Mobile Opinion

Beyond mobile trends: technologies that will shape the digital landscape in 2018

Trends have been the hallmark of the fashion industry over the last few decades. Such trends are usually short lived – they probably last for a season or so. Now we live in a social media world, where trends last less than a day! But on a serious note, paying attention to game-changing trends in the mobile & tech world makes sense for enterprises lest they miss out on opportunities which impact their very existence. If Kodak had only paid attention to how photography changed through digital cameras and then mobile phones, the company would still be thriving in an era where selfies and point & shoot are commonIn the mobile industry, we have been witnessing a trend not just over the last few months but over the last couple of years. And that trend is likely to have a far reaching impact on survival of businesses. We believe that 2018 will be the year this trend is likely to show its full impact. What are we referring to?

We believe that app development, as we know it, is dead.

Given the fact that app economy reached $29 billion in 2017, an increase of almost 200% in just five years, this might seem like an incredulous claim. However, in the past few years mobile ecosystem has changed by leaps and bound, and as technologies evolve, mobile apps as we know them might soon be dead.

In the early days, large enterprises would merely want an app. Mobile app developers will just have to do some coding and wireframing and build the apps. Today, owing to technological innovations and changing consumer expectations businesses and app development enterprises have been forced to push the envelope and go beyond just building apps.

The practice has evolved into a serious, business-building one and involves several specialists in consumer behaviour, trend mapping, UX/UI specialists, niche technologists, analytics experts and many more. It is not just about few lines of code. It takes strategy, design, engineering, analytics and marketing to come together to deliver a customer experience.

In today’s world enterprises will have to build digital products which impact not just a customer experience of a brand but the business fortunes of a company.

So, yes the era of mobile apps has indeed reached a tipping point, paving the way for an era of digital solutions which can simplify consumers’ life and have a real business impact.

Most businesses do realise the impact of technology on the mobile ecosystem, but the question is, what does this dynamic landscape mean for enterprises planning to go mobile in 2018?

Here are some insights that will help organisations to build their mobile strategy for the coming year:

Businesses will partner with integrated technology hubs

With growing dominance of mobile in consumers’ life, most businesses want to leverage the mobile medium to engage with their customers. Today, consumer’s interaction with a piece of content can be across screens, devices and ‘moments’, crafting digital products for an omnichannel experience has become critical.

It calls for a coming together of strategists with a grasp of consumer behaviour, creative minds that can craft a relevant experience and technologists who bring it all alive.

However, enterprises still have a long way to go to look at their mobile strategies from this perspective. According to a survey by E-consultancy, only 20% of organizations have a clearly defined mobile strategy. Some of the reasons for such a dismal number of organisations understanding and implementing a well thought of mobile strategy are lack of understanding of the medium and resources.

While organisations want to leverage mobile ecosystem to connect with customers, they haven’t transformed themselves to think mobile yet. Hence they find it difficult to define the ROI of their mobile strategies.

Mobile strategy are on different tangents

Further, since in most enterprises different departments are not integrated, the priorities and expectations from a mobile strategy are on different tangents. For instance, according to an Adobe survey, 38 percent of IT decision-makers are prioritizing or shifting to mobile web, but only 32 percent of marketing decision-makers agree with that strategy.

So, in 2018, executives will have to work on the following to leverage the mobile opportunity:

  • Understand and laying down the business objectives from their mobile strategy.
  • Building resources with an in-depth understanding of the mobile ecosystem.
  • Align different business units to think mobile.

To make sure that businesses build digital products and not just mobile apps, enterprises will look for partners who are beyond ‘mobile app development companies’. Regarding technologies, the demand for full stack developers, who are capable of developing end to end solutions, might rise. Developers will also evolve and cross-skill themselves in not just new-age technologies like AI, machine learning, deep learning etc. but also understand analytics, marketing, ASO and other non-coding related technologies in order to better understand the goals and objectives of the solution

In 2018, we will see more and more businesses seeking integrated technology hubs, which they can partner with to create digital solutions which impact business.

Mobile app engagement is on the rise, but will every app get the share?

In 2017, we saw app economy growing owing to the increased amount of time people spent on apps. Smartphone users spend almost 90% of their mobile time on apps. But is the situation as impressive as these numbers portray?

Let’s look deeper. Even though mobile apps gained most of the mobile time, there were only a few categories which got all the attention – social media, messaging apps and utility app like Google maps.

