[PODCAST] Mobile apps aren’t just for smartphones

21 min read - Videos

On 16th March 2017, our Managing Director, Paul Jarrett, joined industry renown mobile apps influencer Penny Anne Salz on her Mobile Presence Podcast.

They discussed mobile apps and the post-app era and the blurring of lines between digital and the real world. They also explained what marketers and brands need to do to stay ahead of the curve before it’s too late. This means getting in front of your customers on the technologies that they use. Utilising artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to create seamless experiences. And most importantly, creating mobile apps to improve their day to day life.

You can listen to the full podcast here >>

or read the full transcript below…

Peggy:
Today’s show looks at how mobile apps are evolving. And what you as app marketers, brands and people in the space, whatever you’re doing you need to know this so that you can basically catch the wave now rather than be crushed by it. Because there is something happening out there and that’s what we’re going to be talking about today. And if you think I’m exaggerating, let me just set the stage for this for a moment.

Okay so, let me just share with you some news from mobile world congress, that was the mobile event that took place in Barcelona, and it was there that Ted Livingstone he’s the chief executive and founder of the messaging app company Kik. He told the audience that mobile apps were on the way out. Because in his view it’s the bots that are hot, or even hotter than hot if you take his word for it.

Now the jury may be out on this one, but you would have to be pretty much blind not to see that apps are changing. The role of the app in our lives are changing. It’s very much about interacting with apps, it’s about apps even bridging the digital and physical worlds. So it’s massively important.

And here to talk about the shift and what it really means is our guest today, Paul Jarrett.

Now Paul is the managing director and founder of Sonin, that’s a leading UK app development agency. He has over 13 years of experience within the mobile industry, and he now leads a team of experts, mobile strategists, developers, creating apps for enterprises and consumer use. So a long list of companies you’ve worked with Paul, global national companies, international companies, start-ups, financial and logistics, great to have you on the show today.

Paul:
Thanks very much Peggy.

Peggy:
So first of all, that’s quite a statement from MWC, you know, apps are on their way out. Now that’s going to scare a lot of people. Particularly people who haven’t gotten around yet to even making their mobile apps. What is your view? Because you are out there, your clients ask you for apps, are you seeing that they’re asking for a different type of app or a different type of experience?

Paul:
I think that it is a terrifying statement. But I think what it really is, is an app evolution and where we are with apps. We’ve talked for a little while now about apps being very task focused and how they’re about helping people achieve things. In a different way to what we saw in the earlier days of apps on the web that were much more about browsing experience.
What we’re seeing now is purely the next evolution of that, so it’s coined as the post-app era, but really it’s about helping people achieve the tasks that they wanted to in a quicker, shorter, more convenient way.

So I don’t think that necessarily it’s a terrifying state of play. I think it’s just the experiences that people are having will become more natural and easier to engage with.

Peggy:
And is that all about Bots? Or is it about something else? I mean, what are the kinds of features and functions that you’re finding that you have to build into the bespoke mobile apps you make at Sonin for your clients? What are brands and marketers asking for?

Paul:
I think there’s a little bit more time that’s being spent in understanding their customers. Particularly how they are engaging with their brands and what it is that they want. And therefore you go through this process of learning a little bit more about what people are going to do. Then you can tailor your product, and the experiences with it.

So, if you’re issuing a notification about something that needs a quick decision, you don’t necessarily need to drag them back into an app. You can achieve that through a push notification. Or if somebody has a question, and its right place right time, then that can easily be achieved through a bot.

You’re not necessarily creating entirely new sets of functionality. You’re more delivering them in a way that’s slightly more natural and quicker for the user to achieve what they want to.

Peggy:
Well Paul, you watch the industry, and that’s why also, shameless plug here, but you’re also going to be writing columns for me over at mobilegroove.com. In fact you have one over there, so listeners if you want to check it out at mobilegroove.com we have Pauls view on the trends you need to watch in enterprise mobility. What you need to know about the massive mobility trends in the enterprise.

So that aside, you’re also watching the industry and watching real world apps out there. So just run through a couple of examples that have caught your eye about how brands are doing this right. Or possibly even doing it wrong.

