How to build great mobile apps for the long haul
By: David Lee Heyman, ASEAN MobileFirst Leader, IBM
Mobile apps have become mainstream. No longer is it just the global banks and retailers who are using mobile but also local shops which are driving their growth and customer engagement through mobile applications.
Many of the food joints I’ve visited in Singapore offer customers and in fact, encourage customers to order and pay for their food through a mobile application with the perks of earning loyalty points and avoiding long queues.
While going mobile may have been part of a digital transformation strategy initially, for many, it has become a natural channel for doing business. Gartner predicts that by 2020, more than 75% of enterprises will have adopted at least one mobile app development platform, up from 33% in 2015. Other research has also indicated that 85% of companies have a mobile backlog of up to 20 apps.
Clearly, the demand for mobile apps isn't going to slow down anytime soon and any enterprise without a mobile app is losing a significant opportunity to engage with their potential prospects and employees. More importantly, a well-designed app can help to drive topline growth.
Market research has shown that:
· Customers with a good app experience are 58% more likely to make a purchase.
· 72% of the customers would tell their friend about their positive experience and even start exploring the company's social media sites.
· Consumers can react decisively to a bad experience with as manyas 63%openly criticizing and spread their negative experience on social media.
That said, the real challenge in building a mobile app is actually not how fast you can create it but how well you can sustain its usage. While speed-to-market is critical in today's world, any enterprise contemplating a mobile app must first develop a mobile strategy that can sustain and continuously improve the user experience, or risk failure. According to IDC, close to a quarter of enterprises polled have experienced a failure rate of over 50%.
So what constitutes a robust and sustainable mobile strategy? Here are five guiding principles:
· Continuous improvement: Creating compelling apps requires constant user feedback, monitoring and revision. If mobile phones are the interaction channel with your customers, then youmust be prepared to keep close tabs on what your customers are telling you through collecting in-app usage and feedback for enhanced sentiment analysis and crash analytics. Enterprises must also leverage the right technology to easily manage app iterations and release cycles.
- Enterprise grade security: With more and more apps that transact outside the network's protection, you must ensure a delivery platform that is secure. Such a platform must be able to leverage advanced user authentication and support app authenticity while encrypting local data and performing app scanning. You only need one failed attempt that exposes financial or client information to ruin your brand and possibly lose your job.
- Context: Making apps relevant means capturing, interpreting, and acting on context in disparate environments leveraging multiple data sources in seconds. Enterprises must be able to develop proximity-aware mobile apps to create relevant, contextual mobile experiences that connect insights from digital engagement and presence.
- Strong Data Integration: A good app requires mobile-aware integration and database approaches for app developers. A well thought out mobile strategy must allow organizations to store, sync, scale and connect to data in enterprise systems in order to ensure the customer has a good experience whether their data connectivity is high speed or intermittent or they are completely offline.
- Leveraging Cloud Services: The more immersive and engaging the customer experience becomes, the more demand there is to leverage emerging technologies. The fastest way to gain access to a new paradigm is to find a cloud provider which can deliver the supporting technologies through simple API calls.
Unfortunately, most developers are spending their time building out these capabilities themselves, or integrating a myriad of technologies to achieve these capabilities. This slows down app development and reduces it to a series of bug-fix releases, preventing your company from delivering a differentiated and exciting app experience.
On the flipside, outsourcing app development will allow developers to have access to the latest technology and ensure that your applications benefit from global vendor investments in addressing security vulnerabilities so that they can ultimately focus on driving great customer experiences rather than doing the underlying plumbing.
A robust mobile strategy must be underpinned by not just one that is designed with an underlying infrastructure capable of delivering speed and productivity. It must also be able to relate and connect to the back-end services, whether in your datacenter or in the cloud, and managed holistically for complete app life cycle management without compromising security.
In whatever industry you might be in contemplating your foray into mobile, the good news is that there are enough examples and used cases that you can leverage to bring benefit to your customers and employees. Working with the right cloud technology vendor will allow you to benefit from the experience of others while helping you formulate the strategy and execution helps you to more rapidly achieve your goals.
 Source: 2016 Gartner MADP Magic Quadrant
 Source: IDC 2015 Enterprise Mobile Software Survey
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