These days, mobile devices are a fundamental part of how people live, work, and play—which means providing customers and users with an engaging mobile experience is no longer just an option. Statista reports that in 2019, e-retail sales surpassed $3.5 trillion, and in 2020—with a global pandemic forcing shoppers to stay home even more—we should easily pass that figure. Those organizations providing mobile users a better experience, of course, will take more of that revenue to the bank than those who do not.
In recent posts, we explored various reasons why a native mobile app can provide the type of experience mobile users have come to expect—and why a "code it once" responsive website cannot. We then dove into various technologies to consider before starting to build your mobile app. Now that the preliminaries are out of the way, though, how can you bring your killer app to market successfully?
Here are some tips we've learned over the years that will remove development roadblocks and help you deploy your mobile app quickly and efficiently.
Concentrate on a single, core capability—at least to start
The number of features you initially include in your app will impact how quickly you can launch, as will the frameworks you use to build it. While it's tempting to want to launch your app with the same capabilities as your website, we don't advise it. Trying to replicate your site functionality will only lead to a prolonged, overwhelming development process. It also increases the odds you'll end up with a buggy app with poor performance. And a negative first impression will lead to bad reviews, creating momentum that can be hard to overcome.
Instead, identify and start with a specific core capability that will be the main draw of the app. Choose a functionality that aligns well with the mobile app experience, perhaps something users can't do on your mobile website. Whether you focus on your loyalty program, mobile payment processing, or even barcode scanning, develop that core capability well. This approach lends itself well to agile practices by allowing you to create a solid foundation you can build on over time.
Run a thorough pilot program
Once you've developed your app's core feature, the next step is to do an internal pilot before releasing the app to the public. If you have a large employee base, you already have the perfect test group. But even a small group of users can provide valuable insight into the app's usability, stability, and performance.
The goal of any pilot should be to test the app from every possible angle. Where are the bugs? Does the app crash on specific devices? Are there problems with different orientations or screen sizes? Remember that the more features you try to cram into the app for launch, the longer the pilot will take—just another reason to start small. There are no shortcuts to this part of the process, nor should there be. If your customers find significant problems with the app right out of the gate, your ratings will tank pretty quickly.
A pilot program also gives you an opportunity to optimize the user experience with A/B testing. Divide your test group into segments and test variations in the location and color of calls-to-action, how often to send push notifications, and other UI/UX elements that can drive (or decrease) engagement.
Understand the certification process
The certification experiences between Android and iOS couldn't be more different. Unless your app promotes immoral or illegal activity, it's relatively easy to publish it on Google Play.
Apple's App Store, on the other hand, is like a walled garden. Apple takes pride in its meticulous review process, and a human being evaluates every app. To avoid delays in rolling out your app, you must understand Apple's requirements and how to resolve issues flagged by reviewers. For instance, if your app requires users to log in (rather than use mobile authentication) before accessing its features, Apple will reject it. You'll have to explain the requirement and a sample login, as well as a notice to users about it in the app description.
Prepare for (and insist on) continuous improvement
Continuous improvement is critical to keeping your app fresh and engaging for users. Before launching your app, establish processes for addressing user feedback. Staying on top of your reviews and pressure points is key to continuous improvement. Pressure points tell you which devices, screen sizes, and user activities are leading to crashes. As a rule of thumb, you want a crash rate of no more than 0.5%, or you risk not only accumulating bad reviews but also potential removal from the Apple App Store and Google Play.
Some bad reviews are inevitable, of course. And since 77% of users read at least one review before downloading an app, you need a clear strategy for addressing those reviews. Respond to negative reviews by apologizing for the user's inconvenience. Ask these users for suggestions and offer them insight into when you plan to resolve the issue. The idea is to leave a positive impression that encourages users to give your app another chance (and ultimately even change their review).
When you make continuous improvement a part of your processes from the start, it's much easier to iterate and roll out additional feature sets and functionalities over time.
Putting these tips into action: a mobile app case study
Following these tips will pay off. As an example, one of our major retail customers was struggling to get their mobile app to market on time. Initially, the client chose to use Xamarin to allow their developers to code once for both iOS and Android. While that decision set the foundation for an efficient development process, the effort quickly fell prey to scope creep, issues with integrating internal systems, and a departure from the agile methodology.
The retailer then hired JBS Solutions to get the project back on track. First, we identified those features and functionalities critical for launch. Eliminating unnecessary complexities allowed us to realign the project with agile principles and work toward a single, clear goal. As a result, JBS Solutions was able to bring the app to market in less than six months—and by using a smaller team which helped mitigate the overruns of the initial project. We continue to improve the retailer's app with regularly scheduled updates geared towards addressing user feedback, as well as introducing exciting new features and functionality. (Read the full case study here.)
Want to learn more about getting your mobile app off the ground? Check out our on-demand webinar, Tapping Into Mobile Apps For More Profitable Revenue, to learn how to build an engaging, competitive mobile app that drives higher revenue. Need help creating and launching your mobile app? Contact us to see how JBS Solutions can help.
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