How to Win the Enterprise “War of the Apps” – Even if Your Existing Mobile Apps Stink

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November 28, 2018

Let’s say you’re a product manager or business leader at a Fortune 500 or enterprise business. You’re accustomed to exceptional business results, and you likely have a track record of making savvy investments in your people, infrastructure and marketing – all is well in the world.

Then you launch a mobile app, understanding that mobile is a critical growth area for your business. In a matter of weeks, the ratings and reviews tell the truth: your app sucks.

This is a common occurrence in the enterprise business world, and I’m going to shed a light on why this happens and how to recover.

It’s almost 2020, nearly 20 years after HAL and the Space Odyssey. The war for the public’s mindshare is no longer being fought on traditional mediums like TV. Instead, we’re now seeing what I call a “War of the Apps”.

As CEO of CitrusBits, I speak with Fortune 500 clients on a weekly basis. Business leaders at these high-performing companies rely on our teams to create mobile apps their users enjoy on a daily basis.

Why do prestigious enterprise brands need our help with their mobile apps? It’s simple. It’s because app usage has grown to the point where having a bad mobile app – or just as bad, not having one – can be devastating to business performance and growth prospects.

There is very little margin for error when it comes to mobile strategy and execution.

The pace of mobile innovation is much faster than enterprise organizations can handle

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard from businesses that initially approached mobile app opportunities with their guns blazing — ready, FIRE, aim – (yes, shooting before aiming). Caught up in the race to be first, these businesses neglect the critical planning process.

By rushing the app to market without an optimal roadmap, such companies miss out on crucial opportunities. In ecommerce, they might leave out the ability to share a live shopping cart link via SMS with a friend or family member, which could boost ecommerce conversion rates. On the enterprise side, perhaps there will be a missed opportunity for an IoT or wearable device integration that could have helped boost employee productivity and satisfaction in the workplace. Ultimately, these missed opportunities can result in a mobile strategy that never quite catches on.

Even when possibilities like these are anticipated and included on the product roadmap, substandard execution can still derail the project.

These are areas in which companies like CitrusBits, well-versed and forward-thinking in mobile and emerging technologies, can truly shine for enterprise clients.

User engagement is king

Smartphone ownership is nearly 80% among American adults, and the average American is using them more than four hours a day, with more than 90% of that time spent on mobile apps and less than 10% on mobile websites. This is to say that the potential for strong user engagement is absolutely there. But it’s still just potential, which means it has to be unlocked.

So, how do you unlock that engagement potential with mobile apps? Here are a few starting points:

  • Push notifications – Marketing emails and traditional promotional vehicles don’t hold a candle to the engagement potential offered by push notifications on mobile devices. With dynamic and timely push notifications to your users wherever they happen to be, powered by AI-based insights, you can drive unprecedented growth in user engagement and other KPI.
  • Gamification – Games can be fun to the point of being addictive, offering the highest potential for user engagement. A growing trend among enterprise companies is to build game-like features – missions/achievements, rewards, levels, and rankings, for example – into apps of all kinds. Even fast food companies such as Starbucks are using gamification to great effect in their restaurant loyalty and mobile ordering apps.

The Starbucks app allows you to level up your rewards account by earning stars.

  • Convenient customer feedback mechanisms within the app
    • People want to know they are being heard; think of the last time you had the urge to complain to a company about a flight delay, a rude Uber driver, or an incompetent babysitter. Deny them that fundamental desire, and you may well lose a customer for good.
    • Today, employing a battalion of phone agents is no longer the best way to provide responsive customer service.
    • With AI-powered chat bots, machine learning, and optimized in-app user flows, it’s now easy to provide feedback mechanisms that provide immediate gratification to your users, and more importantly, keep them coming back for more.

Allowing your users to express themselves is vital to their happiness.

  • Conversion Funnel Optimization
    I always wonder why some companies make it so hard for customers to give them money or sign up for a service. Creating a user experience that is optimized for customers to convert in some way begins with understanding your customer.
    • Is the product or service you are selling clearly described for your target audience?
    • Are customers able to purchase your product or service on the go, or do they need to be in front of a computer?
    • If you have an ecommerce flow, is the process simple to go through? Consider Amazon’s patented “One-click” ordering and how that has helped encourage repeat business at Amazon. As AI becomes the norm in ecommerce, consider the revenue potential if you could use machine learning and AI to automatically fill a shopping cart based on past purchase history and user preferences?
    • Does your app block the user with “gates” before they can give you their money? Speaking from experience, there is nothing that causes me to abandon a shopping cart more than when an app requires too much information in the checkout process. Do you really need me to tell you how I heard about you while I’m purchasing something?

Keeping it fresh

Among enterprise customers, stale software is a common occurrence. And to many in my industry, it’s absolutely mind-boggling why this remains to be the case. Some enterprise businesses intentionally don’t want to uproot old systems because of the fear that they’ll alienate their customer base with “new-fangled” software. Others simply want to avoid the hassle of getting new products greenlit through an enterprise bureaucracy.

But as any of our enterprise clients will tell you, it pays to keep your mobile app current.

This is because consumers and businesses alike are now old pros when it comes to mobile apps. The average person uses 9 mobile apps daily and more than 30 on a monthly basis, according to App Annie.

If your app provides an outdated experience – whether that means an outdated aesthetics, old technologies, or perhaps even incompatibility with modern systems – your customers will seek out fresher alternatives.

  • A design refresh won’t just make your app prettier. UI/UX designers are experts at finding the shortest path from Point A to Point B, making life easier and more enjoyable for your users. This can be achieved by doing usability testing and prototyping, as well as by modern gesture-based navigation and UI elements your customers have come to expect in their favorite mobile apps.
  • Modern mobile apps are taking advantage of newer technologies such as blockchain, IoT, and augmented reality. If you’re not considering how to implement these emerging technologies into your core mobile products now, you risk getting left behind when consumer expectations shift.
  • Machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) are absolute game changers. It’s a common misconception that you need a team of 100 MIT engineers to add ML/AI capabilities to a product. The reality is that commercial ML and AI offerings from Microsoft, Google, IBM, as well as open source technologies, are making it easier than ever to turn big data into adaptive new mobile experiences.

If you’re an enterprise company, or even an SMB, and you believe your existing mobile strategy needs course correction, please get in touch. Our team is happy to provide a free consultation to identify areas of opportunity and provide recommendations

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