours on the phone with your best friend who just lives down the road are gone. Now, kids are texting their way through the night and sending more than 60 texts per day in 2012 (Samakow, 2012). But it’s not just texting that is consuming the lives of our teens (and us for that matter); with the introduction of smartphones, we are now spending a record 34+ hours a month via our hand held devices compared to a measly 26 hours surfing the web on our computers (Fingas, 2014).

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines smartphone as “a cell phone that includes additional software functions (as e-mail or an Internet browser)” (Smartphone). While that’s all great, you might be curious as to where this whole smartphone phenomenon came from; let’s take a look, shall we?

Final Project - Ericcson GS88In 1992, IBM introduced the IBM Simon. “It included a touchscreen, operated by a stylus, that would let you send and receive fax messages. But, it also of course had a notepad, an email client and a calendar” (McCarty, 2011). Many think that the Simon was the first smartphone to be introduced into the market – while it didn’t exactly take off, it was a huge step in a brand new direction and one that many would soon follow. Ericsson did just that in 1997 with the introduction of the GS88 and coined the word “smartphone” for the first time (McCarty, 2011). Nokia was quick to follow with the Nokia 9000 Communicator, which many believe was the true beginning of smartphones (McCarty, 2011). Around about 2001, we are finally introduced to the likes of Palm OS, BlackBerry OS and Windows CE. It wasn’t until 2007 when Apple introduced the iPhone that smartphones went from being solely in the hands of business people to the hands of the average consumer (McCarty, 2011). It wasn’t long after, in 2008, that HTC, backed by Google, introduced the first Android smartphone (McCarty, 2011).

As you can see, from our brief history lesson, smartphones have come a long way in the last 20+ years! Some of the most interesting, creative and unique aspects of smartphones are the many different applications that users now have access to. In fact, according to Apple’s CEO Tim Cook, there are now more in than one million apps available in the App Store and more than 60 billion total apps have been downloaded (Ingraham, 2013). The large number of apps available and the huge number of total app downloads has led to “more $13 billion being paid out to developers over the years” (Ingraham, 2013).

Final Project - Popular App Chart

The most popular app today is Facebook, by a virtual landslide, as seen in the chart above (Yarow, 2013). So what exactly makes an app successful? While we might not be able to compete with the likes of Facebook, according to the Entrepreneur website, there are four essential ideas to consider when attempting to create a successful app (Varshneya, 2013):

  1. Solve a problem
    • “Solve either the intrinsic problem (i.e. the Flashlight app) or the ones that are enhancements (i.e. a weather app with a sleek user-friendly interface).”
  2. Make it intuitive
    • “You want to offer a fantastic experience.” Ensure that your app is easy to figure out without needing much, or any, guidance. “A great user experience also means making sure your app is free of bugs and crashes.”
  3. Start marketing in advance
    • “Successful apps are promoted way before they even hit the app store…Divide your marketing into three phases: pre-launch campaign, launch campaign and post-launch campaign.”
  4. Be strategic about distribution
    • “You have to choose a combination of those [distribution channels] that work best for your target audience.” “Offering a free basic app to hook a user then selling premium content is a popular way to increase traction.”

When creating an app it is also important to remember that there are different application platforms in the marketplace now. Deciding whether to offer your app in the App Store, the Google Play Store or a combination of both is an important piece of your app development. Ideally, you should develop your app to be compatible on all platforms; however, if you cannot afford to do so right away, Mashable has some great tips on figuring out which platform you should start with (Warren, 2013):

  1. What are your current users using?
    • “Look at your visitors stats and see what portion of your mobile visitors are coming from Android or iOS” and start with the group that shows the higher engagement rate.
  2. What are your tablet plans?
    • If you plan to offer your app in tablet form, you’ll want to stick with iOS for now. While Google may “boast that Android tablets have almost half the global market,” when you look at “how those tablets are used or at the usage share amongst tablet apps, it’s clear the iPad is the winner.”
  3. What are your developers familiar with?
    • Talk to your team and see what they are most familiar with – developing for iOS requires a Mac and Android’s are not at “Xcode levels just yet.”
  4. Do you want to charge for your app?
    • “The adage that Android users never pay for apps isn’t quite as true as it used to be, but it’s absolutely true that iOS users are more willing – and more likely to pay – for an app than Android users.” If you’re going to charge for your app, you should probably begin with iOS.

