Developing an app requires asking the right questions from the start.
Melody Adhami, President & COO at Plastic Mobile – creators of the Pizza Pizza iOS app – said that the devices, demographics and utility of the app have to be researched and examined before design or coding can begin.
What apps does our audience actually use?
“Android had a much bigger presence in the US than it does here, but we’ve seen that gap close now.”
If you don’t do your research, the choices are obvious: Android and/or iOS.
Covering your bases with a website designed for mobile can be a good start, said Adhami. However, looking into your customers can sometimes reveal unexpected opportunities. Adhami recalled one B2B client that was investigating platforms to serve its customers.
“Even though iPhone had five times the number of users [generally], their BlackBerry numbers were [proportionally] higher,” she said. Building a BlackBerry app for this client was the correct course of action, though it wouldn’t be for many others.
Canadians are quick to adopt emerging platforms, and are becoming more like American mobile device users over time, Adhami said.
“A few years ago, Android had a much bigger presence in the US than it does here, but we’ve seen that gap close now.”
Research from eMarketer shows that Android has the greatest share of the mobile device market. BlackBerry’s relatively small share is dropping as customers seem to flock to Apple and Google devices.
Who is our audience and what do they want from an app?
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that a 14 year old female student would use an app differently – and have different expectations – than a 50 year-old male homeowner.
Younger users want to include their friends and involve more gaming aspects. “The features that we would recommend [for a younger audience] would skew highly social and we could go further,” Adhami said, referring to more unconventional features.
Gamification is a concept that Plastic employs in most of its apps. For Pizza Pizza, an interactive pizza builder turns the ordering process into a party-like experience. A spin-to-win wheel encourages customers to use the app for their next order. When creating the Air Miles app, Plastic built in a check-in feature with a competition that allows users to double their air miles on a purchase.
The idea is to give users a reason to return on a daily basis and demonstrate that elusive metric: engagement.
Why would someone use this app every day?
“Anything that they can do online on their computer, they expect to be able to do on their phones.”
Moreso than gamification, Adhami says the key to engagement is to create an app that solves a problem or creates a better solution.
“You either need to reward them with something, you need to give them something to add value to their life or make something easier,” Adhami said. “Any application that we build, the utility factor needs to be there.”
In fact, customer expectations are constantly increasing for mobile apps.
“Anything that they can do online on their computer, they expect to be able to do on their phones,” Adhami said.
Uninstalling an app is quick and painless, and one bad experience can turn off a user permanently.Thanks to app store reviews, the reaction to a poorly designed or useless app can be swift and spread quickly.
“The people who are venting may not use your app again,” Adhami said.
It’s not easy to pick the right platform and design an app that your audience will want to use everyday. The good news, according to Adhami, is that app users are willing to give most apps a shot if they believe it will improve their life.
“I think people like to experience things for themselves.”
Learn more about the Canada Post E-Commerce Innovation Awards mobile categories.