It goes without saying: cell phones have come a long way since Richard Gere suavely answered his state-of-the-art mobile in the 1990 classic Pretty Woman. In just two and a half decades, cell phones have evolved from weighty bricks that had two basic functions -- the ability to make outgoing calls and answer incoming calls -- to sleek, multi-use smart phones.
Smartphone popularity has skyrocketed in recent years, largely due to the affordability of these devices, but also the variety and availability of apps. With a 1.3 million apps available in iTunes' App Store (as of June 2014), users can customize a smartphone specific to their needs and lifestyle. With Gmail, Safari, iTunes, the Weather Channel, Uber and Chase Bank in the palm of one's hand, it's no wonder the total number of smartphone users is expected to hit 1.75 billion.
The app business has proved itself as a highly lucrative business. Newzoo, a market research firm, anticipates that mobile game revenue will reach $30.3 billion next year, a sizeable increase of $5.3 billion over 2014 numbers. iTunes exclusively is expected to earn $4 billion in revenue for mobile games in 2014. Comparatively, Nintendo, the once leader in console gaming, earned $2.4 billion in 2013 -- a clear indicator of the market shifts within the gaming industry.
Services beyond traditional businesses have tapped into the app market. Deakin University, a public 40,000-student university in Australia, has adopted mobile technology to engage their global alumni network.
"The most successful apps deeply engage their audience. After launching a new app, it's critical to be constantly evaluating which channels and campaigns are most effective and produce the highest engagement," says Sanjeev Ahuja, CEO of Oplytic, a mobile marketing analytics, engagement and optimization software.
Apps also have an influential place in a business-to-business context, as well.
More and more enterprises including software giant Adobe have created mobile apps to track sales across their large distributed sales forces. These apps help facilitate the sales process for sales representatives, providing reps with essential sales tools on the go. By tracking sales behavior and mobile sales attribution, companies can identify best practices and refine their sales forces.
"Apps have the ability to significantly elevate a businesses, whether B2C or B2B, improve efficiency, make money or save money when done correctly. The opportunities are endless when it comes to mobile marketing and apps," says Ahuja.
While Pretty Woman remains timeless to this day, those archaic, 90s-era cell phones and Super Nintendos have been replaced by sleek smartphones, and it's clear they aren't going anywhere, whether recreationally or professionally.