Paul:
I think there’s some really interesting ones. So one of the things I know you’ve talked about a lot, is the start of blurring of lines between the digital and the real world. And part of that is the post-apps era, where we’re not trying to just compartmentalise people into their phones but we’re trying to use that data and those experiences to enhance people’s day to day lives.
I think there’s some really interesting ones out there, where people are starting to blur those lines, and produce a lot more value. From, the EasyJet app for instance, if you’re booking a flights, a reasonably obvious and really easy application is the use of a QR code for your boarding pass.

But then building on top of that, having the notifications in the right time in the right place as you move through the airport, so ensuring you know how to guide yourself through which gate you’re at, when you need to leave and when the flights are delayed. So you’re starting to augment your day to day experience through this app.

And then indeed when we start to look at people like Shell as well, where they’ve enhanced their app with a fill-up-and-go function, which allows you to go straight through and pay through the app, there’s now no longer the need to go in and queue up and pay. You can set up the app in advance, and the apps actually performing a feature that’s making your day to day life that bit easier.

So it’s not necessarily using an app as an end point, as much as a facility to make what you’re doing anyway easier, slicker and quicker.

Peggy:
So what I’m also hearing here Paul, is that it’s really about making things seamless, removing the friction. But now it seems like it’s really time to put up or shut up in a way for the brands. Because this is really what apps need to be delivering now, rather than just talking about delivering it? Is that what I’m hearing here?

Paul:
Yeah absolutely, I think consumers are becoming more demanding. They’re having higher expectations, and they’re less willing to accept the compartmentalisation of information and functions. So the ability to play with other services to make your life better is becoming more and more important to people. And you’ll start brands getting penalized when they don’t open up and actually allow people to achieve what they want. Because they’re trying to build up walled gardens and stop people using their services with others.

Peggy:
It also sounds as if you can’t really say, you’re going to stay in my app to do everything you want. You really have to open back up in the other direction, and use those other formats and approaches we’ve known from text onwards to even QR codes, to make the experience more multi-dimensional. Like people really are

Paul:
Yes, so if you go through any customer journey map, then you’ll find that people don’t just interact in one way or in one place. And therefore trying to push everyone back in one place for that interaction is incredibly unnatural. So I think you need to be able to open up your facilities.

We often talk about the verbs, and the way in which people interact with your brand, and you have to be able to open those up so that people can use them in a variety of different places. Just like years ago on the web people started to move their content to where the audience was. This is a very similar thing but with the functions that people want to achieve.

Peggy:
Yes agreed, we’re doing things in our app that need to be connected to other points in the journey. So how do you map the journey?

Paul:
So that’s obviously one of the most important parts of any of this. And really the first point is to understand who your customers are, which starts with some standard persona mapping, understanding the type of people that are interacting with your service, what their key drivers are, what it is that they want to achieve from the service, and the types of issues that they have. And quite often the issues are the main thing, because that’s the problems we’re trying to solve for the customers. Once you have that map of who it is that you’re dealing with, then of course you can start to look at the different platforms that they’re using, the different technologies that they have, and therefore where you want to position your service to make it most available for them

Peggy:
So, obviously you have to be everywhere your customer is, and you sort of have to follow their lead, but are any approaches or formats or tools in the toolbox that you maybe can rule out from the beginning or that you absolutely have to have. Because if you’re saying you have to have everything, I’s an awfully tall order for any company.

Paul:
Yeah absolutely, I think that part of the reason that understanding personas is so important. Is that different groups of course have different openness to new technology. On the whole, smartphone platforms are masts and drive a lot of the experience so are key. And become more so as you start to look to other technologies. Whether that’s voice activated assistants for example. Then at that point you need to understand a bit more about your audience. Understand whether they’re likely to be embracing those technologies yet. If you look at things like bots through Facebook for example, Facebook messenger, then it’s about whether or not people are using that as just as a utility.

And once you’ve built up these personas, obviously you go through and build out focus groups and you do interviews. Interact with these people to understand how they’re using technology. If they’re open to it and what they’re kind of risk profile is. It’s at that point you can really start to get a better picture of what technologies they’re going to use. Some of those are the forward facing ones, and some of those are of course things in the background.

Over the next few years we’ll see an increasing reliance on machine learning and AI. It will drive decisions and present you with options, rather than requiring you to do the research. And some of those are obviously just in the background, enabling a better experience no matter where you’re interacting.

