4 Strategies for Mobile Success

With mobile competition and customer expectations skyrocketing, it’s time for your business to be mobile-relevant—or become mobile-extinct. From analytics to optimization and personalization, you can be mobile-minded and ready to deliver well thought out mobile experiences that provide value, in context, at the time of need. Here are four strategies for re-imagining your business with mobile and keeping your most valuable customers and employees satisfied.

Mobile is more than a channel

Mobile development isn’t just about creating the same user experience for smaller screen sizes. Given that some consumers will continue to shop at brick-and-mortar stores while others would be perfectly happy with a mobile-only institution, it’s important that your mobile strategy complements the entire customer journey map. You have to think of mobile as a way to improve customer experience overall, and your company is more likely to improve overall conversion.

Mobile experiences must be easy to use

With limited screen space and the occasional interruptions consumers experience while engaging in their mobile devices, marketers need to cut to the chase and make content easily accessible. Streamline the workflow with smart defaults and data loaded integration. Engage users with emerging technologies that eliminate the need for customers to search back and forth, such as  “shoppable media” that quickly give mobile users the content they want in one click.

Metrics, metrics, metrics

To measure mobile success, you must manage it first. This is as important for big corporations as it is for startups. When developing and managing apps, mobile teams must understand how many consumers download and how often they launch their app, what paths they take, what social interactions are getting traction and if their interactions drive monetization. To get the most out of your mobile apps, you must use metrics for user acquisition, engagement, conversion and retention to help you measure ROI.

Target and personalize by audience segment

Your brand is the common denominator between your customers—beyond that, each customer is uniquely different and expects a unique experience based on their level of engagement and interests. To find out what they like, consider using A/B testing and optimization. To keep them engaged, consider using location-based targeting and social network integration to create relevant, personalized experiences wherever they are.

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Non-profit Organization’s Use of Technology

Who’s heart-strings aren’t pulled by the not-for-profit organizations in our world?  Well, our’s sure are, and as such, we’ve taken a vested interest in helping non-profits figure out which technologies they would benefit from spending their precious funds on, and which ones don’t bring enough value to warrant the expenditure.

Two such organizations that we’ve been working with are the Children’s Hospital Colorado Foundation, and a local K-8 school in our neighborhood.  In both cases the primary goal is to raise funds, but only slightly secondary to that goal is to provide a valuable experience to their audiences.  Our approach was different in each case, but the point for both was to work out a plan that would meet their goals and a timeline that worked with their budgets.

mobile app developmentApproach A: Build it in phases

Figure out what the “pie in the sky” dream (or epic) is, and then prioritize those goals into manageable chunks that can be accomplished over time (this is also known as Agile Programming). This way you get a “MVP” (minimum viable product) in the hand of the users more quickly so you can start getting their feedback. This is good when you are introducing something new to an audience that is used to you offering something else. They will point out what they miss about the previous offering, and what they like about the new one before you spend too much time and money developing what you thought they wanted. In the subsequent versions, you release more and more new features and possible remove things that aren’t as desirable as you thought they would be.

Check out the Children’s Hospital Colorado Foundation mobile app for their Courage Classic bike tour (iOS & Android), and see what phasing in features can look like.  Other non-profits can learn quite a bit from this app and what all it offers the people they serve.

St. John's Men Who Cook mobile app

Approach B: Working prototype before development

Again, you definitely need to know what you want in the long run, but in this case, you build prototypes that include all or some of the features you want and test them on your audience before you build it (“it” being a mobile app, enterprise app, web app…).  In this case, we went a little beyond a working prototype and used a mobile app development tool called Como.  There are quite a few pre-built modules that you can customize to a certain extent – things like catalogs, loyalty cards, events, and Facebook feeds.  It’s not a perfect tool, and you’re at the mercy of their design, but it worked in this case to show the client what was possible and to be able get feedback from their audience before they invested a great deal of time and money into it.  The other benefit was speed to market.  This app is for a non-profit fundraising event coming up in a month, so we needed to get something out there well in advance so their audience could use it.  You can find the St. John’s Men Who Cook mobile app in Google Play to see what a working prototype can do.

