SXSW Solo – Behind the Curtain: Secrets of Mobile Application Wizardry

SXSW Solo – Behind the Curtain: Secrets of Mobile Application Wizardry

Solo – Behind the Curtain: Secrets of Mobile Application Wizardry presented by Paul Gelb, VP, Mobile Practice Lead, Razorfish

A jaw dropping 80% of iPhone and Android apps have hardly any active users. Tens of thousands of developers and hundreds of thousands of mobile applications have gotten it wrong. But mobile apps done right can provide unprecedented value to users and rapid transformations of businesses. Gilt Groupe, USAA Bank and Pandora can attribute much of their recent success to their mobile applications. The biggest barrier to success? More is absolutely less. As Mark Twain famously said, “It would have been shorter if I had more time.” With seemingly infinite options of features, ‘what’ and ‘how much’ is the hardest part of development. This presentation will provide a detailed unbridled view into the strategy and creative process of creating a compelling, successful mobile app by finding the right balance between business objectives content, design, functionality, and concept.

Paul Gelb Bio:
Paul helps clients on the road to innovation by pioneering media and development executions in mobile and integrated campaigns across digital out of home, broadband video, interactive television, social networks, and gaming. In an ever changing media landscape, Paul is also a trusted consultant to Razorfish’s largest clients as they evolve their media and business strategies to include breakthrough technology and advanced platforms. Paul’s mobile clients include Unilever, Citibank, Ford, Mercedes Benz, Kraft, JCPenney, Staples, Ralph Lauren, Victoria’s Secret, Gilt Groupe, Tory Burch, Amway, Starwood, Intel, Dell, AT&T, QVC, The Hollywood Reporter, Terra, Morgan Stanley Smith Barney and T Rowe Price . Paul was awarded the 2010 Media All Star Award by Mediaweek. He was recognized for his Ralph Lauren work with a mobile marketer of the year award and for his Mercedes work with Mobi and MIN awards. He has created concepts for five applications featured in the iTunes app store, one application featured on CNBC, the top branded iPhone application of 2008 and a top free iPad application. Paul has written about mobile industry trends for the Razorfish 2009 and 2010 Outlook reports, the Razorfish Tech 5 report and Mobile Marketer. His groundbreaking work, point of view and industry projections have been sought out by and received press in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Ad Age, MediaPost, Crain’s, Forrester Research, Parks Associates, Jupiter Research and Mobile Marketer. Recent and upcoming conference speaking engagements include SXSW, Mobile Marketing and Media 2010, SIIA: ISVs All About Mobile, Digiday, Streaming Media, PluggedIn MobileEco Summit, AMA Mobile Marketing, MM’s Mobile Marketing Summit and the Navigation Intelligence Executive Roundtable. Paul holds an MBA from the Anderson School of Business at UCLA and a B.S. in international business and macro-economic theory from the ILR School at Cornell University.


  • In considering app ideas, key item to consider is that consumers value one thing the most: TIME
  • There are more people with a cell phone than access to fresh drinking water – most of mobile development is aimed at smartphone. But for smartphones alone in US, it’s three times the audience of American Idol
  • People look at their phones 150x/day – its always on them (ED: I agree – like HTC said: “it’s the one thing you own that is always within an arms reach”)
  • Potential for audience measurement on a mobile app is better than we’ve seen in any other medium
  • What does this mean?
    • Allows us to show consumers an experiential message
    • Example: Charmin provides “bathroom experience” with sit or squat app.
  • Mobile has a 95/5 rule: Very few actually succeed
  • Implementation
    • Don’t focus on just the technology from the start. the technology will come.
    • Start with the CONSUMER. And then comes the technology
  • Best Practices
    • There are no best practices right now  – too early for any best practices to be gospel
    • everyday there is an opportunity to define best practices
    • This is an opportunity for us to define and push the envelope
    • Flock and differentiate – experience needs to be somewhat familiar, similar to fashion design, small changes as people want to be different but not too different, don’t confuse the user.
    • Be efficient – don’t drain the battery. Every new click is more valuable to the users and more  costly to the backend
    • Be engaging – Deepens the relationship with consumer and provides moments of unexpected utility/playful interactivity.
    • Experiential – Offer robust set of utilities within an intuitive interface, cross-channel touch points become more interactive.
    • Always On – Provide a rea-time, proactive and notification-driven resource.
    • Opportunistic – Leverage more advanced functionality of handset and new consumer behaviors, with data supported iterative updates and enhancement.
    • Malleable – Is sustainable over time, accommodating different messages and products without sacrificing scalability.
  • Victorias Secret iPhone app v1.0 didn’t work, because it was a miniaturized version of the full website. Razorfish stepped in with v2.0 to make it a mobile specific experience, interactive gallery, barcode scanning, social sharing. Version three had Red Laser barcode scanning integrated, making it into a cross channel marketing tool.
  • Biggest idea was to allow barcode scans to give educational data about products on mobile phone, beyond data sales associates could give.
  • Victorias Secret iPad catalog – 4th iteration for victorias secret mobile
    • Used lots of specialized components, ensuring experience was contextual for iDevice app feel.