Top 10 mobile apps by penetartion of app audience

It is clear that there are very few apps which get downloaded without any tangible benefit. In fact, according to a report, most US smartphone users download zero apps in a month. In the coming year, this trend will continue. However, prudent businesses will leverage the popularity of the most used apps and combine some of these services for their users. Ultimately only a few big players will take up a huge chunk of the mobile time from the users. E.g. Uber expanded their services from taxi rentals to food delivery, in the future, they might also provide courier services and hence command a substantial amount of time from their users.

So, unless businesses can clearly define what problem will their app solve for their customers, their app might also be lost in the oblivion.

For businesses it is critical to answer these two questions:

  • Is your customer ready for an app from their business, do they really need one?
  • What tangible value will the app bring in users’ life?

Consumers expect a delightful experience with every digital interaction

Today’s consumers expect sophisticated and functional experiences from apps and websites. Given the plethora of options at their disposal, brands have only a few seconds to acquire a customer or lose them. Here are some statistics which convey how easily businesses can lose a customer if they don’t deliver on customer expectations:

  • 40 percent of customers using mobile websites or mobile apps turned to a competitor’s site after a bad experience.
  • 57% of customers said they wouldn’t recommend a business with a poorly designed mobile site.
  • 90% of users stopped using an app due to poor performance.

As of 2017, only 10 percent of companies think their digital strategies are up to the mark.

So while having a mobile website or an app for your business seems like a mandatory investment in 2018, making sure it delivers on customer experiences is a must. And, this rule applies to both consumer-facing and enterprise apps.

In a world with extremely user-friendly apps like Uber and social media apps like Facebook; the benchmarks are high for both consumer-facing and mobile enterprise solutions.

What does it take to build delightful user experience? Here are a few pointers:

Tips to create delightful mobile experiences

  • Identify what is the value that the app will bring to users, something that cannot be duplicated in a mobile web experience.
  • It is evident from the data mentioned above that most users stop using an app due to poor performance – which can be a function of loading speeds, ease of navigation etc. Making sure that these factors are addressed before an app is rolled out in the market is a must.
  • Create personalisation – today brands are striving to create more personalisation for their customers with every digital interaction. It is no surprise that mobile apps will also have to follow suit. OTT apps like Netflix do it really well by creating recommendations based on users’ viewing habits or Spotify building personalized listening experiences for their users.

Consumers want faster and lighter apps

In today’s world, everything is about being faster. Faster access to information, faster transactions, faster services so on and so forth.

To cater to the new-age mobile user the faster their mobile experiences are, the better it is for brands. For the same reason, Google and Twitter joined hands last year and came up with the AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) technology. Google also declared that it would provide an isolated search index for the mobile web. Due to the SEO implications of this move, in 2018 we will see an increasing number of enterprises embracing AMP. We also saw developers using technologies like ‘lazy loading technology’ for web pages as well to make them load faster. Use of such technologies will see a rise in 2018.

However, just making apps faster isn’t the end of story. According to a Google study lack of space is second most important reason causing app abandonment. Most organisations understand this aspect, and therefore in 2018, we will see an upsurge in Cloud-based apps, Android instant apps, etc.

In fact, according to a Cisco research “Globally, cloud apps will drive 90% of total mobile data traffic by 2019, and Mobile cloud traffic will be 11-fold with compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 60%.’’

Owing to this demand for faster and lighter apps by customers we will see native apps still maintaining the edge, but technologies like React, ReactNative, PWA might try to catch up.

So, next year enterprises will have to make sure that their apps are faster and lighter both to ensure that apps not just get downloaded but retained.

Security is critical – yes, even for non-banking apps

While today’s digital natives leave their digital footprints all around the web, they are equally concerned about the security of their data. However, for most apps which primarily do not need any transactions done this aspect goes amiss. According to a Gartner report, 75% of mobile applications cannot pass even the most basic security tests. Most of the apps that require the access to additional data create unnecessary log files, which makes it easier for a security breach to happen.

However, in 2018 security will become a key aspect to make sure that apps are downloaded and retained by users. We will see a deep integration of apps with the device features for security, e.g. most of the secure apps will incorporate the device specific authentication features.

