As the business environment becomes hyper-competitive, more businesses are finding value in mobile and web apps to boost customer engagement. Apps enable the marketer to deliver a solid mobile presence, with customized interfaces geared specifically to provide customers with the best possible experience. Apps streamline the customer’s buying process, automate many routine tasks, and enable new possibilities, to drive engagement better.
Catering to the Growing Customer Preferences
More and more marketers now roll out customer facing apps, to remain engaged with their customers always, enabling customers to buy from anywhere, and at any time.
Any debate on whether today’s businesses require customer facing apps is settled by the fact 2.6 billion people across the globe now have high-powered mobile devices within their arm’s reach, at all times. Black Friday sales through mobile devices crossed the One billion dollar mark in 2016, indicating the preference of online shoppers to use their mobile devices for the buying process.
A good success story exemplifying the growing customer preference is Domino’s Pizza. The pizza giant’s new mobile app for customers to order delivery or in-store pickup of their food in the UK resulted in increase of e-commerce sales by 24.4%, and 52% of online coming in through mobile devices. The app has been downloaded more than 10 million times. Many customers prefer using the app rather than go through the painstaking process of calling up the store.
Leveraging the Power of Push and Pull Notification
As the adage goes, “out of sight, out of mind.” When a customer downloads an app, it remains on the phone, strengthening brand recognition. Regular visibility and interactions between the brand and the customer boost trust, so essential for transactions to take place.
A big advantage of the app is the ability to send push and in-app notifications to users. Such notifications, served virtually on a captive audience, influence the customer and deliver high success rates, as long as the notifications result in relevant and valuable content. The more the audience listens to the brand, the more they are likely to respond to marketing offers and chose the brand offerings when in need.
Push and in-app notifications are invaluable to inform users, especially younger demographics, of new products and offers. Most marketers use these options to reach out to customers proactively, with personalized offers. The best practice is to serve personalized recommendations based on factors such as most recent purchase, or the location of the user, offering direct value to users and warming them to the app experience. Generic push notifications are widely regarded as the junk mail of the mobile world, and may just push the user to uninstall the app.
Push notifications are also a great tool to counter cart abandonment. Sending instant push and in-app messaging, when the customer abandons the cart, enticing them with added offers, may be instrumental in changing their mind, and increase the likelihood of immediate conversion.
In-app messaging is proven to increase engagement by 26%. About 65% of users return to the app within a month, if push notifications are enabled.
Leverage Location-based Content
Beacon-based location marketing is now increasingly becoming attractive as a great way to boost customer engagement on mobile devices.
Smart marketers leverage beacon and geofencing technology to send location specific, contextual, and timely data-driven content to customers. They use beacons to push location-based offers and promotions, promote loyalty programs, and facilitate mobile-based proximity payments. Customers prefer such engagement, as evident from a survey by Aimia and Columbia Business School, where 69% of them agreed to share location data to receive location-based discounts.
The 2016 Coachella music and arts festival was path-breaking in the sense it sends out location-based notifications about artists and vendors to attendees. It also introduced a “Surprise and Delight” rewards program, rewarding attendees who synced their American Express Cards to the event’s iOS app. The event also provided beacon enabled mobile payments to attendees, doing away with the need for a physical wallet.
Pew Research Center estimates nine out of ten users in the United States enabling location services on their mobile phones.
Gamifying and Incentivizing the Experience
Promoting mobile-based loyalty programs increase customer engagement and bridge the gap between a brand’s online and physical presence. People love incentives, and rewards offer a good reason for them to come back to the app.
Apps make it easier to administer loyalty programs and deliver the associated rewards. The core of any loyalty program is customers getting reward points for every interaction with the brand. When customers see, their points adding up, they come to shop again. When such rewards are combined with gamification or points for any action done through the app, engagement is sure to increase manifold.
Starbucks is probably the most well-known brand having perfected the art of offering big rewards exclusively to app customers. The ‘My Starbucks’ rewards program allows customers to use the app to make pre-orders, custom orders, receive free upgrades and special discounts, based on their loyalty status. Enabling in-app payment speeds up the transaction, and increase convenience.
Leveraging the Power of Analytics
The spin off benefit of customers using apps is gaining valuable data for analytics. Structuring the app engagement, the right way delivers a ton of analytics on how users interact with the app.
