Mobile apps are facing a battle to stay relevant. While there are more available than ever before, app downloads fell by 20 per cent in 2015-16 alone. What’s more, the marketplace has reached a saturation point - how many different mobile business calendars can one person use!
For apps to survive, they need to recapture the excitement, functionality and usability that initially made them so attractive, and that means they need to evolve. We’re no longer content with a simple tool that helps us accomplish tasks; we want a platform that very obviously improves our lives, even if in small ways.
We want a platform that very obviously improves our lives, even if in small ways.
The focus for brands in recent years has been to give customers a seamless experience across smartphones, PCs and all their connected devices. This is still crucial, but people increasingly want the option to manage a purchase or service request on the same device (usually their smartphone) and that’s where branded apps have some catching up to do.
So how can brands adapt their mobile app experience to the expectations of today’s customer?
Giving customers more than they expect is a great way to build loyalty.
Brands should think of their apps as personal assistants that combine straightforward functions (like the ability to order a taxi or log a service request) with valuable real-time information. For example, TripAdvisor’s GateGuru app provides users with flight tracking information, customizable itineraries, check-in details, weather conditions in their destination city, updates on security wait times, and even reviews on airport amenities.
Many people are completely wedded to their favorite messenger app, whether it’s WhatsApp, Snapchat or Facebook’s Messenger. The reason these are so popular is that they are constantly being updated with the user experience in mind, and this has raised the bar for what we expect from any brand we interact with.
Messenger apps also integrate many added functions into one simple interface – for instance, users of Facebook’s Messenger can share videos or make bank transfers directly in the app. Smartphones are increasingly powerful, but they’re still limited to simple interfaces. Companies can make life easier for customers by ensuring they don’t have to switch between apps during an interaction. A clunky or disjointed experience will just turn people off.
A clunky or disjointed experience will just turn people off.
This push towards convenience is also why chatbots and voice command functions are becoming popular. It’s much easier to ask Siri for directions home than it is to type in your address, and it’s certainly faster to settle service issues with a chatbot in plain English than it is to read through a brand’s FAQs. Intelligent technologies like Amazon’s Alexa are early incarnations of this technology, and their success to date suggests there is a healthy appetite for more innovation.
Information architecture should be a brand’s primary focus when designing a customer-facing app. Unless relevant, up-to-date customer data is fed into your app, (including information on previous purchases, interactions and service issues), customers will lose patience for even the most innovative services. Our own research reveals brands have some work to do in this regard, with 32% saying they struggle to centralize data from marketing, sales and service with customer data.
“As has always been the case in sales, the key to improving customer relationships is to listen to your audience’s needs and evolve in line with those.”
As has always been the case in sales, the key to improving customer relationships is to listen to your audience’s needs and evolve in line with those. The rise of mobile apps was a “big bang” that saw the market flooded with too many solutions to too many problems, and now that people are getting more in touch with their expectations brands must once again adapt.