So now we’ve told you about two possible approaches to building a custom software application.  In these cases they worked well for the clients, but they aren’t right for ever project.  We are always happy to talk with potential clients about their projects and work with them on the strategy that fits their situation.

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parse alternatives

Migration from Parse Options

Why would you need a Parse alternative?

You wanted to quickly ramp up a new mobile app, so you chose Parse to get it done. Excellent! It’s one of the oldest Mobile Backend as a Services (MBaaS) available. It’s mature. And it has a ton of great features.

The biggest “con” is that if it ever shuts down, you will have to quickly figure out the migration from Parse options.

Unfortunately, that day has happened. Parse just announced they’re winding down the Parse service, and Parse will be fully retired after a year-long period ending on January 28, 2017. That’s it! You have one year to get your stuff and move on. They claim they, “are proud that they’ve been able to help so many of you build great mobile apps”. But not so proud that they will continue the service.

This is a huge transition! Your whole backend has to be migrated to new servers and possibly new software. Maybe you’re thinking about moving to a new BaaS. Parse was not the first to shutdown, nor will it be the last. So, I understand it if you’re a little skittish about using another BaaS at the moment.

Luckily, On3 professional services has already moved a few clients off of cloud service systems like this to their own hosted environments. Most of which ended up being cheaper to maintain. We have also provided staffing of our resources on larger projects through Digital Enablement service.

We’ve got the experience, process and resources that will make move from Parse as easy as possible.

What are some of your options?

First, Parse is releasing a database migration tool that lets you migrate data from your Parse app to any MongoDB database. Once in Mongo, you need to build a whole new services layer on a new set of software and servers that has to be maintained. This is no small task and has lots of moving parts. But it will be yours to control, not some CEO of a tech company that you used to trust with your business.

Second, Parse is releasing the open source Parse Server, which lets you run most of the Parse API from your own Node.js server. Once you have your data in your own database, Parse Server lets you keep your application running without major changes in the client-side code. While this gets you off their servers with a “somewhat” functioning API, the software will not be maintained and some critical functionality will be missing.

You have come to rely on Parse, and they are leaving you in the dust. There are a lot of options. Options that can be customized to your business. We are here for you and will strive to make this transition as easy and straightforward as possible.

Still have questions?

Schedule a free consultation

One size does not fit all, especially for your business. There are several options across multiple infrastructures, software and languages that could be a fit.

We will advise you on the environment that is best for your business.

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Custom Software Development Vs. Free Consumer Apps in the Workplace

Businesses should always be looking to cut costs, but avoiding custom software development in leu of free consumer apps is not the best route.  Some organizations may think that allowing their workers to bring their own applications into the office is an easy way to save on software procurement costs. According to TMCnet contributor Rory Thompson, however, you’re generally at risk of getting exactly what you pay for – nothing. Free, consumer apps often come from questionable sources and are not as powerful as enterprise-geared apps.

This is why it’s important for businesses to invest in custom software development. Companies can’t get the most out of employee devices if the programs that inhabit them are of an inferior quality. The best way to avoid this is to be involved in the design process of a new application that is built specifically for the organization that plans on using it.

A hands-on approach is the best way to go
According to TechRepublic contributor Will Kelly, mobile app usage in the workplace can be “risky.” But this is only true when best practices are not applied. Flexera Software VP Maureen Polte told Kelly in an interview that companies must “take a comprehensive approach” when managing an app’s lifecycle in order to succeed.

“Start with a consistent Application Readiness process that enables a standard procedure for getting all applications, regardless of format, tested, authorized and ready for deployment,” Polte stated. “Additionally, enterprises can control distribution and provide governance of applications by directing employees to an enterprise app store where they can download corporate approved mobile apps to their devices.”

This is critical to keep in mind when planning change around the company. Failing to understand what solutions are being put into place – approved or otherwise – will negate any of the benefits that are supposed to be unlocked.

Meaningful strategy is key
There has been a lot of talk about “the workplace of tomorrow.” More people are finding that it is possible to meet goals in new, streamlined and simplified ways thanks to mobile technology. But for businesses to harness this power, it means there will need to be a clear idea put into place of where new assets will be able to take professionals.

