Section 508

June 15th, 2016

The Mobile App: What’s Your Tipping Point?

As we approach the ninth anniversary of the iPhone, it is fair to say that on June 29, 2007, the world of consumer engagement was forever changed. Cell phones became smartphones and with them, apps became a household word. All these years later, some companies still grapple with the idea of creating an app: have they hit the tipping point? Get the facts to help decide if an app is right for your business.

To put this in perspective, think back to the phone you carried in 2007. For me, I had just moved from my Motorola flip-phone to the Motorola Q. I have to admit I was pretty giddy when I picked up the Motorola Q. Finally, I had a tool that allowed me to view my email without being tethered to my computer during a time when many companies still required VPN access. The phone even delivered the ability to view Excel spreadsheets and Word documents. Yes, the phone had some issues, but in the grand scheme of things, I was just happy to have access to the items I needed to complete my daily work.

Then the iPhone was released to consumers ushering in the world of mobile app engagement.

I stumbled across an infographic created in 2013/14 by the University of Alabama-Birmingham Collat School of Business highlighting the future of mobile applications. These key statistics showcase the immediate expanse of the market:

  • 91% of the US adult population owned a cell phone
  • 61% were smartphone users
  • The information estimates by 2017, over 268 billion downloads and $77 billion in revenue will be made.

It is amazing to think this market has been built in the last 9 years. As it continues to mature, companies see their approach to the mobile application space change. The infographic highlighted that 68 percent of app downloaders actually used it, with 31 percent of downloaders using six or more apps on a weekly basis. This statistic suggests consumers look for engagement and value from apps.

Case in point, this week Chick-fil-A released Chick-fil-A One allowing customers to avoid register and drive-thru lines by ordering and paying for their food in advance. Think about the real-time value parents derive using this app, in between their kids’ events for example. The app focuses on solving a consumer’s problem, rather than marketing just chicken sandwiches.

When thinking about an app for your company that will drive engagement, look at two critical components: the goal of the application for the intended market and how the app will be built and maintained. As in the case of the Chick-Fil-A app, the goal is to drive convenience for the customer. Higher customer satisfaction drives revenue. To keep the revenue coming, an app has to work well, which means it has to be built and maintained.

So what goes into building an app? Here’s perspective. The number of unique devices (19,000 unique Android devices available on the market) and the number of different configurations (20 iPhone and iOS configuration combinations) pose a challenge to development and testing. In the United States alone, a business must test via 134 different devices to cover 80 percent of devices in use, according to a Xamarin infographic. Compound this with rising resource costs (2014 average salary of $115,000 for Mobile Application Developer – UAB Study) and organizations are scrambling to find efficient solutions to drive value.

Microsoft recently purchased app solution Xamarin. For those of us in the tech sector, this is an interesting development for apps. Xamarin tackles the multi-device, multi-configuration challenge with a cross-platform solution that allows a code to be written in a common language, C#. As a result, an organization can have cost effective staffing resources to develop and test apps faster while providing greater functionality to drive consumer engagement.

Once a company has an app, how do you know if it’s working for your customers? In a recent Forrester research report Measuring Mobile Apps, a number of Business and Engagement Metrics were outlined to effectively measure the benefits of the app. The report identified seven key metrics:

  • The customer’s initial app experience
  • Customer retention
  • How an average user changes over time
  • The length of user sessions
  • How customers differ from each other
  • How and when customers buy
  • App ratings

It points out 22% of consumers who install an app only use it once. That leaves 78% of the consumers who need to to be engaged in a contextual format. As a result, organizations must find a way to continue to provide updates and new features to engage the consumer on a regular basis. Developers needs to figure out how to keep it simple and easy.

In the next 12 to 18 months, as we approach the tenth anniversary of the first iPhone, it will be interesting to see how the architecture progresses to drive further consumer engagement tipping more businesses into building mobile applications.

Andy Brockett, Director, Business Innovation

Tags: app development mobile apps

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