Building Your Long-Term Success: Sustainable App Development Principles

One of the major product development challenges is to create an app which has longevity. You have changing market conditions, OS updates, and increasing competition that can make apps irrelevant. This is a harsh reality in the app development industry.

You have no real manual to fool-proof a mobile app, but you can take some steps in product definition, strategy, development, and design to ensure the app has long-term success.

Here are some principles of app development which will help you make a sustainable app that has longevity in a constantly changing marketplace.

Solve a Real Problem as Your First Step
You need to define your product and address the needs of actually people that will use the app. You have to understand the user base and how the product is going to address the problems that they face. You need to do this before you start app development as it’s going to be the foundation as you develop the product and its direction.

You also have to have a good understanding of the market, gaps in solutions, the competition, and much more. You have to have a product that is viable in a way that addresses something that similar or other products don’t address. You need to address the needs of users and look to the competition to develop a product that will have long-term success.

Use Scalable Design
Scalable design works good in theory, but it can be difficult to do in practice. You need to design in a way that goes beyond what you’re putting out initially and you must consider the product roadmap you’re on. You have to have a balance between flexibility for new product iterations as well as features and you also have to ensure that this doesn’t leave older versions looking like they have gaps.

One feature that benefits from scalable design in the navigation menu. If the MVP has only a few features and no more are planned for new releases, then having tab navigation might not be your best approach. You may have issues as new features are added to the product. Facebook is an example of a product that uses tab navigation as one of its core features and it features a side menu for the others. This allows Facebook to add to the menu system without having to go through large re-designs.

Gather and Then Analyze User Feedback
You will often go to market with a minimum viable product. This allows for the launch of a product that has enough functions to satisfy the needs of the user. It also allows to approve or disapprove assumptions you have made and to help you improve th product for the future new releases to come.

An MVP has one advantage in that you’re able to gather information and then analyze that information based upon data and user feedback. This helps you evolve the product from the initial offering. You’ll learn what users like and dislike, what new features and most often asked for, and so on.

You need to have managers that look at feedback and respond to that feedback because it shows you’re engaged in the development of the product. You gain an understanding into what the users are looking for and what they will want in future versions of your product. This helps you keep the product relevant in the marketplace and that you meet the desires of your user base.

If you have a client app for a healthcare service for example, you might allow the submission of receipts thorough uploading pictures. Users might like the feature, but want it to be faster and use less data on their device. The addition of data compression in a new update would provide more functionality for users and cut down of their data usage.

Update and Release Often
To ensure that your app is relevant, you want to update it and release new versions of the app often. One you have launched the MVP, you can a look at data and user feedback to compile that data so you know what types of of new features or functions you might want to add to the app in the newer versions. As you test assumptions and gain more knowledge about your app, the roadmap of development will change. If you release frequently, you can stay adaptable to changing requirements and then evolve the app to meet user needs.

When you have a new release you have to ensure that that release adds value. This could be new functionality or new features. You might also add components that enhance the user experience. Releasing quickly, testing and iterating is called “fail-fast design”. Teams such as those with Spotify, do this. This allows you to try something quickly, look at its performance, and then take what you learn and apply this to new releases.

When you have external factors that impact the longevity of your app, then these are best practices to ensure the app is going to stay relevant to the user base over the long-term. You need to have a strong product definition which addresses the need of those that will be using the product. You have to have design that’s scalable and you need to look at user feedback and analyze your data. Once you do this, you’ll have the tools you need to create future releases. If you update frequently based on these criteria each time, you’ll have success with your product.

Why You Need to Deliver Often and Quickly: The App Submission Process Is Just the Start

When you ship a product, you have just gone through a large benchmark. The release of the product is really just the beginning of the process. You can’t expect the app to have large downloads, perform well and have a lot of usage, without working to improve mistakes. This is a common problem that many make when launching an app.

You can’t just publish and pray that everything is going to go well. This assumes that the launched app is perfect and fully complete. It also ignores the benefits you get from collecting feedback about your app from users. This allows you to roll out new version based upon the feedback and market data. Delivering often and quickly can have benefits for both mature products and unproven ones, but the scenarios will be different.

Concepts Which Are Unproven
When you have a smaller user base for a product that’s unproven on the market, you’ll have a smaller release and you’ll want to launch quickly. There’s a degree of uncertainty with new concepts so you can’t know what the user is going to want right away. By getting it to the market quickly, you can collect data, get user feedback, and look at the assumptions you have made about your product. If you take too long to get your unproven product to market, then you’re using up time and resources based upon assumptions and you may need to change these. Failures will also cost more.

