Q&A: Emojis and data leading the future of mobile apps

In the past few years mobile has become the preferred communication channel as consumers demand fast, easy access to information.

But how will mobile develop in future? Can we expect to see more apps, a switch towards mobile friendly websites, or even a move back towards SMS as the preferred tool of business-to-consumer (B2C) communication? To find out we spoke to Steve French, VP of Global Product Management and Marketing at mobile messaging provider, OpenMarket, a division of Amdocs.

Has the market for mobile apps peaked?

Apps have been a focus point in mobile for a while now, and the app market has become over saturated. For example, there are over 1.6 million apps to choose from today, and this is causing people to become overwhelmed. A 2013 Compuware study showed that anywhere from 80-90 per cent of all downloaded apps were only used once and then eventually deleted by users. While staggering, this percentage has only grown since 2013 with the high rate of new apps submitted to app stores.

Where apps excel is in providing a rich user experience for the top 5-10 per cent 'VIP' customers who frequently use one company's app, but this misses the other 90-95 per cent of users. Businesses are now beginning to realise that, while valuable in some instances, a mobile app doesn't solve all their mobile customer engagement needs.

Is this down to user preference or poorly performing apps?

Looking at today's consumers, especially millennials, their preference is mobile, which includes mobile apps, SMS, and mobile web. They seek information from the most quick and efficient means possible, and mobile apps don't always fill this need. To use an app, consumers must find, download, and open the app of each company they do business with. This can often be too large of a time commitment unless it's a brand they frequent or have strong loyalty to. Otherwise, using mobile web or SMS can be simpler and faster at getting them the information they desire.

As a result, consumer preference is beginning to become more balanced across these three mobile channels. People spend an average of 2.7 hours per day on the mobile web worldwide, and consumers are turning to SMS more and more over mobile applications because of its ubiquity and familiarity. Additionally, more businesses are utilising SMS, also known as application-to-person (A2P) messaging. According to Portio Research, over 1.5 trillion A2P SMS messages were sent worldwide in 2014, and this is predicted to surpass 1.6 trillion by the end of 2015. We anticipate a decline in B2C mobile app development, replaced instead by engagement models and traffic more evenly distributed across SMS and mobile websites.

What effects are shifting marketplace demographics likely to have on mobile usage?

According to Pew Research, there are nearly 67 million millennials today and growing. These 18-34 year-olds are beginning to dominate the consumer marketplace, and they are in love with their phones - 51 per cent can't go more than three hours without checking their phone, according to a Delvv Mobile Overload survey.

As the millennial market share grows, so will mobile usage. Businesses will need to follow suit by incorporating mobile throughout the customer (and employee) journey, which means integrating mobile across their organisations - customer service/call centers, customer communication, and internal employee communication. Companies who ride this mobile wave will be able to improve their overall customer experience and ultimately set themselves apart from their competition.

Will we see businesses that fail to adopt a mobile approach starting to lose out?

Businesses that don't incorporate mobile into their communications strategy run the risk of losing the ear of the soon-to-be largest consumer demographic. Today's smart and savvy consumers expect prompt, hassle-free and personalised service and mobile allows companies to deliver this through relevant and timely interactions during the entire customer lifecycle.

Additionally, 77 per cent of millennial consumers are likely to have a positive perception of a company that offers text capability, according to a recent Harris Interactive poll. By connecting with the right people in the right ways, mobile increases loyalty and improves revenue streams long-term. Companies that don't adopt a similar mobile approach with soon be left in the dust.

Are businesses more likely to turn to mobile to gain better customer insights?

Mobility is able to produce a variety of structured and un-structured data that many businesses should collect and analyse. One area where mobile data is particularly valuable is within the contact center. Here, companies can compile contact information, transaction information, and interaction history across phone, chat, email, social media and SMS, providing a wealth of information regarding consumer behaviour.

Businesses that aggregate and analyse this data are able to build a 360-degree view of their customer. We will soon see more of a focus on consumer data, and traditional mobile messaging/SMS will be an increasingly bigger component, as contact and customer service centers look to add texting capabilities to their engagement options. Companies who turn to mobile for customer insights will be able to deliver a better customer experience - timely, personalised and via the preferred engagement channel.

Can companies successfully exploit new messaging trends like emojis or does this just come across as gimmicky?

Today, almost everyone uses emojis. While emojis used to be predominantly texted and tweeted by teens, there are more 25-29 year-olds identifying as 'frequent users' (75.9 per cent) than under-25 year-olds (72.2 per cent), according to a study by Emogi. Additionally, more than six out of 10 in the age 35+ crowd self-identify as frequent users. With emojis booming on the person-to-person front, it's no surprise that businesses have begun to incorporate them into their mobile strategies, and some organisations are already utilising them successfully to gain customer mindshare.

Brands like Dominos Pizza are at the forefront of this trend, as they now allow consumers to order a pizza by sending in a pizza emoji via SMS or Twitter.

In 2016, more customers will be looking to interact with businesses in the same manner, and companies that don't incorporate this practice could lose valuable mindshare with consumers.

Image Credit: Rido / Shutterstock