Monday, August 13, 2018

Do You Even Need an App?


Apple has spent a lot of money convincing consumers that “there’s an app for that.” Now consumers assume that every “that” needs an app. At Rightpoint, we believe that apps start with a need. Once we understand a company’s need and goals, we can help select the right technology to fulfill it. Sometimes it’s a developing mobile app, but other times, a web app or other tool would serve customers best. 

Apps have a number of advantages over websites and we encourage our clients to explore the benefits and limitations of each in order to maximize their chances of success.

Mobile app advantages include:

• Product discovery - Customers expect to find apps for certain markets, including finance, commerce, healthcare, and productivity.

• Product loyalty - Mobile apps stick around once downloaded, serving as a reminder and “call to action” to engage with your product. 

• Performance - Mobile apps, if built correctly, can perform core tasks faster than traditional web-apps. Instant access to content and improved performance often leads to higher conversion rates for e-commerce experiences, higher engagement rates for social networks, and higher customer satisfaction for other services. 

• Access - Mobile apps can provide deeper and richer access to information such as location, camera, video, calendar, and other sensors and data on customers’ phones.

• Messaging - Access to notifications and messaging.

• Security - Access to biometrics, including fingerprint and face recognition, and digital wallets, including credit cards and membership cards, can enhance commerce transactions and secure other sensitive interactions.

Mobile apps do of course come with their own challenges, including an installation step. Mobile apps can also be more expensive to develop, because of the need to support multiple platforms, like iOS and Android. These challenges should be considered when discussing product strategy and roadmap. If customers have a highly engaged experience, the loyalty and conversion gains can significantly outweigh the cons, but this isn’t always true. 

There is often a tradeoff between access and user experience. 

When considering building an application, weigh the needs of new customers against those of repeat customers. For example, customers shouldn’t have to download an app to look up store hours. That belongs on a website. However, repeat customers will certainly prefer an app for completing checkout, managing orders, or connecting with customer service.

Web applications often answer customers’ initial questions, while mobile apps serve as the platform for longer term customer relationships. It’s backwards to offer new customers short-term value in a mobile app instead of a website.

Put another way, you need to balance the need for ubiquity with a desire for excellence. Do you need a particular solution to be immediately usable by everyone or do you need the solution to function extremely well? Some products need to reach a worldwide audience on a large variety of devices and platforms, perhaps including older or abandoned platforms like BlackBerry, Windows Mobile, or Internet Explorer. Other products, meanwhile, might offer excellent service to a more targeted population of users on iOS and Android, but either a less sophisticated web implementation or no service at all to customers on other platforms. We work with clients to identify what’s best for their business objectives.

Mobile apps offer excellence, but present obstacles to ubiquity. In contrast, web applications offer ubiquity at the expense of excellence in user experience.

Often it’s both.

Many companies find web applications and mobile apps can be combined into a one-two punch of customer engagement.  Web platforms provide a fast initial customer experience with broad reach, while native apps offer an enhanced experience to loyal, and often higher-value, customers.

You may have also heard about Progressive Web Apps (PWAs). These also try to provide the best of both worlds and while there are some known limitations today, we anticipate a larger trend toward PWAs in the future because PWAs remove the barrier of requiring an app-download and are more seamlessly integrated into the web experience. 

Want to talk about mobile & web excellence? Rightpoint has a long history of building rich web based technologies and CMS based applications. Raizlabs has a long history of building engaging mobile applications. When the companies came together it’s been like peanut butter and jelly ever since.

Greg Raiz is the Chief Innovation Officer of Rightpoint and is working with companies to shape culture around innovation and new technologies.