“Without strategy, organizations may develop workspaces with what may be excellent technology, hoping it will fix all their problems, but which will result in spectacular failures,” wrote Network​ World contributor David Danto. “These failures are usually not because the technology was ‘bad,’ but rather because it did not fit in with their actual needs (which they never took the time to properly discover).”

This means that companies have to not only provide a single tool for everyone’s use, but they also have to keep the needs of employees in mind when they do so. Nothing can stall a deployment faster than a program that doesn’t meet the needs of the workers.

The only way to accomplish this is to invest in custom software development for the organization. Having customized tools in place will allow workers to get the most out of their devices.

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Wearables are the future

There are many people out there that are quick to dismiss wearables as a fad or a gimmick. This is ironic, given that many of those that are against wearable tech probably said the same things about the smartphones that they’re likely using at this very second. Wearable technology is capable of fulfilling responsibilities, but it is disruptive in the sense that people might still be unsure of how it is valuable.

Negative sentiments are likely to dissipate in the relatively near future, however. According to ZDNet contributor Liam Tung, a recent study from Ovum found that wearable shipments could reach 50 million units in 2015, thanks in no small part to the impending release of Apple Watch. This signifies a great number of people who are ready to see how wearables can improve their lives – both in the personal and professional sense.

As more consumers begin to adopt wearable technology, businesses are going to have some significant opportunities laid out in front of them. Customer and employee engagement alike are undoubtedly going to be effected by these new devices. As they have more positive experiences with headsets and smartwatches, they are going to be expecting enterprise support in a number of new ways. In order to successfully capitalize off of this development, custom software solutions are going to be critical.

Wearable tech has much to offer enterprises
While much of the hype regarding wearables has surrounded consumer use cases, the enterprise is already expected to see a powerful boost from these devices as more employees bring them to work. According to TMCnet contributor Carrie Majewski, the enterprise is expected to see a significant amount of disruption thanks to the arrival of wearable tech. A number of different industries are slated to see some big assistance from wearables – namely when talking about professions that can benefit from hands-free interfaces.

“Perhaps no industry stands to benefit greater from wearable technology then field service workers, like a cellphone tower technician,” Majewski wrote. “Such knowledge workers can rely on the technology to communicate equipment malfunctions and remedy problems in real-time as opposed to waiting days for the company to be notified of a problem.”

Doctors are people who will definitely benefit from this kind of functionality. According to ITProPortal contributor Jamie Hinks, Google Glass gained attention in the healthcare sector thanks to augmented reality. Being able to look at a patient’s x-ray overlaid on their body can be a huge help and also allow for increased eye contact.

The importance of software
These new devices represent a great deal of change for businesses, but they are not the only part of the equation. Like other machines, software is an essential component for wearable devices. This was something that many organizations didn’t consider when smartphones first arrived in the workplace. Those that didn’t regulate employee use in the right way found a number of risky applications handling their data – and leaking it into places where it didn’t belong.

But while security is a major issue that has to be addressed with custom software, it is not the only reason to seek mobile application development. Functionality is also a major consideration. Programs designed for any company to use often provide ineffective blanket solutions that fail to address the individual needs and desires of the organizations themselves. A shoe has to fit a foot just right in order to provide the greatest level of comfort and endurance, and the same can be said about applications and the companies that support them. If a pre-designed solution isn’t cutting it, a custom offering may be what’s required to keep pushing the organization forward.

“If the software isn’t building revenue opportunities, lowering costs, creating operational efficiencies, reducing risks, or making other tangible contributions to your end business, it’s time to step back and assess exactly what the software is doing for you,” wrote TechRepublic contributor Mary Shacklett.

Time to embrace wearable technology
While Apple Watch is still a few months away from being released, businesses may not have wearables on their radar. The growth of these devices, however, is expected to be explosive. Those who wait too long to consider how wearables will impact their organization may find themselves in a similar position that the smartphone-averse found themselves in when mobile touchscreen interfaces first started to make an appearance.

One of this biggest things that will have to be taken into account is software. Professionals are going to expect that their wearable devices are supported by enterprise programs in the ways that they need them to, meaning that is the time to invest in new applications. Whether amending an existing program or creating an entirely new one, custom software development is going to play an important role in wearable success.