When you release a product you’ll learn from the user base and be able to improve the user experience. You can add new features, fill in gaps in older versions, and make your product better for the user. By focusing on features that the users want or are using the most of in the app for example, you can make the product better and then roll out the new features.

Once you grow the app by looked at the assumptions through approving or disapproving them, have made a more mature app, deliver new features quickly on a regular basis, you will retain, engage, and have a happy user base for your app.

Brands Which Are Mature
When you have a mature brand, there’s already a large user base. Consumers expect a level of quality from any mature product or brand regardless if it’s mobile or not. When the first version of a product goes to market, it has to meet a level of quality that consumers expect. It might not have a lot of features, but it has to be of a high quality, functional, and have real value for the consumer. Users don’t have as much leniency for mature brands when compared to unproven products. New products from an established brand need to please customers from the first release. A viable product is going to be different depending upon the company that’s going to be releasing it.

An MVP needs to be launched quickly, but the first version has to be fleshed out. If you update often, you’re able to add new features and functionality to that product so the user experience is enhanced and more value is added. This adds to retention and user engagement. You need to add value to users when you release new versions and worry less about validating your assumptions to prove your concept.

Spotify has a Decoupled Release Model by creating an environment where the release is easy to do. Their product is complex, but they have changed the architecture which allows for decoupled releases so new features can be pushed out easily without impacting the overall architecture. It’s a ship early and ship often mindset. They have a lightweight process so they can rapidly get new features of their product out fast.

Quick Frequent Releases Make for Better Products
When you deliver quickly and often, you will be able to consistently improve your product, add value to your users, and ensure that your product has longer-term success. It’s important to have a culture and a process that will allow you to do this. You can’t just focus on the initial launch as you’ll have a stagnant product and it will lose its relevancy in the marketplace which is competitive and evolving all the time.

Mobile Shopping Issues Your Customers Face

Retailers are struggling to offer mobile experiences that customers expect them to offer. MarketingCharts in February, 2016 conducted a survey with a base of 100,000 shoppers. People still face obstacles when it comes to online shopping. Problems found included:
• 33% of the respondents said that there are stability issues with mobile sites such as having to enlarge the order to click the item they want.
• 25% said that pages load slow and that there were other performance issues.
• 21% said that they need to go to the full site to access what they are seeking.
Small pictures, text, security problems, and lack of information all boil down to the user experience.
In the retail world, the user experience is the most important part of attracting new customers and retaining existing ones. When you have usability issues this impacts success as customers want to have a seamless experience when using an app on a mobile device.

Looking at the User Experience Issues Through Apps
Mobile website can offer great user experience and many do, when they have the right execution. Native mobile app experiences are the shifting tide now. Retail Me Not conducted a survey which shows that many shoppers have a preference to mobile apps since they offer a better experience than mobile sites. When compared to mobile sites, retail apps offer:
• 63% more convenience
• 57% faster
• 40% better experience because they store user settings
• 31% more rewards and additional benefits

The millennial market is a lucrative one and they have more preference towards mobile apps. They want interactive and interesting experience with apps. Forbes conducted a survey indicating that 54% of millennials enjoy retail apps since they have abetter experience than retail mobile sites. 27% of millennials take advantage of rewards, discounts, and exclusive offers that apps provide them.

More Return on Investment When You Offer a Better Experience
Apps that penetrate the market are lucrative for retailers. The use of apps now counts for about half of all mobile sales for those retailers which have a focus on the user experience. App Annie says that apps also drive in-store visits and users buy more items when compared to the web. Mobile apps are therefore, a critical platform that retailers need to take advantage of for stronger sales, loyal customers, and a better experience.

How to Get the Experience You Want
Apps need to focus on the customer. Friction points need to be eliminated and there should be value for a better shopping experience. For version 1 of your app you should consider the following:
• Have a personalized experience
• Offer relevant product suggestions with a recommendation engine
• Reward customers with the integration of loyalty programs so you get more purchases
• Use promotions, special offers, and coupons to help users save money
• Make sure you have streamlined payments so friction points are eliminated in the payment process
• Add functionality and features so the in-store experience is improved

Once you have collected some data from shoppers that are active in your app, you can refine and improve the later versions of that app based upon behavior and user preferences. If you set KPIs for the app you can analyse, collect, and act upon that data during the revision of the app in later versions.

