As mobile applications become an increasingly important way to engage customers with brands, companies need to better understand their consumers' journey through this channel.
Record download figures become meaningless when problems with the use of a travel site prevent hotel bookings from going through or when a complex registration process on an online betting site discourages customers from registering and betting. As mobile applications have matured and this channel becomes strategic, providing a relevant user experience becomes paramount. If, for a brand, the use of an application is aimed at targeting a specific aspect of the customer experience or customer journey - from product search to after-sales service - on the customer side, then the application is just another way to choose the brand. Thus, a poor customer experience via a mobile application can undoubtedly have an impact on the customer's perception of the brand across all sales channels. Mobile applications have become an essential channel in the sales journey and companies must therefore implement an optimization strategy that takes into account all aspects of the customer experience in order to improve their sales performance.
Apps are progressively placing themselves at the heart of customer engagement and customer journey.
A ComScore study found that access via mobile applications accounted for 47% of Internet traffic, surpassing access via the traditional Internet, which now accounts for only 45% of U.S. traffic. For the first time, Gartner predicts that purchases made via mobile applications will grow from $4.589 billion in 2013 to $36.881 billion in 2017 - an increase of more than 700%. These predictions demonstrate the growing importance of mobile applications in the development of e-commerce. But how do these applications fit into an overall strategy to engage and improve the customer experience? To date, it is difficult to really assess the value of applications on a company's revenue. Most companies have developed a single client application and usually limit themselves to measuring the volume of downloads. The development of an application is often carried out in a "silo", and under the responsibility of the IT department rather than the Marketing Department. This development is rarely the subject of strategic, multi-channel thinking around the customer experience.
Companies must optimize their mobile applications in the same way as websites and mobile sites.
Mobile applications, however, are becoming a critical part of the customer journey. Their rapid emergence as a marketing tool in its own right to seduce and target customers requires a much more strategic approach. Organizations need to be able to assess and refine the usability of their application to determine why high volumes of application downloads do not translate into customer account creation or conversions, and understand the impact of this channel on overall consumer brand perception. Quite simply, companies need to apply the same rigor to the optimization of their mobile applications as they do to the Internet channel and mobile sites if they want to achieve meaningful results.
Mobile applications are no longer limited to a purely marketing role.
Currently, the role of mobile applications in the customer lifecycle is equally split between online search, transaction and after-sales service. They are used to build loyalty, improve communications and service, and therefore increasingly support day-to-day operations. Some business sectors are more advanced in this area. In some sectors, applications offer customers another way to manage their accounts and their main objective is not to enable marketing to win new customers; on the contrary, companies in the tourism and gaming sectors are actively examining all the possibilities of this channel to attract new customers, expand their business and improve the customer experience.
A poorly optimized application = poorly "engaged" customers
Nevertheless, users are highly responsive to applications and are less and less forgiving of a bad experience. This figure is highly significant for companies seeking to use applications to improve customer engagement: only 16% of users connect more than twice to a faulty application. Interestingly, users expect mobile applications to be much faster, with an average loading time of 2 seconds. For companies that want to leverage mobile applications - clearly preferred by consumers to mobile sites - to improve engagement and build brand value, low-performing applications or those with usage issues can quickly become a liability.
Improving the customer experience on mobile applications is possible and even recommended.
To date, very few optimization tests have been carried out on mobile applications because they are too difficult to perform. Now that testing can be integrated directly into application development, a growing number of companies are using optimization techniques such as A/B testing to understand and improve this type of experience.
This is the case, for example, of a company in the tourism sector that has a booking application to improve usability and boost its download/sales ratio. It is not simply a matter of repositioning the search button above the waterline to prevent the customer from scrolling down the screen. No. It is about performing A/B tests on the color, size and location of the "Search" button to facilitate the customer journey and achieve the primary goal of increasing hotel bookings.
Another significant example in the online gaming industry where registration is mandatory before a customer can bet or play at the casino; in this case, A/B testing on the layout of the registration form (e.g. offering a choice of one, two or three pages), is essential to create a favorable environment for turning visitors who download the application into active customers. In the future, as companies create increasingly sophisticated applications on this channel, it will become essential to test variants of new content and features before they are launched to understand the customer's response to the application and the impact on their journey.
Mobile applications are not a substitute for websites, they are a key and measurable part of the customer journey.
The role of mobile applications has changed. It is no longer simply a matter of reproducing the content of a website; applications are an essential part of key business processes such as booking and payment; and they can contain exclusive brand loyalty content. In fact, improving the understanding of application performance is becoming mandatory: analysis and reporting must be much more sophisticated and linked to "overall strategic objectives". Focusing only on content downloads and views as key performance indicators does not make sense. On the contrary, performance should be measured by registrations, bookings or revenue growth. What becomes crucial is the ability to take these metrics into account, not only within the mobile application channel, but also more broadly. In short, assessing how the performance of this channel affects the rest of the business. This point is fundamental, because this channel is becoming an essential component for marketing, while remaining one channel among others. Organizations need a clear optimization strategy at the enterprise level that covers all aspects of the customer journey, including mobile internet and mobile applications, to drive improved business results and deliver a consistent and high-performing customer journey.