Wednesday, September 11, 2019

The Three Phases of Iterative Native App Development Part 1

Ben Johnson
Mobile / Strategy

It seems like everyone is talking about native apps lately, and with good reason. Native apps offer companies an exceptionally effective way of driving engagement and growing customer loyalty. This is because a well-designed native app delivers a personalized, customer-centric experience that makes smart use of the iOS and Android platform features that customers love.  Despite the obvious value a native app can deliver to both customers and companies, relatively few companies have taken the plunge into this still-new space. There is clear evidence that a native app can dramatically improve critical KPIs including AOV, ARPU, and LTV; but many teams just don’t know where to start. So, while mobile websites have become table stakes for anyone who wants to be taken seriously in digital commerce, the exponentially more impactful native app has yet to go fully mainstream. 


This means there’s a major opportunity in the market for brands who are willing to step up. 


In our latest POV, Unlocking Customer Loyalty with Native Apps, we share a lot of experience-based insights about how to develop a successful mobile strategy and roadmap. And one of the key ideas we highlight is that you don’t have to do everything all at once. 


This should be a huge relief for anyone just starting to think about developing a native app because the truth is, it’s not easy. There’s a lot that goes into getting it right. (In fact, we identified the 6 things you really need to ensure app success.)


What’s reassuring, however, is that native app development is a naturally iterative process. A phased launch approach allows you to learn from both your wins and your mistakes. It gives you the chance to pause and assess customer response to different features and content so that you can be sure you’re on the right path as you add more functionality and so forth. 


While each company will craft it’s own unique path to native app nirvana, there are three basic stages of development that apply: Foundational, Enhanced, and Advanced. In Unlocking Customer Loyalty with Native Apps, we take a closer look at each of these stages and provide some examples. Here’s what our team of experts had to say about the Foundational stage of native app development: 

The Non-negotiable Foundational Element — The Right Strategy


While there is some flexibility around which features and functionality fall into which phase, there is one foundational piece that applies to every app development project: developing the right strategy. 


Arguably the most important step in any app project, this involves really digging into who your customers are, what they want/need, and what it will take for you to deliver the kind of experience that will really wow them. This will be different for each brand. The core concepts behind a few Rightpoint customer apps illustrate the diversity of strategies even within a mere handful of brands:

  • Six Flags’ thrill-seeking customers are all about speed, so the app needed to deliver a fuel-injected experience designed to get visitors to various park experiences at peak velocity.

  • B&H’s customer base of highly technical and professional photographers demand detailed specifications and product information, so the B&H app needed to deliver all the goods on a wide product range.

  • Costco’s economy-minded audience is all about finding local deals—including the best gas prices—so, in addition to helping users manage coupons and shopping lists, the app also needed to be able to show which Costco locations have gas available and the cost per gallon.

  • Grove’s environmentally responsible customers need a way to easily manage their subscriptions so they never run out of their favorite “green” products, so the Grove app needed to facilitate fast and easy reorders. They also needed a more intuitive way to discover new products, so the app introduced a “shop by room” experience that helped provide real-life context for those using the app.

Ultimately, each of these brands went on to define exactly which “foundational” elements they needed to address their specific customer needs and business objectives; but all of them started off on the right foot by taking the time to think carefully about exactly what those needs and objectives were. 

Foundational Element Example 1:

B&H: Product Visualization — Because a Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

 

B&H is the largest privately-owned photo and video store in the United States. Their customers are professionals who obsess over the technical specifications of B&H’s more than 500,000 SKUs. For this reason, the B&H app is designed to show users the exceedingly detailed, super high-density product images in as few steps as possible. The goal was to create an experience as close to handling the actual product as possible, and then combine that product visualization with full product details, ratings and comments from users, and related products to help move users through the buying journey to purchase. After completing several iterations of the app over the course of a few years, the results were a testament to the work: a 78% increase in mobile visitors, a 248% increase in mobile app revenue, and a 500% increase in average time spent per visit.

Foundational Element Example 2:

Costco: Implementation of Contextual Tools — Location, Location, Location

Location was a central foundational element of the Costco app because users only care about “their” Costco. By using ambient location information, the app delivers store-specific information about sales/coupons, operating hours, departmental offerings, and other amenities like gas, optical, pharmacy, tires, and so forth. Being able to power the app with contextual location information improves the user experience by making it that much easier for customers to locate the information they needed quickly.

Foundational Element Example 3:

Six Flags: Mobile Payments — Better, Faster, Safer

 

When guests visit a Six Flags theme park, they don’t want to waste any time getting to the fun. One of the most effective foundational features for the brand’s initial app was the integration of mobile payment options including Apple Pay, Android Pay, and Venmo. Six Flags was one of the first to take advantage of the Venmo payment option in a native app. It was a perfect fit for their audience, which includes younger demographics who don’t have the credit and debit cards required to fund other mobile payment methods. Including Venmo meant that kids could get money from their parents for a day at the park without ever having to slow down.


It’s a lot to think about, but hopefully some of these examples are inspiring. It should be. We’ve seen these kinds of projects make a big difference for all kinds of brands. 


If you’d like to learn more about why native apps matter, how they can transform the customer experience, and what you can do to create your own, download the full Unlocking Customer Loyalty with Native Apps POV.  We have a lot more we’d like to share with you. 

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