Consumers want more from their shopping experiences. Apps are becoming a large part of retail strategies. A company has to keep their end user in mind and have apps which reduce friction, add value, and engage customers so they stay loyal to the brand.

Reasons Why User Personas are Important for Your App

Understanding User Personas
After research is conducted on specific users, a persona or profile is created. This imitates a real customer and uses data from the person’s attitudes, user behaviors, pain points, needs and wants in regards to a specific product. When a user persona is created in an app, its’s designed to work with a specific group of people not a generic group.

A persona will illustrate the behaviors and goals of users. Market segments will examine demographic patterns and look at locations, age, salary, sex, and other factors. During the development of an app, personas can provide added benefits.

Promoting User Focused Outcomes
An app at times, can change into the desires sof the developer and not focus on the end user. To eliminate this problem, the development process has to center on a goal which has the end-user in mind. The developers must work from the perspective of the end user. The app has to resonate with the end user so personas are used through the entire development process. If the user persona is reinforced during the development process, the team stays focused on their main goal of creating an app for the user. If this is not done, then the end product may not be what the end user is going to want.

Consensus During Development is Established
When you have raw data, it’s often hard to interpret this. When you have a persona, this communicates trends and encapsulates the research so it can be visualized and understood. When you have a development team you often have personnel with varying degrees of skill which can cause opinions in what should be done. When you work with a user persona, this makes it easier for the team to avoid miscommunication and confusion when engaged in the development process. The concepts and ideas and communicated with a persona so the entire team is on the same wavelength and that they understand what their target audience actually is.

Decisions are Validated
Once you have an app idea you may not have something that the end user actually needs or even wants. You need to figure out who the app will target, but you also need to know what the end user you’re trying to reach actually needs. You need validation so the end product delivers what the end user needs or you’re wasting a lot of valuable time. When a decision is made during the development process this has to focus on the needs of the end-user. If the development process starts to stray away from focusing on the end user, the app stands a good chance of failing.

During the development process, user personas are important for everyone as they increase efficiency and quality of the work. Product quality is increased when using a persona because it addresses the pain points of the end user and fixes problems with their current user experience. When you understand and can meet the needs of specific groups of users, the app stands a greater chance of being a success. You’ll get a higher download rate and engagement with the user will be maintained.

How Efficiency In-Store is Enhanced by Mobile Apps

The main focus on mobile apps is usually the generation of money outside the physical locations of stores. The ability of mobile apps to enhance brick and mortar businesses, is often overlooked in both revenues and the operations. Here are some ways that mobile apps are effective in-store.

The Ability to Check inventory in Real-Time
If an app has inventory search functions, this can help employees create more efficiency in their store as well as help customers. A customer for example, can check the availability of products in real-time and pull up the closest location where they can get the product. They can even arrange to pickup the product in the store.

Employees can use this function to improve the overall customer experience. They can use real-time inventory data so floor employees can check to see if products are in stock for customers. This can be done quickly and a product can be ordered for the customer if it’s out of stock.

A Self-Service Advisor
Many customers prefer the self-service model. They can use their device as a customer representative. While inventory check ups can be done by a store employee, the customer can use an app to find products in the store, get product promotions, and deals as well as more information.

Any store can use an app to provide in-store service by allowing customers to search for product information, make fast purchases, and locate items within stores directly from an app on their mobile device.

Improve Customer Service
Mobile apps allow employees to serve customers better, especially ones that ant to interact with a representative. One useful feature is a customer alert system. This feature will allow for both an employee-facing side and a customer side which will improve the shopping experience and th efficiency of employees.
Customers don’t have to wait for a representative, they can ask for assistance in a store kiosk or via their app. An employee gets a notification on their device when a customer is located in the store so assistance can be offered quickly.

Wishlist Building and Barcode Scanning
Retail Touchpoints said in a webinar that learning about products in store, is a goal for shoppers. By offering barcodes on a mobile app, you help customers find additional information about products. This also allows customers to add products to a wishlist.

Customer service can be enhanced with barcodes and wishlists and there’s no need for additional staff. It makes it easier to provide service for customers, especially in large stores. The scanning feature allows customers to find product information and then add items to a wishlist before they checkout without the need for assistance by a store associate.

M-commerce has been a focus for retail mobile apps, but the opportunity to impact the in-store operations and customer experience in-store a largely untapped market. Mobile apps can help to empower employees and provide a better experience for shoppers. This creates more revenue opportunities for stores and lowers costs for retailers.