Photo by Victor Hanacek, Mobile Apps

No one has a crystal ball to peer into the future and see what mobile apps might work best in the marketplace. For every Startup Company and mobile app that has gained a following, the ground is littered with mobile apps that have flopped in the marketplace. Startup entrepreneurs will tell you that this is part of their planning: throw things out there and see which one sticks. Established companies can do this too without committing to a large IT project. When it works, you can deliver something to increase sales and keep existing customers happy. Because of the surge in mobile applications and customer expectations to have information at their fingertips, all types of businesses need to think of ways to fill customer needs with mobile apps. Otherwise your customer’s will bolt for the competition when they have written an app to do that, leaving you scratching your head wondering what happened.

That is what Forrester says in a new report.

IDEA Framework

Forrester has come up with a methodology and framework that even 100 year old companies, like Clorox and AT&T, can use or have used to give their customers something new to let them fill an immediate need, reduce irritation, or otherwise do something new and interesting with a mobile phone or tablet. Forrester calls this framework to developing ideas for how to do that IDEA: Identify Mobile Moments, Design the Mobile Engagement, Engineer your Platforms, Processes, and People for Mobile, and Analyze Results to Monitor Performance and Improve Outcomes.

The Mobile Mind Shift

The reason companies of all types need to push their products into their customer’s (or their own employee’s) hands is because of the shift in expectations brought on by the Mobile Mind Shift and Mobile Moments: “A Mobile Moment is a point in time and space when someone pulls out a mobile device to get what they want in their immediate context. Smartphones are becoming an extension of our brains; we pull them out every time we need help. Every successful interaction reinforces the idea that whatever the problem, a mobile device provides the solution — or should. The result of all this positive reinforcement is a Pavlovian response we call the mobile mind shift.”

The Threat from Failing to Meet Mobile Expectations

In terms of business, if your company can rise to the occasion and meet that mobile moment then you will have found a new avenue for sales and a way to keep your existing customers loyal and satisfied. If you fail in what Forrester calls the battleground to get a customer’s attention then “an entrepreneurial company will step in and fill the need, disrupting your business.”

Ouch. Those are dire words. Because of smartphones, people no longer have to wait to sit in front of a computer to look for information and execute a transaction. Sales people can view a customer’s sales history while they sit in the customer’s office. An engineer can snap photos of a project in the field and attach those to a project work order. Forrester cites an example of how a 100-year-old company is keeping its customers thinking about their product by delivering a mobile app. Clorox’s MyStain tells you how to remove stains. The mobile moment to think about that is obviously when you have spilled something on your expensive jacket or dress. This is a clever idea from Clorox for how to continue to sell a commodity product at a premium, sodium chlorate, without become a commodity producer.

Change your Own Business for Mobile Moments

A good way to start thinking how you can meet customer needs with a mobile app is to change your own business processes and procedures to use mobile apps yourself. That requires thinking of the mobile app as the system of record and not just a staging area for transactions to be updated later at the desktop or laptop computer. After a two-year effort, United Airlines has done this with many airport transactions. AT&T, another 100+ year-old company, deployed AT&T U-verse to let field technicians enter transactions to help the company meet a 2-hour service window. To get employees to use the app, the company developed a point system to reward them for that.

Agile Development

It is interesting to note that Forrester, known for setting a broad agenda, would drill into the details in this report and suggest that companies should use Agile development to get the ball rolling in this direction. They recommend the Agile storyboarding approach as a way to get business people and engineers to brainstorm what apps customers or employees could use and then how to organize your project to do that in small, easily-delivered steps.

At Seamgen, we do what Forrest says and use the Agile development methodology to capture ideas and turn them into a workable solutions using the prototyping approach. This gives you a product you can start working with quickly without committing to something larger that might not work. It’s the safe way to go. So start mobilizing your team to work with your mobile apps themselves so they can think of a mobile app to push out to your customer’s smartphones to solve a pressing problem or tap into the system of record in the field. Use IDEA and Agile to think of an idea for one of those. Have an idea for a mobile app? Let Seamgen know so they can get you started.