Peggy:
What are you actually seeing from what your clients are requesting? It would be interesting to know where the demand is. Because that would be reflective of what kind of customer experience we need to be delivering.

Paul:
I think the fantastic thing about Machine learning and AI, is that it takes that right time, right place situation. And just takes it on one further where you’re actually delivering the right information and the right options.

So I think right now people are very interested in what they can do to use ML and AI. Particularly in making their customer’s lives and those journeys much more seamless and much easier and deliver the right options and the right information and content at the right time. So I think that’s going to be a massive trend over the next coming years.

And understanding again, through your customer journey map, understanding what the drivers are. Using ML to inform and enhance those will be the big challenges. Because it requires a lot of information and a lot of data around where people are and what they’re doing.

Peggy:
I mean to make it work, and I’ve done this on my own work with mobile apps, you have to really work closely together with your development team right? So you as being that side, of the equation, it would be interesting to hear from you. What does a brand need to do to be prepared or to even engage with you? Is there certain information, maybe a checklist, or questions they need to answer or ask themselves? How to make this as friction free as possible.

Paul:
A lot of the time it comes down to them having an understanding of their clients, and of course having focus groups in place. So that brands are able to put forward the ideas, that come through the discovery process. And get a bit of real, first person reaction to how these things are working is all important.

Because as we go through the classic stages of MVPs we want to make sure we’re as guided and informed through every stage as we can be. So that there’s no loss of pace or momentum.
The world is moving very fast, and to capitalise on these opportunities, you quite often have to be there ahead of the game.

Peggy:
So we went through some of the apps that have caught your eye because they’re doing it well. But what about your clients? Can you give me an example of, a real stellar example of someone who is really getting it right?

Paul:
Yeah we have some people that are using the mobile experience and using the different points at which the clients will be engaging. They’re also using machine learning to drive that.
So they’ve gone through and they’ve understood exactly where their employees or their clients are going to be at set times. Spent some time going through doing interviews and understanding the problems they have.

Then they’ve gone through and mapped everything out. They’ve pulled together all of their data and all the different people, all the representatives from the business. And from that they’ve managed to put together an enormous map of all the different pain points. Then by using machine learning, and putting that across as people continue to use the app and contribute things, they’re able to hone down the experience and now the app is providing immediate guidance, in lots of different situations.

Where previously it would end up with a scenario where people would either have to put in calls or they’d have to stop activities completely. Because as times gone by, the machines have learnt what it is and the situations. It can take in all the different data, now the feedback is almost immediate, so production never stops and it just keeps pushing forward.

Peggy:
Because use I guess the nirvana is always that experience that flows across all channels. You know we have that when we talk about customer service an awful lot. You talk about, making a call, the call will make it from the centre. You’re starting on an app, or no matter where you start really in the journey, that everyone’s literally on the same page. And I guess this is a little bit of what you’re talking about right?

Paul:
Yeah absolutely, it’s funny, we used an example of a car dealership the other day. Nowadays people are so much more informed than they used to be.  And most of the time when you go into purchase something like a car. There’s a good potential that you know more about what you’re doing than the person on the other side of the desk selling. Especially as they have so many different models to put to you. And you’ve certainly been through a lot of the journey. Yet all of that investment that you’ve personally made in your own time is wasted. Into research and then into browsing through the app and looking at the different models and possibly favouring one. Or even building it, is lost when you walk in through the door.

And therefore actually the sales person is at a disadvantage. As they try and pedal to catch up to where you are, so that information should flow straight through from start to finish. And they should know as you walk in. Be it through iBeacons, be it through the ability to just pass that information through a user name or something. They should know everything that you’ve been looking into.

So from that point in, it’s about honing your experience, rather than from starting your experience from scratch.

Peggy:
Well thanks again for being on the show today Paul. How do listeners stay in touch with you after the show?

Paul:
Thank you, you can email me at paul.jarrett@sonin.agency or I’m on twitter as @paul_jarrett

Peggy:
And listeners you can email me at peggy@mobilegroove.com or you can also find my portfolio of content marketing and app marketing services at mobilegroove.com, and you can follow me on twitter at @peggyanne