Mobile App Development | 16-06-2020 | Raunak Pandey
We all know what an App is, what mobile applications are for, and how they are distributed in the various App stores. But behind the comfortable facade of our smartphone, what moves? What does the current international App market look like? What are the best practices for designing a successful App and how to measure its performance? How are these assets at the heart of companies' mobile marketing strategies?
The international mobile app market
Let's start with a proper premise. The widespread diffusion of personal technology such as smartphones is increasingly shaping users' habits and desires. Specifically, the pervasiveness of these devices is changing not only the relationship between people and technology but also the relationship between people and companies. By now everyone expects that at least the main brands have an app from which they can consult the products/services offered, make purchases, or ask for assistance. That's it?
Let's help with some data. The number of Apps available in the main international stores amounts to 5.3 million, a value which - for the first time - indicates a decrease compared to previous years. The drop is mainly due to a "cleaning" of the stores which saw the elimination of fraudulent or non-compliant apps with the new privacy legislation.
Google and Apple - which belong to the two most popular operating systems, Android and iOS - share the primacy in the number of Apps: on the Google Play Store and Apple App Store there are respectively 40% and 34% of the Apps.
In addition to the number of apps, the number of downloads by consumers is also growing. Already in 2018, it is estimated that the number of apps downloaded worldwide has reached 200 billion and by 2022 it is expected to exceed 250 billion (+ 26% compared to 2018). In relation to these numbers, it is worth noting the high incidence of the countries of Southeast Asia.
Most of the big companies today (looking at the top in terms of turnover and the main pure digital players) have developed at least one mobile App, offering a subset of the services already present on the site, additional features, or completely different services. From clothing to electronics, from banks to large-scale distribution, all sectors are now investing in this channel which was once the preserve of companies that develop games or multimedia content.
The functionality of a mobile application
The first aspect to consider in order to understand the offer of Italian companies is the set of functions within the Apps. Among the different options, we see which are the most common and their respective levels of diffusion:
● Login: almost always present or at least optional (with consequent use anonymously);
● Possibility to carry out dispositive operations: in 90% of cases, the Apps allow users to purchase products (mCommerce) or to insert them in a wish list;
● Promo and loyalty features: widespread in about half of the cases, the main tools are the virtual loyalty card, the collection of digital prints and the Mobile Couponing;
● Personalization of the home: most of the applications personalize the home page according to the user, while it is very rare that it is offered the possibility to personalize it manually;
● Integration with other applications: almost 90% of the Apps are integrated with other Apps, mainly of Social Network, Messaging or basic apps on Smartphones (Calls, Sms);
● Customer support chats: a fifth of the Apps offers this service, although companies usually prefer to offer direct interaction with a customer service employee.
The technologies of a mobile application
Secondly, it is necessary to consider the main technologies used within the Apps and their respective purposes:
● Geolocation: using GPS technology, data is collected to provide services based on the user's location;
● Bluetooth: the App communicates with this technology especially to integrate the Smartphone with physical devices such as cars, smartwatches or household appliances;
● QR-Code / barcode: the App uses the smartphone camera to read codes containing information on a specific product or service;
● Camera: also used to enable payments of bulletins in banking apps, to send reports or claims in insurance apps or to upload photos of clothing purchased to show them to other users;
● Communication channels: the App is integrated with Social Media or Messaging/email Apps, in order to allow users to share content directly from browsing the App;
● Augmented reality: with this technology the App offers users immersive experiences so that they can configure a product or place it in a virtual space.
● Smart connected objects: in line with the growth of the Internet of Things, the possibility of integrating apps with smart objects (cars, smartwatches, cameras, smart dressing rooms) also increases;
● Biometrics: this option helps speed up access to apps and payments.
How to design a Mobile App: 6 aspects that make the difference
Designing an App for mobile does not only mean making it work with as few bugs as possible but also taking care of the user experience of customers, which is now fundamental for determining the success or failure of a mobile App.
In the face of changes in how users interact with tools, technology, and the real world, how can we gain and maintain their approval? The answer lies in the definition of a good UX (User Experience) - UI (User Interface) strategy that makes using the App as simple and pleasant as possible. Following are some of the main aspects to consider while designing a mobile app:
● Care of the Value Proposition: to make the user immediately understand the type of product/service offered and to distinguish themselves from competitors, it is necessary to use texts and images that adequately support communication.
● Amount of information: To avoid confusing the user, you should avoid overloading them with too many Call to Action (CTA), options, or visual elements.
● Text formatting: the font and line spacing must communicate the brand identity and allow for easy reading.
● Access and security methods: users must be able to identify themselves securely and it must be possible to reset the access password.
● User activity: to prevent the user from making mistakes or not completing the activities correctly, during the planning phase it is necessary to foresee the situations in which such problems could occur and to propose solutions, for example by inserting the option "ask before canceling" or allowing the user to "go back".
● Experience customization :
UX personalization by context (e.g. adapting music according to the intensity of motor activity);
UX customization for past actions (e.g. recommending products based on previous purchases);
UX customization for clusters (e.g. recommending products based on those of users with similar preferences);
UX personalization for geofencing (e.g. having the App activated as soon as the user enters the shop and offering advice, offers, reminders).
What is the impact of these actions in terms of business? If it is true that after a positive experience, customers buy and recommend the App more, after a negative experience, the spending with the company is reduced, negative feedback is left or the relationship is even interrupted. To stand out from competitors, more mature companies offer better experiences and the results are noticeable: they increase sales and revenue, improve customer satisfaction and customer retention, and get new customers.
KPI for measuring the performance of the App
After placing an app on the market, how can you measure the results? Since in the design phase most companies focus on retention and user experience, in order to make them engaged and faithful in the long term, the most measured mobile KPIs concern precisely the activities performed by users:
● Number of downloads ;
● Number of active users: including daily, weekly and monthly users;
● Churn Rate: rate of users who stop using the App;
● Retention Rate: rate of users who return to use;
● Customer Lifetime Value: value generated by each individual user who uses the App.