Mobile application development is hitting a tipping point in 2015, and Gartner found that 79% of surveyed organizations were planning to increase spending on mobile application development by 36%. This is a major indication of how mobile apps are becoming a mainstay of customer and employee engagement.
But spending more on mobile app development isn’t enough—the approach must be smarter. Teams tasked with building or evolving a company’s mobile app strategy should heed tips and best practices, like those in this infographic. As it’s time to start planning for 2015, here are the top three ways to up your mobile game:
1. Go Multi-app or Unbundle Your App
In 2014, we saw mobile conversations begin to focus on the acute problem of feature bloat in mobile apps. Between the great hamburger menu debate and Facebook’s “unbundling the big blue app,” having too much “stuff” on your mobile app should now be on your radar.
If you haven’t already, 2015 is the year to rethink your mobile app strategy—and whether you should be unbundling apps that are carrying too much weight or develop new, targeted apps to add to your portfolio. There are two basic factors that you can use to segment your mobile app strategy:
- Tasks: Mobile users pick up their phones frequently, but often for short durations in which they are looking to accomplish something. Certain functions may be a higher priority, and users benefit from more direct access and specific notifications. The improved experience of a task-focused app was the driver for unbundling the messaging app from Facebook’s core app.
- Role/Audience: Different users are looking for different things. If your organization serves multiple audiences, consider how you can tailor your app to specific types of users. For example, medical resource publishers like WebMD and Mayo Clinic offer different apps for pregnant women, allergy patients, chronic pain patients, etc.
Want to learn more? Read this article by Sirgoo Lee (@SirgooLee), “Forget ‘unbundling’: Why your multi-app strategy should start from day one.”
2. Support “Compulsive-Scale”
Compulsive-scale is a symptom to the behavioral change that occurs with mobile phones. Consider that over 80% of smartphone owners have their device in arms reach all or most of the time. Add to that how typical smartphone activities—texting, tweeting, looking something up, checking for content that we can’t quite predict and aren’t quite satisfied by—are textbook dopamine triggers. In other words, using your mobile phone is kind of addictive (if not clinically…yet).
Apps have to respond and scale to meet this sometimes immediate and unpredictable behavioral shift. In one banking example, a consumer that might have visited a teller every other week to deposit a paycheck began to check their balance online once a day (instead of balancing their checkbook by hand). Now, they check their mobile app a couple dozen times a day to see if a deposit was made or transaction completed. “Compulsive-scale” is an order of magnitude greater than the “consumer-scale” of the online world.
Operating at “compulsive-scale,” particularly in mobile, introduces some key requirements:
- Auto-scaling: Not only the infrastructure, but the application back-end needs to support higher traffic and load. This is critical, as you don’t want a mobile spike to take down your entire web presence on, say, Black Friday (as it did for Best Buy this year).
- API management: If you haven’t tuned your backend APIs for high-latency, low-bandwidth, intermittent connections to small screen-sized, limited battery life mobile devices, you’re setting yourself up for poor performance. Imagine trying to send 1.4MB of data per request and multiplying that by a compulsive 20 attempts in a day.
Want to learn more? Read myth #2, “My backend infrastructure is ready to support mobile apps” in The Five Mistakes Startups Make When Building for Mobile with Farhan Thawar (@fnthawar).
3. Perfect Your App’s Timing
“Timing” is a factor in performance and engagement. First, your app has 15 seconds to deliver “magic”, err, that dopamine fix. In an interview with Jason Calacanis (@jason) at the M1 Summit last month, Sundeep Madra (@sundeep) explained how users get frustrated if they don’t satisfy certain needs in 15 seconds of launching an app. He went on to highlight two potential bottlenecks:
- Design: Helping users get quick satisfaction from their app experience requires understanding user behavior and then prioritizing features. It may require unbundling the application (see #1).
- Backend: If your app or its core feature are still loading after 15 seconds, you’ve missed the “magic” moment. Make sure your backend isn’t the cause—essentially, that your app can meet “compulsive-scale” requirements (see #2).
Second, Madra also noted that timing perfection is critical for push notifications, calling it “the new tap on the shoulder.” Use push notifications wisely—don’t be the boy who cried wolf. When push notifications are used in a targeted way, user response rates increase up to 300%. Predictable and timely delivery of push notifications are essential for news alerts from media and sports apps; for transaction alerts from banking and brokerage apps; or, for sale and limited-time promotion alerts for retail apps.
Perfecting the timing of push notifications requires analysis of a feedback loop from your users. “The best companies are taking information from 17 sensors and doing something with them,” explained Madra. Location, weather, motion, ambient sound—these are all factors that could affect the effectiveness of your push notifications.
2015 is the year to embrace what Mark D’Cunha (@mdcunha) describes as “the cycle of analyzing the data and improving the results of each communication—personalizing, targeting, and making the user experience relevant.” As such, “big data” analytics are one of the three secret ingredients to driving loyalty, engagement, and profit.
Want to learn more? Read Sundeep Madra’s post, How to Win in Mobile App Development, Quickly.
Attending Gartner’s Application Architecture, Development & Integration in Las Vegas December 8-10? I’ll be covering some of these points in my Wednesday morning talk, “Driving Value from an Open Cloud Platform” at 10:15am. Or stop by the @Pivotal booth #411.
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