To ensure that security measures of app developers will have to keep in mind principals like:

  • Avoiding storing sensitive data in the unencrypted form in external storage.
  • Analyzing apps during and after use to detect data leakage.
  • Verifying that all applications are correctly transmitting data over SSL.
  • Checking whether passwords and encryption keys are stored in ciphertext or plain text.

Tips to ensure robust security measures for apps

AR will shine so will mobile apps with it

In the past few years, we have seen a lot of hype around new-age technologies like AI, IoT, chatbots etc. However, one of the technologies which is picking up fastest is Augmented Reality. The primary reason for this is the ease of implementation. In fact, the market for AR and VR will reach $108 billion by 2021 of which AR will contribute the lion’s share of $83 billion.

Industries like retail, healthcare, travel etc. have already created a lot of exciting use cases with AR. With technology giants Apple, Google, Facebook etc. offering tools to make the development of AR-based apps easier, 2018 will see an upsurge in the number of AR apps being released.

While using AR based apps looks like an enticing opportunity for brands to engage with their customers. Enterprises will have to ensure that the AR experiences either enhance their brand communication through innovative content or creating real, tangible experiences for shoppers.

For instance – real estate enterprises offering consumers to have a 360-degree view of properties making it easier for them to choose or retail companies like IKEA allowing shoppers to see how a piece of furniture would look in their house setting are real tangible benefits that AR technology can provide.

This year Honda is sending personalised AR holiday cards for hospitalised children at Children’s Hospital of Orange County. In this case, the brand is trying to marry AR to its annual Happy Honda Days promotional event.

Using technologies to enhance both online and offline experiences

Today consumers possess more than one smart device and access internet across these, sometimes simultaneously. However, consumers are not only interacting with brands online but offline too. For instance, most millennials experience products in brick and mortar stores but buy them online owing to discounts they get. What does this trend mean for brands?

Brands will have to make sure that they are taking care of customer experiences on both online and offline channels. Brands are leveraging technologies to enhance the customer experience in offline channels as well. J.C. Penney adopting through Apple Pay across all its stores or Amazon launching it’s no checkout store AmazonGo are examples of brands are integrating online and offline platforms to augment customer experiences. Next year we will see more brands working towards creating such omnichannel experiences for customers.

Businesses will have to integrate mobile into their business strategy rather than implementing a mobile strategy as an afterthought. Only then they can create a 360-degree omnichannel experience for their customers.

AI will continue to be in the spotlight and make mobile platform smarter

AI today is one of the most sort-after technologies, and this status quo isn’t going to change anytime sooner. According to ‘Gartner Hype Cycle’ of emerging technologies in 2017, AI will be the most sort-after technology for the next five years. However, the mobile industry has seen many use-cases of AI with bots like Siri, Cortana, Alexa, and Google Assistant etc. And, these assistants are going to get smarter. According to Gartner, by 2018, digital assistants will recognize individuals by face and voice across channels and by 2020 smart agents will facilitate 40 percent of mobile interactions.

Three Trends

However, brands have to think innovatively and leverage the power of AI to personalise users’ experience beyond bots and make life simpler for their customers. For instance – Starbucks released their AI-based ‘My Starbucks Barista’ app. Users could tell the app what they want, and the app placed the order for them.

Smartphones have access to a great deal of users’ data in real-time with inbuilt features like GPS tracking, camera, microphone etc. AI can help brands develop an app which can learn from this data and built personalised and meaningful interaction with the user. The benefit is that these interactions will also change basis the change in user behaviour as the algorithms will keep learning from changing user interactions.

While the potential of AI seems lucrative, enterprises will have to decide whether they are ready for it. According to Forbes, 80% of enterprises are investing in AI. However, a lot of these investments aren’t thought through. Therefore, while the technology will grow business leaders will need to make sure that they set realistic goals and identify clear objectives and scope of their AI investments to derive true benefit from their AI projects.

In conclusion:

As smartphones become smarter and more integral to people’s lives, infinite opportunities open up for enterprises to engage with consumers. The related developments of proliferation in connected devices and emergence of new technologies will mean that creating digital experiences which delight will mean a lot more than just app development. Enterprises need to forge digital partnerships with experienced teams as such initiatives have a business impact.

Surabhi Ghosh Chatterjee
Surabhi Ghosh Chatterjee is our soft spoken Marketing Communications Manager with an extensive experience in B2B marketing in the tech domain.

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