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For nonprofits, the time is now for mobile investment

The idea behind the success of the smartphone is that it can be used to do almost anything. Modern mobile devices have a seemingly limitless potential when it comes to improving a user’s everyday experience, and this is something that nonprofit organizations are starting to realize.

“Whether [custom software] is directed at supporters or employees, an app has to fill a need in order to be successful.”

According to First Nonprofit Group, this goes against the common notion that nonprofits are “behind the times when it comes to embracing technology.”

“[T]he truth of the matter is that nonprofit groups are diving headfirst into technology through social media, search engine optimization and a number of digital strategies that help charities and foundations thrive in a world where there is increasing competition for donors’ attention and contributions,” FNG stated on its website.

Mobile investments are becoming essential for nonprofit entities. While there may have once been a question as to whether or not this was something to pursue, it’s now an issue of when to seek out custom software development. Chances are, sooner will be better when it comes to bringing smartphones and tablets into the equation.

Beginning the process
According to nonprofit tech consultant Beth Kanter, the first place to start when working on an app for a nonprofit is to identify a purpose. Too often there is a likelihood that an app will be created without having a goal behind it. This is an easy way to build a useless piece of software.

“Unless an app makes a person’s life easier or better, the app won’t be used,” Kanter wrote. “To be certain that this is what will be accomplished, a nonprofit should clearly determine its goals for a project before embarking on the development of an app. If it is mission-based and serves the needs of the audience, then an app might be a worthwhile solution.”

This isn’t just true for nonprofits, but for any organization. Functionality is key for mobile apps, and if users don’t perceive one, they are less likely to adopt the program. Whether this software is directed at supporters or employees, an app has to fill a need in order to be successful.

Apps are becoming essential for nonprofits.Apps are becoming essential for nonprofits.

Custom development is imperative
Even more than having an app or a purpose behind it, it is essential to make sure that programs are developed for the specific organizations that use them. Custom software solutions are critical for all kinds of companies, and nonprofits are right up there with the others.

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For nonprofits, mobile is a strategy – not a solution

Mobile Strategy

Smartphones and tablets have simplified daily life for millions of people. Organizations have accepted that mobility is reality in the modern era, and as such they see value in application investments. Not only is this true for businesses and enterprises, but also for nonprofits.

The only way to succeed, however, is with a plan. It’s easy to say “we need an app to stay relevant,” but what is the program in question going to do?

“[I]f you develop a real reason to have an app (perhaps you offer deals and coupons for certain businesses who support your nonprofit, or offer updates on your progress and exclusive videos of your efforts), connecting with your audience through mobile can be a strategic move,” wrote Nonprofit Hub on its website.

There are a number of different tasks that a nonprofit organization can streamline through the use of mobile technology. From spreading the message to application-based fundraising, nonprofits have to invest in custom software solutions.

Increased visibility a major advantage to having an app 
Mobile programs allow for an interesting kind of engagement. It’s different than exposing people to a commercial, or even going out and trying to connect in person. Users feel as though they have more control over their experience, and may even be more inclined to donate to a nonprofit in need.

This brings us to another major advantage: fundraising. Donations are key for countless nonprofit organization, but drumming them up can be difficult. Some people may feel on-the-spot if approached in person, making them less likely to donate – even if only a little. Many donation drives also have a chance of catching people at a time when they don’t have any cash available. The idea of being able to support nonprofits through an application rather than try to explain why they can’t donate at the moment increases the likelihood that they will give any little bit than they can.

Additionally, nonprofit apps can take advantage of push notifications, which can help to keep donation goals and upcoming events front-of-mind for the target audience. It’s the phone’s features, like the camera, GPS and notification centers, that set it apart from other platforms.

“Being able to connect with your supporters through their personal mobile devices is probably the most powerful argument for creating a mobile app,” stated Fundraising IP contributor Marita Meegan. “When you take advantage of the fact that a smartphone is usual no more than a few feet from its user and your app takes advantage of all the capabilities of a mobile device, no PC or laptop can even come close to replicating the connectivity of a smartphone or tablet.”

Programs have to be fitted to nonprofits that use them
Not all applications are designed equally. Some solutions try to be everything to all organizations that use them. But the thing about it is that every entity – regardless of if they are in direct competition – operates very differently. Nonprofits have to make sure that the software they’re using is specifically designed for their individual needs.

