Staying abreast of consumer demand can feel like an unstoppable process, especially as the customer experience continues to evolve. There is a growing appetite amongst consumers for online and mobile services - largely driven by digital interactions - with many customers now relying heavily on their mobile devices to interact with brands. As such, a number of businesses have deployed branded mobile applications as a means to create a more engaged and loyal customer base.
There’s no doubt that mobile interactions, not least mobile apps, have the ability to significantly enhance the customer experience, especially as more people begin to use their mobile to do research and to make purchases. For businesses, the easier you can make this process the better experience that person will have.
The rapid rise in mobile might suggest that customers are delighted with the experiences they receive and it’s simply enough for organisations to have an app. However, research from Comscore has revealed that 49 per cent of smartphone users will not download any apps in a typical month and of those users that do download apps, the average number is 3.5. These figures suggest that the space on a user’s smartphone is now prime real estate for businesses. As a result, the organisations who will gain a true and differentiated foothold are those who focus their efforts on developing apps that have been designed to specifically meet the user’s needs and solve their problems.
Previously, just having an app was enough. However, mobile apps are following a similar suit to websites in the sense that every business will soon have one and the marketplace for this is reaching saturation point. This commoditisation dictates that, given enough time, competitors will eventually be able to match one another in terms of the features and quality of applications. As the marketplace for consumer facing apps starts to reach overload, organisations will need to focus their efforts on developing engaging consumer facing apps that deliver a unique and seamless user experience.
Traditional enterprise apps, despite being designed with increased productivity, efficiency and security in mind, are often cumbersome and difficult to use: despite honest attempts to make apps slicker, quicker and perceived as more user-friendly, organisations fail to acknowledge the psychology behind what makes an app engaging in the first place. As a consequence of this, adoption rates are often low. Therefore, organisations need to ensure they are taking advantage of the sophisticated techniques available to ensure their app stands out from the competition, whilst also avoiding common pitfalls.
Now, organisations can’t simply replicate their website within a mobile app, instead they must essentially start from scratch. Apps need to be continuously tested with a real user and should be designed specifically with the audience in mind – failure to provide any significant measurable benefits for that user and it simply won’t be used. At the same time, apps need to be inherently intuitive; if consumers don’t immediately understand how to use it then they simply won’t, and instead they will move on to a competitor. Stability and agility are also key attributes; great apps are snappy and offer fast response times. Lastly, making sure an app is polished really helps to separate it from its closest rivals; focusing on small details can be a key determinant for differentiation.
Today’s mobile customer is more impatient than ever before. An app download does not necessarily correlate to business for a brand; simply adding a few bells and whistles won’t generate longevity if the business has failed, in the first instance, to examine the deeper qualities that determine customer loyalty. As such, organisations should look to embrace the principles within habit-forming technology, as a key part of the app development process.
Organisations should already understand their customers’ habits through their buying data, but in reality, this is often not the case. To boost mobile sales, companies should therefore leverage the concept of habit-forming technology to understand why customers engage with apps in the first place. Doing so enables them to connect with their customers on an emotional level.
Encourage positive habits
Organisations should focus their efforts on creating apps that encourage customers to develop positive purchasing habits. Taking the retail industry as an example, the focus on psychology has been prevalent for years: different branches of the same store often have an identical or very similar layout, which creates a comforting sense of familiarity with a brand. For apps to emulate this success, similar habit-forming approaches need to be embraced.
Habit-forming technology has been used with success by the likes of Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat to increase engagement and develop platforms that are built on impulse. Leveraging this technology involves identifying four key hooks – the triggers, actions, rewards and investments - and making the most of them to keep users keep coming back.
These hooks form the vital pillars for any organisation that wants to improve the performance and engagement of its apps. The visual appearance, imagery and branding elements should then be added in to complement this.
Will apps lead the way?
The real question is whether mobile apps can lead customer experience: the answer is yes. And while it might be some time before mobile apps lead completely, they will certainly continue to play an important role in defining the customer experience. The in-app experience has the potential to significantly enhance the way consumers engage with a brand and can propel customer experience ahead of the competition. Organisations should focus their efforts on architecting intuitive apps to drive competitive advantage. After all, the winning businesses will be the ones who have refined their in-app experience by carefully considering the usability, look, feel, and of course considering the reason why users engage with apps in the first place.
Ross Tuffee, CEO of DOGFI.SH Mobile
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