App based engagement and transactions emit data, which subject to analytics, shed invaluable light on understanding the customer better. Such data can also be the basis for business and strategic decisions, as in how to position the product, adopt marketing pitches with greater success rate, and more.
However, analytics is still underestimated and underutilized to enrich the customer experience. Smart brands now leverage real time analytics to enrich the customer’s buying experience. One possibility in this front is helping customers get additional live information about the products they browse or short list for purchase. An associated possibility is gathering interesting and offbeat information associated with the project, such as a list of celebrities using the same product, showing some fun facts associated with the project, and more. Mobile and web apps make it considerably easier to deliver such information to the customer, in a seamless and non-intrusive way.
Another underestimated potential is leveraging the big data generated by apps to collaborate with other popular platforms. A good trendsetter in this front is Shazam, the leading music discovery app. Shazam for Brands’ leverages accumulated user data and brand advertisements to identify the best artist and musical genres for brands and create specific and customized ad units to drive customer engagement.
Deep Linking to In-App Content
The ever-prevalent social networks allow marketers to share their content and gain an even larger audience. Apps offer an additional and more robust option in this direction. Allowing users share their experiences inside the app increases the popularity of the app, and lead to more users downloading it, delivering multiplier effects.
Deep linking, to content within an app, makes it possible to share in-app content easily. The spin off benefit is keeping existing customers engaged within the app, improving retention rates and enhancing the user experience.
A good benchmark to emulate is the Nike+ Run Club app, which allows sharing the in-app content to social media platforms.
With marketing now a high-stakes game, intuitively designed mobile and web apps become a valuable source of competitive advantage. Marketers who identify their customer’s path to engagement and purchasing, and use the app to optimize the journey comes out on top.
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Mobility is in the midst of a golden run, with smartphones and tablets the medium of choice for the always harried and on-the-move enterprise users. Paradoxically, the mobile boom has made life difficult for enterprise mobility solution developers. Even as the vibrant mobility development space offers plenty of opportunities, a plethora of challenges stump developers.
The Challenge of Emerging Technologies
Mobile developers struggle to play catch up, to release updates and make their apps relevant in the face of fast-paced developments in OS and hardware technology. The following are a few cases in point.
- The sheer volumes of iOS APIs unleashed in recent times overwhelms even the most competent app developer.
- Enterprise developers estimating which new tooling features might align to their apps’ features are now a routine occurrence. More often than not, developers miss the update and scurry to fix the code.
The pace of change compounds the misery. Where developers rolled out updates in 30 days before, they find the need to update the code in just one or two days, or else run the risk of their apps turning dysfunctional.
There is no shortcut to solve the imbroglio. The best developers remain on tenterhooks, tracking emerging technologies and maturing standards, and regard app development as a constant exercise rather than as one-off projects.
The Challenge of Device Fragmentation
The hopelessly fragmented digital marketplace, a result of the constant treadmill of new devices and OS, compound the misery of the app developer. Today’s app developers are virtually working blind, not knowing their target platform.
The sheer number of devices in the market makes it virtually impossible to test the app for all usage scenario permutations and combinations. Cloud-based simulated testing, clearly the future of app testing, however, is just taking off. As things stand, developers face a Hobson’s choice on which device to invest for testing their apps.
Until not too long ago, enterprise mobility solution developers were immune from this challenge, as they could focus their efforts on the limited number of platforms and OS used by the enterprise. However, Bring-Your-Own-Device (BYOD) policies now force enterprise apps to support a variety of mobile devices. Gartner predicts half of all employers to require employees to BYOD, by 2017.
While there is no shortcut to testing the app on multiple browsers and multiple carrier connections, developers can optimize their development and testing efforts by:
- Targeting the most likely platforms in which the app would run.
- Employing consistent and reliable development practices across all leading platforms, ensuring consistency in look and feel.
- Creating globally recognizable but culturally sensitive graphics.
App developers also need to be on guard against the focus on usability distracting them from testing other crucial elements, such as whether their apps are battery hogs.
User Experience (UX) makes or breaks an app. Forrester estimates about 64% of employees not using enterprise mobile apps, owing to poor UX. Enterprise users, hard pressed for time, always value simplicity. The challenge for app developers is to pack in the required functionality, and ensure the app meets the required aesthetics related to corporate branding, while still ensuring simplicity.
