Speaking to Marketing Week, Mumsnet CEO Justine Roberts said the company has had an app for some time but never spoke about it much because it was a “bit embarrassing”. She admits its design and build was outsourced to an agency but that the relationship was “frustrating” because there was no incentive for them to make it as good as it could be.
“Every time we wanted to change something they could charge us more money. They were not rewarded on performance or on whether people like it or used it. That was a frustrating learning experience,” she said.
Nevertheless Roberts said mobile is hugely important to Mumsnet. Currently 58% of its traffic comes from mobile devices, most through its mobile-friendly website.
She explained that mobile is core to its audience – busy mums that are “out and about trying to fit everything into time-limited spaces”. Apps, she believes, are the way forward because they offer are fast, functional, user friendly and can offer “nifty tools that delight the audience”.
“People want to and need to be able to access what was traditionally on desktop easily and simply from phones. Mobile is extremely important and we want to have fabulous apps as a way of accessing our content,” she said.
With this in mind Mumsnet has brought a new digital agency on board in DigitasLBI. It is part of a test to see what mobile strategy works best for the site as it looks to appeal to a wider audience – not just busy mums but also people planning to have children or already pregnant.
Mumsnet will work with DigitasLBI to create an app, with the two companies sharing revenue and therefore both invested in its success.
“We will work as partners so we have got the same goal in mind. Sharing the risk and reward is a great way to operate.”
Justine Roberts, Mumsnet CEO
Alongside its deal with DigitasLBI, Mumsnet is also developing its own “talk” app in-house that will bring the Mumsnet forums to mobile. Additionally, it is looking to create a whitelabel version of an existing US app in the baby space.
Roberts said she hoped the three-pronged approach would help Mumsnet learn about which approach suits the company best and give an insight into the products it is looking to develop.
“It is great building things in house because then you have absolute control. But the while label option gives us a fast route to market with the benefits of an app that is tried and tested and we can learn from DigitasLBI – they have a very focused way of working…. they don’t get distracted by bells and whistles. It is useful to work alongside that and learn.
“There is something in all three strategies, we won’t go down one route. We want to continue to bring great apps to our audience,” she said.
The initial aim of the mobile apps is to engage with Mumsnet’s audience and give them reasons to come back to the service more often and for longer. Roberts said Mumsnet is looking at monetisation, but added that it is still waiting for a “really good mobile ad solution that works for our audience”.
“We will think about what users want first then look at making money later. By creating great content for a very rich community, that will be an attractive space for brands to be in – it is not difficult to monetise. But that is not the first reason we are doing it – we want to offer the Mumsnet experience in the way users want to access it,” said Roberts.