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Are Your Customers Creating Apps?

Posted by Bill Lee on October 27, 2010 at 11:09 AM

And no, you don't have to be Apple, RIM, Google, AT&T, or Verizon to care. Whatever your business is, your customers may very well be creating "apps." And these can be gold mines for your business.

Apps are developed to enhance the value of your product or platform. They can be developed by anyone: your company, a 3d party, or--and this is where it gets espeically interesting--your customer. When customers go to the time or trouble to develop their own app, as insurance firm Aflac or consumer survey firm General Growth Properties did, then it can get very interesting. The reason they're going to such trouble is because the app has great value to them. And if a lot of other buyers in their industry want the app too, then you've got instant market verification of its value.

That can allow your firm to bypass all the R&D, market testing (which often fails) and so forth needed to roll out new products. And the chances are very good that whatever customers in your market have created, it's not as good as you could ultimately make. And that can open a serious business opportunity for your firm, as 3M and MIT professor Eric Von Hippel have shown.

And remember. The broad concept of app isn't just limited to software programs that go on a mobil device. Apps can show up on any sort of product or platform--medical devices, pipe hangers, extreme sports equipment, whatver--and also, very possibly, on the products you're creating. Anywhere that customers are going to the trouble of making improvements to a product.

So what apps are your customers creating? Have you investigated this?


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