Opting for a responsive design to attain mastery of the cross-platform scenario is a good first step, and a minimalist approach to design is a good second step. However, success ultimately depends on how best the screen real estate is put to use. Intuitive use of icons often creates a useful and natural mobile UX. Equipping the app with analytics to track engagement metrics, monitoring crash logs, and a structured feedback mechanism help developers fine tune their apps, but app developers still; have a challenge in setting up these processes.
The fragmented digital marketplace raises big security challenges as well. Each operating system has its own custom architecture, and different mobile platforms offer varying degrees of support for securing the data stored on the device. Another challenge is reconciling the actual level of security needed.
It is always a good idea to encrypt data and keep it in a secure container inside the device. Another best practice is integration with the enterprise’s LDAP directory, to ensure proper authentication and single-sign-on (SSO) across all enterprises apps. Opting for server-side validation, instead of client side validation prevents complex validations from dragging down the app to a crawl. However, many mobility solution developers forget security is a flexible thing, and blindly apply such best practices across-the-board. While multi-factor authentication is understandable in banking apps that facilitate bill pay, the same level of security will be an overkill, and a big put-off for an informational app.
Challenges Related to Content Management and Data Access
Access to corporate data, often sensitive in nature, is critical for most enterprise mobile solutions. Such data usually resides in a backend database. Developers need to decide on how best to access such data, and whether to store the accessed data in the device’s native file system, for offline access. Either way, ensuring seamless sync of data between the app and the backend is a challenge.
Enterprise mobility solution developers need to sit down with business managers and understand the business process, to get data access right. For instance, a field salesperson may need to download inventory data when meeting a client, in a place where there is no network. In such an eventuality, the app would also require not just data storage capabilities, but also synchronization capabilities to update the inventory once the salesperson returns online. The app also needs to understand when a connection is dropped, to roll back to its last-known data.
A related challenge is bundling all diverse content type, be it videos, images, animation, or text, into monolithic expansion files, as required by many app stores.
Challenge of Development Technology
HTML5-CSS3 based cross-platform development generally offers advantages in terms of cost, reduced time-to-market, and portability across platforms. However, HTML5 is not without its drawbacks either, such as limitations in local data storage, security concerns, and more. Many developers opt for native, platform specific development for better UX and superior application performance, but such advantages often come at a high cost, and increase time-to-market considerably. Enterprise mobility solution developers have a task on their hand, not just identifying a development technology, but trying to get the best of both worlds.
Understanding user requirements to the last detail is the key to deciding on the development approach. There is no workaround to technical competency in doing the job well, regardless of the approach chosen.
The success of enterprise mobility solution development lies not just in developing the app, but also ensuring a smooth and efficient distribution system. The developer can hardly afford to rest on her laurels, having overcome all the challenges they faced during the development phase. They still need to manage application stores, manage integrated device management, and brace themselves for the never ending update cycles.
If your enterprise requires mobility solutions, as most enterprises nowadays do, a competent partner who knows their stuff makes life easy, and will improve the worth of your mobility solutions manifold. Get in touch with us for everything related to enterprise mobility solutions.
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By the late 1980’s the prominent sound of “ding, ding, zip” of the typewriters that reverbed through the office halls gave way for a softer, mimicked, mechanical feel of the typewriters. The computer keyboards with time evolved, making it the familiar yet a distinct avatar of the faithful typewriters of the past. What changed was more than just the mechanical clinker in the office halls; they gave rise to a new status quo on how work was performed and what could be achieved by ideally leveraging the computers.
A Digital Revolution
A little bit of reflection on the successful business of our times like Facebook, WhatsApp, Zynga, Twitter, Square, Netflix, points to the fact that, these companies were either born digital or made efforts to alter their business to becoming digital. The companies that innovated, the ones that laid the old to rest, followed a process of creative destruction. What businesses have to remember is that, most of the times the employees and the customers have got a faster affinity to adapt to changing technology. This adoption would only be followed by an expectation that the business that they interact with, also follows suit. For B2B players it becomes important that they use Mobile, Big Data, IoT, 5G, and augmented reality for revolutionising the customer experience, optimising operational and industrial processes, innovating rapidly, bringing faster cash cycles, driving employee productivity and for improved service enhancements.
Statistics shows that there would be 6.1 billion smartphone users worldwide, 56% of all web traffic is through mobile and the global mobile data traffic is expected to reach 6.2 Exabytes/ month! That’s a lot of numbers indicating the importance of a Mobile strategy.
