A word about Density


Most of the talk around mobile is centered around velocity. It’s a cool word that means much to the mobile app world. It is the speed with which a mobile service attracts users and buyers. Meerkat and Periscope are perfect examples of well-executed velocity strategies (more on this in another issue). Without the ferocity of velocity there is very little chance that whatever you are making right now will become the world-wide hit you imagine. Harsh reality but very few apps or services breach this. But all is not lost. Velocity can be manufactured with something called density.

You can’t start from a dead stop to go 1000mph. It just doesn’t work that way yet (hyperloop hasn’t been invented yet) BUT you can build velocity by starting with density. Density is not new. In science it is the relationship between mass and volume and in marketing it is the number of potential customers within a certain area. Mobile density is a mix of them both: It is the number of potential users in a given area (which could be a block or a country) AND the number of times that potential user is expected to use that service (DAU/MAU). It is both and it is the third axis in the feasibility of a mobile service (the first two being satisfying a need and providing value).

Part of the research that goes into building a service needs to be its density. How many users and how often will they use it. Answer those questions. The viscosity is altered when density is done right. Apps and services start sticking, users start relying on them more and more and word spreads. Slowly at first but more swiftly as the satisfaction and reliance increases.

Density requires a core of users to start with. You can’t start with one and hope. You have to determine the right number of users to begin with (really, if you can’t find that number it’s not them, it’s you). Start with a small group of who you would consider power users and seed the product to them. Nurture the relationship. Watch what they do and how they use it. Fix. Finesse. Iterate quickly. Get it right with them, then get it right with the next group. Eventually density gives way to velocity. Make fans. Make users. Make demand. Build density into velocity.

Even Google is getting into it…

There is another part of density that mobile has really enabled. Business used to be about location, location and location which really meant density, density and density. Now mobile has given us the ultimate glimpse into true location analytics and, guess what we are most interested in? Yup, density. Location matters because of density – the number of people that pass by a store or drive down the road or see a billboard. Density. There are a number of companies that are playing here including Google showing us the busiest times for millions of businesses, a cool company in SFO called Density that simply counts the number of patrons entering and leaving local coffee shops and even a hyper-location based bus service called Leap that tells you how many seats are available on the bus you are thinking of taking. All density, all enabled by mobile.

The crazy thing is that this stuff isn’t new. Seems that with every new technology opportunity we forget the things that are foundational for success. Density, as it is in science and marketing now needs to be front and centre in your mobile equation.

How to bring density to your business:

  1. Identify your customer. SO simple right? Of course we do this. But do you map your customer to a geographic location? When Uber launched it did so in San Francisco because that’s where their target customer was. They knew the number of users would be high enough to build out the service before launching in other cities. Do this.
  2. Collect the data that is needed to answer your hard questions. Those questions are “How many people do we need in a certain geographic area for us to gain traction?” and “How many users does it take for our service/app to not seem like an empty stadium?”
  3. If you are a bricks and mortar company, try tracking density in your location. Why? Well when you are busy you may be turning away customers. Letting them know you are busy may bring them by when you aren’t.

About the author

Rob Woodbridge

I'm Rob, the founder of UNTETHER.tv and I've spent 14 years immersed in the mobile and pervasive computing world. During this great time I've helped some of the most innovative companies grow their business through mobile. If you are in need of a mobile business advisor or coach, connect with me here to get things rolling.

/* ]]> */