Now that we know some of the secrets behind creating a successful app and tricks for deciding which platform our app should be offered on, let’s put our new found knowledge to the test!

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The Concept

Final Project - Hair SalonHave you ever moved to a new town or been on vacation and desperately needed a haircut? Odds are good that you have fallen into one of those two categories at some point, but you had no idea where to find a decent, fairly priced and nearby hair salon or barber. That is…until now! Much like the GrubHub app locates restaurants in your area that will deliver, this app will locate nearby hair salons and barbershops that include all of the necessary information you will need to book an appointment. From prices, hours of operation, customer reviews and coupons this app will house all of that important and necessary information you need when searching for a hair salon or barbershop. In addition, the app will have the ability to use your smartphones GPS capabilities to locate the hair salons and barbershops that are nearest to you at any given time.

The Research & The Target Audience

In order to properly develop any idea for an application, some amount of market research must take place to ensure that there is truly a need for the idea you are proposing (i.e. solving a problem). In this case, I created a simple survey via Qaultrics and posted it to my various social media profiles (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+). For this particular app idea, the target audience is quite large; however, my various social profiles reach a large majority of those I would wish to target with this application. Therefore, sharing this simple survey with my followers was sufficient enough for the time being. Should further interest arise and actual development be implemented, additional research may need to take place to ensure that we are meeting the needs of a large enough group of users.

As I said, the survey that I administered was simple; however, it delivered the results that I required to solidify a need for an app like this in the marketplace. The survey started out quite basic, asking the reviewers to answer yes or no to the question “Have you visited a hair salon or barber in the last six months?” This helped to set the expectation of the survey as well as identify the basic need for a hair salon or barber on a semi-regular basis – all participants answered “Yes.” The second question asked if the reviewer had previously been to the stated hair salon or barber prior to their last visit; not surprisingly, the majority of the participants answered “Yes” to this question as well.

Final Project - Question Three 2The third question of the survey was one of the most important – “Have you experienced difficulty finding a hair salon and/or barber that suits your needs when on vacation, in a new town or when relocating for long periods of time?” 75% of the participants answered “Yes” to this question and therefore reinforced the thought that an app like this would fit perfectly into the current marketplace.

90% of the participants stated that Customer Reviews would most likely persuade them to visit a particular hair salon or barber when in a new location. 75% said Price Range and 70% said Location or Proximity is what would entice them to visit a new location. When asked if the participant’s would benefit from an application that would include information on the most popular and well-reviewed hair salons and barbers in their current area, 70% answered “Yes.” With that, the majority of the survey’s participants confirmed that a need for a hair salon and barbershop locator and review mobile application is not only needed but desired. However, it’s important to mention that 85% of the survey’s participants answered “No” when asked if they would pay a nominal fee for such service.

The Nitty Gritty Details

So other than helping you find a hair salon or barbershop near you, how would customers and businesses benefit from the creation and implementation of this application? Let’s look at the customers first – by equipping the app with the ability to tap into a smartphone’s GPS capabilities, the customer will be able to have the most accurate location results as possible. Allowing previous hair salon and barbershop customers the ability to leave reviews and rate their experiences, will also allow new customer the opportunity to better understand the staff, products and experiences to accurately choose the hair salon or barbershop that will best suit their needs. Also, offering the app for free download will allow the customer to benefit from all the app has to offer and not make a dent in their wallet!

The customer’s aren’t the only ones benefiting from this unique app though – businesses will be rewarded with better search result placement if they allow for app promotion within their store and/or via their website and social media accounts. The app would also feature a section where businesses can offer promotional deals or coupons redeemable at their location if the customer mentions finding their store via the app search. Potentially, we could even offer businesses better search result placement if they are willing to pay a small fee or by running paid advertisements for a specific period of time. However, these locations would still need to keep an overall positive review status from the customers – businesses will not be able to buy their way to the top of this app’s search results alone. Paid advertisements would only be granted to those businesses that have proven their customer service, products and experiences are exemplary – this would be determined by the customer reviews and rankings housed on the application itself.

