When I think about it, apps are pretty cool. By apps, I mean mobile applications that are essentially software applications that are designed to run on smartphones and tablets like my iPhone 4 and my iPad. From a customer experience perspective they have changed the way we interact with content and are on the verge of changing it even more.
Most software revolves around how we interact with content – data and information. When you think about it, the high level progress of software has essentially been from mainframe applications that run on a terminal to desktop applications to internet applications. We went from interacting with data and content through the terminal to the desktop and then through a web browser has been a significant transition where the boundaries of the interaction within the application have continued to broaden.
But now apps are changing that. How? By narrowing and targeting the breadth of content we interact with and making the depth of that interaction potentially even deeper. But is this change really taking place? Consider the convergence of the mobile and desktop OS and the sales numbers.
- The desktop OS and the mobile OS are becoming one. You just have to look at what Apple has done with Lion and the new iPhone OS to recognize that the desktop OS and the mobile OS are on a path of convergence. Or even Windows and Windows Mobile. It is just a matter of time.
- People like apps. People like working in apps and are willing to pay a small amount for the experience. As of October 2011 there are over 500,000 apps for sale in just the Apple App Store. And my friends over at Gartner have predicted that the sales of apps across all stores will result in over $5B in revenue in 2011 and over $58B in 2014.
But even more interesting, apps are changing the way we interact with content by narrowing the breadth of the interaction, deepening the depth of the interaction, and are dominating what we are buying.
Now I am not a software analyst but a customer experience analyst and part time strategic thinker. I think that apps have the potential to significantly alter the customer experience. How? If you follow Jacob Nielsen’s thinking about useful, usable, and enjoyable apps have the ability to improve all three of these criteria while maintaining a Web page to meet the broader audience needs.
But how will apps change customer experiences? By making interactions more simplified, outcome focused, and targeted. With an app, interactions are more:
- Simplified. The experience within an app is simplified compared to the equivalent experience in a browser. For example, I would expect to be able to check my bank balance on an app but probably not surf for the best mortgage rates – unless that was another app. I might not be able to look back over 90 days worth of account data, but I probably don’t have to. Apps make the experience more simplified.
- Outcome focused. When you open an app, you are there to do something – there is an outcome you want to accomplish. You can’t just go in and browse in an app like you can in a Web page. You may go on to check your balance, buy a book, or check a score. you are in the app for a reason.
- Targeted. You are probably not going to be reading mounds of content through an app. Apps are targeted to accomplishing a specific set of outcomes unlike a Web page which can target a broader set of outcomes and interactions. For example, I can’t do everything on my banking app that I can on their Web page, but then again I wouldn’t want to.
Bottom Line: This shift isn’t going to happen overnight, but it is going to happen and happen quickly. Apps will quickly redefine how we interact, much as the portal did. If you want to reach customers tomorrow, you need to have an app strategy.
Question: How do you see apps changing the customer experience? What could cause this not to happen?