How Consumer Apps Can Guide Enterprise Mobile Strategies

June 16, 2017

Contributor: Susan Moore

Consumer mobile apps have set the bar high for what employees, customers and partners expect.

If there was one recent "killer app", it was Pokémon Go. This immersive, location-based augmented reality app was a craze across the world enticing kids and adults to go hunting for Pokémons at local sights and popular destinations. It became one of the highest-grossing apps during the last year.

While mobile apps have been delighting consumers for a decade, few enterprises have evolved their mobile app approach. Apps were first used for mundane (but critical) business functions such as field service, field sales, asset management and inspection.

Today, these apps are still around, albeit running on modern mobile devices instead of specialized, rugged devices. Most still serve the same functions as they did over a decade ago.

“ Only 32% of organizations undertaking mobile app development are designing for mobile first.”

Jason Wong, research director at Gartner, said that new apps developed by enterprise IT haven’t fared much better in terms of transforming business processes.

“Many simply repurpose web-based content and features or just aren’t intuitive to use,” Wong said. “Organizations must learn from innovative consumer apps to truly transform enterprise apps for maximum success.”

Lessons from successful consumer apps

Only 32% of organizations undertaking mobile app development are designing for mobile first, according to a Gartner survey. Instead of continuing to build staid, conventional mobile apps, application leaders need to ensure their apps follow the following core tenets from successful consumer apps:

1. Make apps intuitive

If your app needs explaining, then you’ve already failed. Mobile users have a poor tolerance for unintuitive interfaces, particularly when their attention is divided between operating the app and doing other tasks. Make your app as intuitive as you can – minimize keyboard usage and use touch-friendly controls with obvious navigation and action elements. SpotHero, Citymapper and Flipboard are great examples of intuitive apps.

2. Make apps pervasive

Apps need to have focused, user-driven functionality, which by default would place limits on the amount of functionality inside the app. However, to be pervasively useful, it needs to be connected with and extended to many endpoints and other apps. This will make content more discoverable and easier to access by other apps, as well as increase access to more functionality and broadening communities. Uber and Domino’s Pizza are worthy examples.

3. Make apps contextual

A great app anticipates user needs. It knows what your recent actions have been and what you likely want to do. Knowing and using context is critical for providing a delightful app experience. The obvious place to start is by maximizing the benefits of location services. You can learn from Starbucks, Waze and Pokémon Go apps.

4. Make apps dynamic

The apps that keep our attention are the ones that change and adapt to individual user behavior. To accomplish this, leading consumer apps are instrumented with mobile app analytics to capture deep insights into what drives engagement, conversion and satisfaction. Examples of dynamic consumer apps are Secret Escapes, Runkeeper and Fanatics.

5. Make apps intelligent

The era of conversational, artificial intelligence (AI)-rich technologies is dawning. Mobile apps are well-positioned to take advantage of these capabilities by transforming "regular" apps into smart apps that use spoken or typed natural language as the input and machine learning to adapt and respond intelligently. Good examples include Google Allo, Ozlo and Sherpa.

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