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Wearable warfare: What makes the second try any different?

Wearables have received a lot of mixed receptions. Some people herald them as a major step forward for personal technology. Others view them as frivolous and not likely to experience the same adoption rates of other devices with similar hype. These detractors are likely to point out that the concepts behind many incoming machines like Apple Watch and HoloLens have been tried before – and failed spectacularly – to generate excitement.

Many people believe that Apple Watch is doomed to the same fate as Android Wear. These same people also think that HoloLens will be destined for the shelf in the same way Google Glass was pulled. But there are many differences between new and old wearables that give them much more of a leg-up than their predecessors of similar nature.

Businesses have to start getting ready for wearables. Apple Watch and HoloLens, unlike the devices that came before them, are expected to start appearing in enterprises all over the world upon their release. Companies must figure out how to use them to their advantage, and the only way to do so is to invest in custom software solutions.

Apple Watch generating optimism
Smartwatches are not a new thing at this point. Even before Apple announced its foray into this segment of the tech market, there were other companies trying to figure out how these devices could be best used in relation to the smartphone.

One of the biggest attempts came in the form of Android Wear, which of course was the effort made by Google to beat Apple to the punch. But Android Wear did not sell as well as expected. According to research firm Canalys, the device shipped 720,000 units out of 4.6 million smartbands total in 2014. This means that Android Wear was outperformed by Pebble, a company that focuses solely on fitness wearables rather than being a multi-function assistant.

So what happened? Why did Android Wear fall flat?

According to NetworkWorld contributor Colin Neagle, one of the biggest complaints about Android Wear was battery life. Smartwatches represent a very limited space in which to include energy reserves. Apple has already made it a point to discuss its efforts to maximize battery life, and success on this front could allow the smartwatch market at-large to officially take off – something that will be sure to quell those that still see no potential for the device. According to Neagle, analysts for J.P. Morgan Chase believe that Apple will succeed and its stock will increase, as a result.

HoloLens isn’t trying to be Google Glass
Microsoft announced the HoloLens within one week of Google canning the Glass Explorer program. To some, this was a bold move – one that generated a lot of questions about Microsoft’s work. The memory of Glass was still fresh and it turned many people off of the idea of wearables ​altogether. What does HoloLens have that Google Glass doesn’t?

Microsoft is going with a different strategy altogether with the HoloLens. Rather than being something that the user wears during all hours of the day, HoloLens aims to be a task-based augmented reality headset that’s worn only during use. By taking this route, Microsoft was able to be more liberal with the design and permit for a larger device. Google sacrificed a lot of capability in order to make Glass as unobtrusive as possible and still found that it drew far too much attention. This not only made the people wearing Glass uncomfortable, but everyone else around them as well. Nobody likes feeling like they’re secretly being filmed, and the front-mounted camera on Glass led to many an accusation.

Because it is not meant to be worn constantly, HoloLens is able to be used as a wearable computer. Devices like smartwatches are supposed to be used in tandem with another tool like a smartphone or tablet. HoloLens is a self-contained device, therefore giving it a wider range of potential. According to Network World contributor Jonathan Hassell, this will give it a huge advantage in the enterprise. While gaming was one of the more obvious applications, office life is likely to change in significant ways.

“This device can be used in business collaboration settings,” Hassell wrote. “Imagine an interactive business review, where you literally move numbers around on a page. Imagine an earnings presentation where you can actually transform bar and pie charts to answer questions and derive insight. Even consider an analytics angle: What if you can take a virtual walking tour of all of your New York customers’ buying habits in a certain Brooklyn location?”

The first big step in portable computing was the laptop. Today, it could very well be the HoloLens.

Unlocking the power of new wearable devices
While it’s possible that an organization’s first taste of HoloLens and Apple Watch could be through employee-owned devices, businesses have to get serious about strategies now. There is no doubt that people will try bringing these devices into the office, so even if a company sees no use for them on the surface, they may have to dig a little deeper. In what ways could Apple Watch and HoloLens help to streamline or simplify an essential operation? This will be the major question at the forefront of all successful wearables strategies.