Digital Business Transformation through Mobility
Mobility is not just about going wireless. It focuses on the business process and the work models that effectively utilise mobile. Internally it is about the business models and processes that can enable marketing, HR and operations to utilise the benefits of going mobile like improved and faster decision making, increased productivity of the employees, faster resolution of internal issues, brand perception enhancements, reduced sales cycle time and increased revenues. But there are concerns of network security, compatibility and security of the devices, corporate and customer data security, regulatory requirements that always make the C-Suite executives think twice before they tread on these unsure waters.
Transforming a business through mobility has to have a well-rounded view of the entire business and a thorough recognition of the priorities of going mobile. It can be as simple as supporting more mobile handheld devices, extending internal systems for mobile access, offering incremental BYOD, providing more mobile support to the customer, implementing corporate mobility policies and so on. With Mobility, work becomes something that people do and not a place they go to, it has the capability to bring transformations with regards to:
Increased Revenue Potential
Mobility is pervasive and the ever trusted smartphone has led the march, becoming the go-to device, people use for work, pleasure or to kill boredom. Living in the comfort of your pockets, the mobile becomes the first medium of choice for one to interact with the outside world. This gives business a chance to connect to the customers at any point of time. Similarly, mobile apps that can help the customer consume products and services would invariably help to increase revenues. Employee empowerment and customer engagement are the two critical interactions for a business to make. Having a solid mobile strategy would help them both to be connected on the move, thus effectively enabling contracts and deals closures on real-time.
The first signs of going digital would be improved employee freedom. An employee would no longer be restricted to the cubicles, instead he/she will get a chance to work on ‘wherever whenever’ style. Through cloud-based applications, the staff would be able to access resources and attend to important work, no matter where they are. Such apps are now even built with offline connectivity that can help the field workers to sync things later into the cloud while effectively helping them perform their work. Reach out is one such app that has been developed with the offline connectivity, for managing work orders and jobs in inspection and audits. This goes a long way into providing flexibility, responsiveness and faster turnaround times, which in the end translate to excellent customer satisfaction. This sets up a win-win for both the customer and the business as it enhances the way you work and the way the business serves the customers need.
Another major contributor to employee productivity is the way mobility enables workplace collaboration, regardless of the physical proximity of individuals and teams. When effective collaboration is required among individuals and teams spread across multiple locations, mobile truly makes the effort more streamlined and natural. Cloud-based enterprise collaboration software can help teams to break down barriers of location and time, bringing the best of talents to work in unison.
With the flexible and collaborative nature of work, there comes a need of precise and timely communication that can draw the line between being successful or crashing out. It becomes highly essential that the mobile workforce is appraised with relevant metrics that help them to take the right decision and also to update crucial project updates. Aware mobility helps to accelerate performance by having this view of important metrics right on your trusted iOS or Android device. This can help to get on time information that helps you take that important decision when required.
Operational Efficiency and Productivity
Businesses would have to change the way they have conducted themselves over the years. They would need to get re-organised, to accommodate the task oriented usage style of mobile users and deliver them efficiently, without having any security concerns. Real time statistics of location and direction have already helped logistics and field service, to come up with strategic ways in which these could be leveraged. This leveraging should ideally result from a re-envisioned business process. Mobilisation of Salesforce interactions, supply chain management and innovative charging models can be devised by having mobile at the hub of the transformation, for a truly digital organization.
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Remember? Smartphones have been out only for 8 years, and the number of networked devices today already outnumbers the number of humans on Earth. Similarly, the number of connected devices on the Internet of Things will soon outnumber the people by over 7 to 1, accounting to over 50 million connected devices by 2020, ranging from cars (90% of cars expected to be online by 2020) to cows. And this is a 285% increase over the 13.4billion connected devices in 2015. See how fast the Internet of Things is unfolding.
IoT impact on business
True that IoT promises a ‘Smart’ everything, but it delivers more than wickedly intelligent solutions for businesses as is evident from the following predictions:
- The Largest Market: In 2019 IoT market will be double the size of tablet, PC, smartphone, wearable and the connected car markets combined.
- Increased global spending: By 2019, Internet of Things devices, connectivity solutions and services will account to $1.7trillion value added to the global economy, from $656 billion in 2014.
- Increased revenue: In 3 years, device shipments will grow to 6.7billion for a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 61%. IT or Software firms and infrastructure companies will have the massive share of this revenue.
- Increased efficiency and decreased cost: High productivity in low cost will be the major outcome of the widespread IoT.
