From coffee shops to cold medicine, corporations of all sizes are making the leap to the mobile market. With billions of mobile users regularly using apps in their daily lives, app development is an essential part of the modern marketing strategy.
A branded app can turn casual customers into passionate brand advocates – if handled correctly. To find out the advantages of branded apps, we talked to Nataliya Shyshka of Lemberg Solutions, who have been innovating in the mobile and Drupal market since 2007.
A recent statistic anticipates that there will be 4.4 billion app users by 2017. What advantages do apps have over traditional web interfaces, particularly for mobile users?
What is the first thing you look at in the morning?
I bet it is a mobile phone.
We live in an era of 3D printers, self-driving cars, wearables, and of course mobile phones. Nowadays, users want to be mobile and flexible. The power of mobile can`t be overestimated. Web is losing ground to mobile when we need to get the information quickly in a handy format and on the go, not to mention in an offline mode. The operation can be made from 2 to 5 clicks!
We have a great real-life story here at Lemberg that illustrates the situation when mobile app becomes an absolute advantage. In one of our projects, we were to develop an app for Pebble smartwatch. In short, the app had a location tracking functionality and was designed for skiers and snowboarders. After testing the app in real environments (i.e., in the mountains), our team unanimously agreed on the benefits of using a mobile phone enhanced with a smartwatch and app. No need to take out the phone every time you need it, as the smartwatch is easy to access and operate on your wrist. Besides, it saves phone battery life and notifies you when needed. Would you get the same experience with traditional web? I don’t think so. This looks like a huge advantage.
Because of the intense opportunities, everybody’s hopping on the app bandwagon; but many businesses just create generic-looking apps that will fade into anonymity. What are some ways a business can use a branded app to stand out from the competition?
At Lemberg, we always recommend thinking about the customer first, rather than the competitors.
It’s important to improve the service, customer engagement, and satisfaction. The mobile app can be of help for those in so many ways.
Take the time to think through how every customer wants to engage with your brand and give it to them in the most efficient way. UI is just a small part of the work. It`s the functionality and your service/product that will make the user prefer you to your competitor and not remove the app from the phone. Sometimes, design isn’t even a topic of discussion; a generic-looking app made in line with the UI/UX guidelines will do just fine. There might be enterprise mobility apps that are used by your team internally for better communication and management purposes that eventually result in better customer service.
When discussing app design, I like to mention the Facebook app. Do you know that the Facebook app for Android is missing some general UI/UX recommendations? Does it make you uninstall the app and use another, or will you still be using this one? Do you think it looks appealing?
Certainly, a great design is an advantage, though we advise to think first about the customer, your goals, and your priorities.
Can you talk a bit about some of the marketing opportunities that are unique to mobile apps?
Your brand is there under your client’s fingertips all the time. More than that, it’s before their eyes several times a day as well while they simply switch the screens of their mobile phones. If you take into account the possibilities of audio, camera, location tracking, offline mode, and interactions with other systems and devices (smartwatches, beacons, cars, drones etc.), you’ll get endless opportunities for creativity, user experience personalisation, and a powerful 24/7 direct marketing tool.
Mobile apps can easily turn your customers’ mobile phones into a fly & control app for drones. With beacons or LaMetric devices, it will turn a visit to the supermarket into a special occasion, open a 24/7 e-shop in their pocket, and make mundane marketing messages more funny, interactive and personalised.
For brands that are developing their first app, how might they go about finding out the needs of their clientele to create the most useful software?
Once again, whether you are a business or a startup, your primary focus is on the users/customers of your app. Think of how your customers want to engage with your brand and give it to them in the most efficient way. Less is more.
Your customer will be of great help here, so ask for advice, ideas, and feedback. Try building a proof of concept or MVP (Minimal Viable Product) first.
When the first version of our DrupalCon (a major event in Drupal Community) app by Lemberg was released, we received a lot of positive feedback along with some great ideas. Some of them have been implemented already in successive versions. Still, we realise there is a long way to go. Everyone should understand that. There is no stopping after the first release. It`s a never-ending process.
How can a branded app help raise brand awareness and recognition, and why is that important?
Look at a branded app as an additional channel to communicate with your customers. They go mobile; so should you.
And as for the importance of communicating with your customers: if you don’t do it, your competitors will.
Do you have any design advice as far as how to make the most useful and striking app that users will love?
Clean and functional UI is the key to a user’s heart.
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