But just as important as planning is execution. Allowing workers to select what software they’ll run on these devices in conjunction with company-owned data can have disastrous results. Either apps will be poorly designed and prone to security breaches or there will exist a lack of cohesion between colleagues who are using several different programs to complete one specific task.

This is why enterprises that wish to succeed with wearables have to invest in custom software development that considers them. Businesses need to provide their staffers with the ability to succeed, and that means taking a special interest in the tools that they use. Apple, Android and Microsoft devices are trustworthy and powerful in the workplace, but the software to make these attributes a reality may not be readily available. Providing custom mobile app development will be the key to staying out ahead of the wearable revolution.

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The future – and present – of retail is mobile

Online shopping is still a relatively new concept in the grand scheme of things. Chances are that a great deal of people who buy goods and services on the Internet these days have some sort of memory from a time when this wasn’t viable, let alone possible. But as the capabilities of mobile devices have improved over the years, shoppers are finding themselves interacting over smartphones more often than not – even when they are in a store’s physical location.

Smartphones and tablets are more than just mobile devices. They are tools that can help to improve a user’s experience. It’s not just about being able to make calls while on the go anymore – it’s about possessing an asset that is used to streamline activities and tasks while ultimately providing a stronger outcome in any given situation. The retail industry is one area in particular that’s seen the potential for mobile engagement, and the companies that understand how to unlock it will help to drive device trends through the next couple of years, at least.

There is one thing to remember when attempting to improve customer engagement through mobile devices – it can’t be done without custom software solutions. Retailers need to get serious about providing their clients with specialized applications meant to enhance their existing experiences. It is getting to the point where if a business does not enable this sort of functionality, consumers are likely to move on to a competitor that does.

Making clients part of the process
Patrons of any given enterprise like to feel connected to the organizations they support. According to Constellation Research principal analyst and vice president Guy Courtin, more companies are seeing the value in making customers feel more involved. There has to be more effort made to foster business relationships with consumers.

“These trends all revolve around the continuing amplification of the consumer voice in the retail supply chain,” Courtin wrote for ZDNet. “As consumers gain more influence within the retail supply chain, retailers will continue to focus on areas that allow for greater cooperation among all entities. Savvy retailers realize they can no longer expect to dominate the relationship but instead should allow for an atmosphere of cooperation.”

Generally, the kind of actions described by Courtin are not possible to obtain through the use of a mobile website. These interfaces are often clunky and poorly executed, leaving much to be desired and often failing to meet basic expectations. It’s this sort of thing that drives customers away, and the biggest reason why custom mobile app development is the way to go when trying to engage smartphone and tablet users. Not only are these apps normally much easier to operate than their website counterparts, but they are more focused in their engagement – users are not able to navigate away from the brand without leaving the app. Additionally, mobile software is able to tap into the abilities of the device itself. GPS positioning, for example, can show a shopper where the closest physical stores are from where they are standing at any given moment.

Getting serious about the mobile experience
While there has been incredible demand from consumers for improved engagement, there are still a great number of companies that have not optimized their mobile experiences. Protecting the brand is important, and in the present day, that means optimizing consumer-facing applications, according to TMCnet contributor Steve Anderson. Anderson wrote that one of the biggest reasons mobile software falls off the priority list has to do with budgeting.

It’s possible that this has to do with one of two things: Either a company is behind on the times or it believes that an existing solution is cutting it as-is and further investments aren’t needed. But the only thing worse than not having a mobile app is possessing one that doesn’t work. Mobile development is an ongoing process. Even when custom software solutions are cleared for release, there will always be changes or fixes to make as merited. To beat an old phrase to death, making sure that customers are actually satisfied with the interfaces they are provided with is not a destination, but a journey.

In order to best satisfy the modern consumer, there has to be an investment made in custom software development. Prepackaged solutions often lack the personalized touch of a customer portal that is constructed with the user in mind and don’t do much in the way of brand awareness. Retail organizations, especially, have to make sure that mobile engagement is occurring both in and out of the actual store. The only way to ensure this is to build an app that meets their specific needs as well as the expectations held by patrons.

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What role will fashion play in wearable adoption?

