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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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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Recent Apple news grabs for attention in automotive, virtual reality fields

From the look of it, Apple wants to be a central figure in the mobile lives of its users. It all started with the iPhone, a device that exceeded expectations in many ways – namely as an enterprise tool. The iPad followed a similar path to acceptance. Soon, Apple Watches are going to be everywhere. It seems like Apple has every aspect of the mobile market cornered, but recent patents approved for the company show that their plans are just beginning.

According to ITProPortal contributor Sead Fadilpašić, Apple will soon make a jump into virtual reality with a headset meant to hold the iPhone in such a way that it becomes a VR display. Given that this patent was filed back in 2008 and only just recently approved, it would appear that these plans have been in the works for quite some time. But VR isn’t the only thing Apple is focusing its attention on – Constellation Research analyst Ray Wang stated on ZDNet that a smart car is the next ambitious move being made by Cupertino’s resident tech giant.

Businesses have already learned that Apple products have significant potential as workplace assets. The functionality of smartphones and tablets has been well-documented, and wearables have already been discussed as the next potential game-changer. But what about VR and the connected car? How will these developments alter the course of enterprise?

Apple’s newest patents and information leaks signify the beginning of even more office disruption. Virtual reality and smart​ cars, while not at all common now, will one day play a huge role for businesses. The kind of improved user experiences that will undoubtedly accompany these evolving technologies will be able to enhance life for customers and employees alike. Besides both areas receiving investment and attention from Apple, there is one other common theme between VR and connected vehicles – they will both require custom software solutions in order to be of true value to organizations.

Virtual reality, augmented reality and the trouble with headsets
Wearables have generated a considerable amount of conversation. This is primarily thanks to the promise of hands-free interfaces that can be used to provide assistance in ways that smartphones and tablets cannot. For many people, the natural conclusion for wearables is the headset. The opinion over whether or not this is a good thing, however, is hotly debated.

Google was one of the first companies to push for some form of smartglasses. Google Glass was embraced by early-adopters and tech enthusiasts, but a generally poor reception led the company to shelve the project until further notice. It is widely accepted that the failing here was in trying to replicate the usefulness of the smartphone in a hands-free device. Creating that kind of power while trying to make Glass as unobtrusive as possible ultimately proved to be too much. According to InformationWeek contributor Thomas Claburn, Sony’s recent release of the SmartEyeglass Developer Edition is likely fated for a similar failure.

While it’s not likely that Google Glass will be playing a role in the enterprise anytime soon, there is still a lot to be said about virtual and augmented reality. In the case of Apple’s option, it’s likely that VR will play a prominent role in things like customer engagement. The release of the device as an add-on to the iPhone rather than a siloed machine – like the Oculus Rift – also increases the chances of popularity and adoption.

You know that immersive experience that every consumer seems to be craving? Imagine enabling it through the use of VR. Creating interactive worlds for people to explore and connect with a brand will be powerful in terms of attracting and retaining business. Similar things can be said about employees. Enterprise communications have been going increasingly mobile, and the idea of pairing VR with company telecom assets could take video conferencing to an entirely new level.

Project Titan and the connected car
It seems as though people are making great strides in trying to connect as many things to the Internet as possible these days. One of the most interesting areas of discussion as of late is the idea of the smart​ car, a vehicle that runs apps and can connect to the Internet. Clearly, Apple is interested in this concept. While the recent patent for Apple Electric Car Inc. that’s making the news turned out to be a coincidence, it started enough of a conversation to dredge up some sparse details about the actual Apple’s automotive intentions – including the company’s rumored pursuit of electric car company Tesla Motors, according to U.S. News contributor Tom Risen.

According to Wang, this speaks volumes about how Apple views its place in the world – not to mention its future ambitions.

“The focus on continuity of experience is at the heart and soul of Apple,” Wang wrote. “This is the foundation behind Health Kit, Home Kit, Watch Kit, and Car Play. Apple is focused on delivering its ubiquitous experience from walking outside, checking your wrist, to hopping in the car, making a payment, to the in-home experience. The car puts Apple’s OS in the proverbial driver’s seat.”

While the attention is there, it could be several years before an Apple car appears on the road – if at all. But the fact that the project is in motion tells a lot about the potential for an electric smart car. Industries like shipping and transportation stand to gain a significant amount of functionality from this sort of technology, even if the “self-driving car” never comes into fruition. Being able to treat a vehicle as a device has an untold number of applications. From integrating GPS features with the car itself for improved positioning to the control of media via a smart dashboard, there is potential here.

The importance of programs
At the end of the day, the device is not the center of the equation. Machines serve as the catalysts for change, certainly, but they are not going to be of much use without the right programs in place. No matter if it’s a phone, headset or car, smart devices and wearables must be supported by custom software development.

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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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Mobile customer engagement more critical than ever

Consumer technology has made some incredible strides in the past few years. People are now more connected – and skilled in the operation of mobile devices – than ever before.

“It seems that these days almost the minute you are born you are surrounded by technology like smartphones,” wrote TMCnet contributor Joe Rizzo. “I believe that if you take a count of all the smartphones you will find that it comes close to almost every human being on the planet having one of their own.”

This presents some interesting opportunities for businesses. Customer engagement is one of the most important aspects of an enterprise. As such, the channels that organizations use to create it should be popular. In the present day, no platform fits that bill quite like mobile devices.

People spend an incredible amount of time using their personal devices. They enjoy finding new ways in which they can make their lives easier by using an application. This is something that businesses need to take into consideration. If an enterprise is able to use smartphone software to streamline and improve a user’s experience with the company, it will help to promote strong customer/business relationships. For this to occur, however, it will be essential to invest in custom mobile app development.