The Claiming and Sharing

The first step for a user, after downloading the free app, would be to create a login of course! This login could be linked to the user’s Facebook, Twitter and/or Google+ account for easier and more efficient access. Once a user has created their profile, they are free to start enjoying the benefits of the application, searching for locations, leaving customer reviews and ranking hair salons and barbershops they have previously experienced. Also, user’s would have the ability to share their experiences via their social media profiles should they choose to do so after leaving reviews or ranking locations.

Much like businesses have the ability to “claim” themselves via Foursquare, businesses would have a similar option for this application. By “claiming” their business, they would have the ability to supply their own description of the business, operating hours, contact phone numbers/websites, products/services and much more. The business would also have the ability to link their social media platforms to their profile on the application. While there is much more that would need to go into the development of the businesses portion of the app, this is where we would start to build the foundation.

The Marketing, Promotion and Analytics

As I mentioned earlier, in order for any application to succeed in today’s world there needs to be some type of marketing or promotion done prior to the launch, during the launch and after the app has entered the marketplace. For this particular application, the majority of the marketing and promotion work would need to be done by the businesses themselves. Providing signage for the hair salons and barbershops to physically display in their stores, creating banner advertisements for their websites and constructing social media posts for them to share with their followers are all ways we would partner with the businesses to promote the application. It would also be important to continue these partnerships well after the app has launched and provide businesses with data reports and analysis on the various types of information the app would collect. By allowing users to connect the application to their social profiles would give us the opportunity to listen on a social level as well as providing “cold hard facts” from data analytics on customer search results, click rates and much more.

The End…Or Just The Beginning

While there is much to be determined in when it comes to the details, logistics and research of this application, the idea is strong and the foundation is solid. With a little love and a whole lot of brain power, this app could see the light of day somewhere in the future! By helping to solve the problem so many of us have dealt with and locating a well-reviewed hair salon or barbershop in close proximity, users everywhere could have a much more enjoyable hair experiences when in a new or unknown location. While this is may be the end of this particular project, it just be the beginning for this unique, informational and enjoyable mobile application (which is set to be affectionately named HairHunt…or not, we’ll see).

Please Note: HairHunt is not an actual application or in development to my knowledge. The contents of this blog post are for educational purposes only.

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References

Fingas, J. (2014, February 24). We now spend more time using smartphones than surfing the web on PCs. Engadget. Retrieved March 29, 2014, from http://www.engadget.com/2014/02/24/nielsen-phone-usage/

Ingraham, N. (2013, October 22). Apple announces 1 million apps in the App Store, more than 1 billion songs played on iTunes radio. The Verge. Retrieved March 29, 2014, from http://www.theverge.com/2013/10/22/4866302/apple-announces-1-million-apps-in-the-app-store

McCarty, B. (2011, December 6). The History of the Smartphone. TNW Network All Stories RSS. Retrieved March 29, 2014, from http://thenextweb.com/mobile/2011/12/06/the-history-of-the-smartphone/

Mielach, D. (2013, July 2). Americans Spend 23 Hours Per Week Online, Texting. BusinessNewsDaily.com. Retrieved March 29, 2014, from http://www.businessnewsdaily.com/4718-weekly-online-social-media-time.html

Samakow, J. (2012, March 19). Teen Texting: New Report Shows They Send 60 Texts A Day. The Huffington Post. Retrieved March 29, 2014, from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/19/texting-and-teens_n_1365650.html

Varshneya, R. (2013, May 23). 4 Essentials for Successful Mobile Apps. Entrepreneur. Retrieved March 29, 2014, from http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/226732

Warren, C. (2013, August 16). iOS vs. Android: What App Platform Should I Choose?. Mashable. Retrieved March 29, 2014, from http://mashable.com/2013/08/16/ios-android-development/

Yarow, J. (2013, July 31). CHART OF THE DAY: The Most Popular Apps Right Now. Business Insider. Retrieved March 29, 2014, from http://www.businessinsider.com/chart-of-the-day-facebooks-incredible-popularity-on-smartphones-2013-7

smartphone. (n.d.). Merriam-Webster. Retrieved March 29, 2014, from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/smartphone

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Ta-ta for now!

listen-laugh-love

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