Will wearables be successful? This is not an easy question to answer. While there are a number of different people out there who are both for and against wearable technology, its ultimate place in society can’t be assured. One of the biggest arguments against smartwatches, visors and even fitness trackers is that they’re generally lacking in aesthetic appeal. But how true is this statement? Right now, there are various companies involved with wearables, and many of them are likely trying to find the right balance between fashion and function.

Wearables are likely to be embraced in significant ways as more devices of this caliber are made available to the general public. While the look of a machine is generally going to be important, a device’s value as a fashion accessory is ultimately going to depend on where and how it will be used. What is certain, however, is that in order for enterprises to best connect with the users of these devices, there will have to be an investment made in custom software development. Being able to have a specialized portal for employees or customers will increase the value of the relationships these apps foster.

Apple Watch now the center of discussion
Detractors of wearable technology have frequently turned to the physical appeal of a device as a make-or-break factor in its eventual adoption rates. This is most likely one of the reasons that Apple Watch has been designed in the way that it has. Swappable bands and a gold “Luxury” edition mean that Apple recognizes the importance of aethetics in its wearable offerings.

So if a tech company is making a watch, why can’t a watch company make a piece of tech? This is most likely the rationale behind the announcement that longtime watch company Swatch will be coming out with a competing device at the same time Apple releases its watch, according to PC Magazine.

Use will outweigh looks – in some cases
There are plenty of devices out there that we use every day, but only some of them are meant to be taken everywhere. Smartphones and laptops, for example, are meant to allow people freedom while computing. They have the same goals as many wearables, but there’s a big social difference between sitting on the train across from someone on a laptop versus someone with Google Glass strapped to their head. Part of the public’s problem with Glass was that it was too obtrusive. This was despite being designed to be as discrete as possible without sacrificing functionality. The Glass project has since been shelved for these reasons.

The uneven reception to Glass left some people wondering why Microsoft would move forward with a headset of their own that promises many of the same uses. HoloLens is decidedly bulkier than Glass and covers both eyes with a visor, which in theory would make it less likely than Glass to succeed. But the secret to Microsoft’s strategy lies in how frequently one is supposed to wear the HoloLens. Promotional material has show people walking through 3D environments in their homes and offices and taking the device off when it’s not in use.

Wearables like HoloLens, which are not designed to be constant personal assistants, have a strong likelihood of succeeding. It could be that HoloLens will be what ultimately warms the general public up to the idea of a device like Glass, but functionality is likely to be more important than how a device looks and how frequently it is worn when it comes to a headset – at least for the time being.

The ultimate purpose of fashion in wearable tech
Few people want to walk around looking like they are strapped to a computer. While wearable devices serve incredible purposes, they are not likely to experience significant adoption if they actually look like wearables. This is the idea behind both Apple and Swatch’s smartwatch strategies – rather than build something totally new, take a look at what works and figure out how to add functionality.

Essentially, wearables have to be invisible in order to be of the most value. Devices must blend with and, in a way, become part of the user. A broader acceptance of this truth will lead to less-visible devices that do not interfere in the experiences they are trying to improve.

“Whether smart watches, smart glasses or some other device becomes the indispensable wearable over the next five years, eventually the technology behind wearables will be integrated into so many objects that people will no longer think of products as smart or not,” wrote TechRepublic contributor Bill Detwiler. “Many objects and clothes will be smart in some way.”

The importance of effective software
Of course, the devices themselves are not the only component of effective wearable tech. Like other machines, smartwatches must have software in place that will allow them to be used at their fullest potential. While there are countless pre-designed enterprise programs out there, it is generally accepted that investing in custom mobile app development is a more preferable solution. One-size-fits-all applications may be too generalized for the companies that need them and are ultimately ignorant of the nuances that exist between companies. Custom software development ensures that both employees and customers are able to get the most out of their experience and increases the likelihood that they will continue to use a program after its initial launch on their devices.

Few things in business should be left up to chance. Allowing workers to download their own solution or failing to provide consumers with a specialized portal represents some serious missed potential. With more wearables entering offices in the relatively near future, it will be essential to both update existing applications for new integration opportunities and invest in new programs that consider the modern user experience.

Fashion appeal is a major consideration for wearable tech – one that more major players are picking up. It’s incredibly likely that the better these devices start to look, the more they will begin to appear. Businesses need to take notes and prepare ahead of their explosive arrival.

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