Mobile considerations have to be made
At one point, there was a question regarding whether or not to make mobile a priority. As time moves forward, however, it’s being discovered that mobility has to be embraced with open arms. According to TMCnet contributor Tracey Schelmetic, much of this is because of the buying power that millennials are finding themselves in possession of. The younger generation is “mobile first,” and the companies they choose to support have to be, as well.

“Having a mobile-first customer experience strategy is no longer simply ‘nice to have,'” Schelmetic wrote. “In today’s digital marketplace, it should be a central pillar of your business strategy. Most companies, however, simply don’t know where to begin.”

The answer is to start with custom software development. It is being widely accepted that ready-made programs do not consider the intricacies of the individual organizations that use them. Providing customers with apps that are geared toward helping with specific interactions is a powerful way to improve upon essential consumer relationships.

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Enabling mobility can encourage employees to work

Modern culture is defined by mobility. It seems like everyone is constantly using their personal devices for something – be it personal or professional tasks. In the case of the latter, it could be that an employee is using an app that hasn’t been approved for use within the enterprise. This can be a problem – consumer software rarely has the same kind of development behind it that business-class programs do.

But the issue in itself is not mobility. In fact, mobility needs to be embraced within companies. Because workers are so invested in their smartphones and tablets and are willing to use them to complete tasks, they are likely to increase their productivity if presented with the means to do so in an approved manner.

“All joking aside, it’s obvious that today’s workers have had a massive increase in screen time,” wrote TMCnet contributor Tara Seals. “Often this is tied to the availability of mobile productivity applications and the rise of the cloud – more and more, the smartphone-based use of business unified communications apps, email and VoIP all allow users to get work done cost-effectively while on the go.”

By supplying employees with custom software solutions, businesses can increase productivity and job satisfaction in incredible new ways. Enterprises have to invest in apps that meet the changing needs of both their data and staffers.

Applications usage up in 2014
The coming year is likely to be huge for mobility. A number of new devices are on the horizon, and more people are discovering just what they can accomplish with mobile software. According to a recent study conducted by Flurry, app usage increased by a staggering 76 percent in 2014, and growth trends show no signs of slowing.

“In 2014, Flurry Analytics tracked 2.079 trillion sessions – a mind-boggling number,” Flurry stated in a release. “On December 31 we set another daily session record with 8.5 billion sessions as people celebrated the approaching New Year chatting, sharing, looking for rides, and navigating New Year’s Eve.”

It’s likely that those same people using apps in personal situations are also experienced in using them for work, even for something as innocuous as checking email. Smartphone users are eager to leverage their devices at work if it means meeting goals faster and more efficiently. This kind of attitude needs to be capitalized on in 2015.

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Custom software helps businesses succeed

Enterprise mobility is a series of moving parts. The devices themselves might be a focal point for many people, but it is critical to consider software and systems, as well.

According to Business Spectator contributor James Wooster, one of the biggest hurdles in enterprise mobility initiatives is figuring out how best to marry legacy environments and modern tools.

“On one hand, establishing seamless and secure integration with back-end systems is crucial to leveraging existing investments and avoiding building new IT silos,” Wooster wrote. “On the other hand, due to their complexity, such projects may quickly become big cost drivers. The key to driving cost efficiency is to provide an end-to-end solution for building cross-platform enterprise mobile apps, which are tightly integrated with the existing infrastructure.”

The most effective way to accomplish this is through custom software development. Integrating is difficult enough without having to deal with a program that might not be able to meet every need an organization has. Creating applications that are designed for the company that will be using them is a key component of success.

‘Made for mobile’ a clear winner
It should be noted that just because software is custom, however, doesn’t make it effective for the modern office. Existing solutions may not be “made for mobile,” according to CloudTweaks contributor Andronikos Nedos. This may involve implementing the cloud in order to make sure that apps are as agile and flexible as possible.

But selecting a prepackaged solution is not as convenient as it might sound. It’s important for organizations to invest in custom mobile app development. These kinds of programs are better suited for the companies that are planning to leverage them and lack some of the broad development strokes that other applications might have been built with.

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Resolve for enterprise mobility in the new year

Businesses are already expected to have an interesting 2015. The rise of mobile devices in the workplace has totally redefined enterprise operations, and the coming year is anticipated to be a proving ground for organizations that have yet to figure out just how best to embrace change.

Enterprise Mobility

“Despite the fact that the iPhone was first released in 2007, and virtually every employee today carries a smartphone, many companies have only scratched the surface of mobile app development,” wrote TechCrunch contributor Ron Miller. “Big businesses with big bucks still often crudely force enterprise applications into a mobile package with little thought. Fewer still have developed imaginative custom apps that take advantage of the device, or designed a coherent mobile strategy for the organization.”

Software-fueled innovation is going to be critical in 2015. Businesses need to examine their operations and find ways in which software can be developed to streamline common practices. This will generally require an investment in custom software development, as pre-constructed solutions are rarely able to consider the nuances of individual offices.

Mobile applications on the rise
According to IT-Online, recent research shows that the new year will be loaded with enterprise mobility resolutions. A study conducted by IDC found that at least 25 percent of software budgets within any given organization will be allocated for mobile development specifically. Much of this has to do with the agility that smartphone and tablet apps can provide for the companies that use them. Decision-makers are beginning to understand that the key to success in the mobile age is not reliant on allowing personal devices in the workplace, but outfitting them with the right programs for the job.

New Year’s is the perfect time to step back and evaluate what need to happen in order to stay ahead of the competition. In 2015, this will mean seeking out custom mobile app development.

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