While it seems a smart idea for an ultra-connected world, its benefits and implications for business are not often so clear to all. Studies show that many small business owners still haven’t taken IoT seriously or started to plan their business around it. So, as a business owner, what and why should you learn about the Internet of Things? How tweaking your business on a micro-level for the Internet of Things will help it operate and grow on a macro level?
IoT benefits for Businesses
Here’s how businesses will realize the benefits from a totally connected world:
- Real-time operations make things more efficient, improves productivity
Imagine if the point-of-sale devices on a retail shop are connected to the warehouse and analytics systems, the process of managing and replacing the stock becomes automatic, without the need for a staff to manually look into the matters. The cycle thus becomes very efficient and time-saving. This efficiency in long run will bring numerous cost benefits to businesses. Businesses can similarly automate every corner of their processes with smart devices, machines or systems that are connected and can interact with each other to accomplish tasks. This will eliminate the need for manual interventions at every phase, having to be physically present at locations, or having to make time-consuming trips, thus making operations smart, fast, and efficient.
- New Business opportunities
The Internet of Things will require businesses to change their existing processes and practices to be more efficient. This will in turn require many new devices (that can connect to the internet), equipments, and services, which will help businesses navigate smoothly through this change to the ultra-connected landscape. Industry experts say that hundreds and thousands of unique business opportunities will rise from the IoT growth. To name a few would be, solutions addressing real-time demands, needs and threats, personalized services for customers, improved customer services, accurate and effective forecasting, improved process optimization and the like.
- IoT is no joke with these influential investors
Highly influential and powerful groups have been supporting the Internet of Things massively, including the British government that has invested £73 million in IoT already. Internet of Things has turned the next big investment area for the industry giants, who are scrambling to invest and grab their shares from this market. Though the market poses high-security concerns and challenges, investors have their eyes fixed on the gigantic money-making opportunities here. Global investments in IoT services are forecasted to touch $ 235 billion in 2016, a 22% increase from the previous year. Giants like, Google, Apple, IBM and other deep-pocketed investors behind it probably hint how their businesses are set to bloom with IoT.
- Greater consumer impact
The Internet of Things will make things extremely convenient, efficient and will provide tangible benefits for consumers- something that will directly affect every business. The positive impact of IoT on customers, in addition to its impact on internal operations in the business, will simply make processes great. For instance, keyless access control devices fitted in rental houses allow customers to inspect rental properties of their interest conveniently, by allowing access to houses with unique codes sent to their mobile through the real-estate app. The customer thus has no overhead of waiting for agents to deliver the keys, nor does the agent have the headache of taking all the customers through the house-inspection process.
- Automation will replace some jobs
For businesses, it would be better to say that the kind of jobs will transform, and it is not simply vanishing jobs! Automation would replace some jobs and at the same time, create more requirements for skilled personnel who know about the Internet of Things, the latest technologies, its vulnerabilities, and security factors. Of course, the parts that can be mechanized will get automated, but will require more smart human brains wherever required.
- Smarter ways of Marketing
We will see less of those lazy, old-school advertisements, where there is no actual respect for the customer or his money. The big brands will start creating smart, relevant, valuable ads that are highly personalized to each individual and is worth to them. For instance, in a futuristic IoT connected mall, a model in a shop’s billboard may call out your name to let you know about an offer on ‘something’ you are interested in. Similarly, there are tremendous ways marketing can get really valuable and personal.
- Don’t worry, IoT isn’t appearing overnight to make your business obsolete
The Internet of Things is not a trend appearing overnight, that will come and make your businesses practices outdated in a few hours’ time! Rather it is developing with your business gradually, over time. Remember how your business was 10 years before? Since then, you have probably invested in technologies like, mobile/smart devices, wireless internet, cloud storage, analytical software, virtual servers and more. If you did, then you are adapting to the changing trends and being a part of it positively. Developments will be gradual; you just need to pick up the pace, think in advance, and plan for the future.
As we see, Internet of Things is ultimately about services and a lot many solutions and not just about the ‘number of connected devices in the network’. IDC predicts that in 2018, when 22 billion devices get installed in the network, it also drives the development of more than 200,000 new IoT apps and services.
Think such an app or solution can give your business a forward thrust in the current scenario? Don’t waste your time thinking, take your thoughts forward, make an IoT plan for your business now and give it life. Contact us if you need further help figuring this out.
Image credits: IP Watchdog, IoT revolution expo