At the same time, we are witnessing an avalanche in the number of mobile apps triggered by unprecedented growth in smartphone adoption and usage globally and the rapid uptake of tablets, devices pegged to outpace PC shipments by the end of the year. U.K.-based boutique mobile telecoms analyst firm Portio Research, for example, estimates the number of annual app downloads will top 200 billion in 2017, up from 82 billion in 2013. Gartner is even more bullish. It expects app downloads will soar to 269 billion in 2017, up from 102 billion in 2013.
While all app categories report significant growth, market reports from app analytics company Flurry reveal that growth in leading app categories such as Games and Entertainment is cooling down while demand in new and niche app categories (such Education, Fitness/Wellness and Productivity) is heating up.
Connect the dots, and people have become aware they can do more with mobile apps than play games or consume entertainment content. While Games will no doubt continue to be an important app category, the advance of utility apps, released by companies eager to be ‘the brand in the hand’ of their customers, will have a seismic impact on the apps consumers use and the user experience they expect — even demand.
Add to this the fact that 80% of mobile users’ time is spent on mobile apps and it is difficult to find a more compelling case for marketers across all verticals — not just consumer-facing brands — to use apps to connect with people across the entire customer lifecycle.
Notably, mobile apps are moving up the ranks as the way people prefer to ‘get stuff done’ (research products, conduct commerce, check on deliver dates and pick ups, make customer service inquiries, and the list goes on!). As a result, mobile apps are much more than a way to access information and content. Smart marketers are harnessing apps as a way to encourage engagement and build lasting loyalty.
Significantly, mobile apps, because they are simple, convenient and ‘interactive’, are also emerging as an effective way to deliver customer service. This is no trivial point since the ability of a brand to listen to and solve customer service issues in the ‘mobile moment’ (thus, long before the disgruntled customer uses social media to complain a company is incompetent, or just not listening) is key to acquiring and retaining customers.
What’s more, it how customers wants to interact with your brand.
When given the option 84% of consumers would rather use a mobile app instead of calling a company call center for routine inquiries such as checking their balance, checking flight status and other tasks. What’s more 85 percent of consumers expect to turn to a mobile app first for customer service over the next year. Mobile apps were rated as an important part of the self-service mix that defines excellent customer service.
Since then similar studies have found that many consumers prefer self-service over speaking to a person for customer service inquiries, further reinforcing that customer appetite and appreciation for apps that listen to and respond to their customer service issues is growing nearly as fast as the technology to support it is evolving.
So, at one level, brands are under pressure, as ever, to deliver a good user experience. But now they have a new task on top of that one: making sure their app, which is now increasingly regarded at a kind of mobile, digital customer hotline, is performing 24/7. Crashes are unacceptable.
Studies show that half of mobile users abandon a page if it doesn’t load in 10 seconds, and three out of five won’t return to the site. Even a giant like Amazon can’t buck the trend. It recently calculated that a page load slowdown of just one second could cost it $1.6 billion in sales each year. Meantime, a recent Gomez Mobile Web User Experience Survey shows that the majority (71 percent) of users expect mobile services to match or exceed the availability and performance of desktop experience.
The impact of poor application performance on both user productivity and customer experience is indisputable.
Now — with mobile apps becoming increasingly vital to a brand’s overall strategy to deliver content, experience and excellent customer service — there’s a new acronym to learn. APM (App Performance Management) is back.
The first time around APM was pretty much centered on tools to monitor application performance at the client server level. This time it’s mobile APM and it’s not enough to measure app performance. Marketers have to do more than manage issues. They need the tools to detect, prioritize, isolate, diagnose, repair, and prevent problems before they happen.
It’s not easy. Mobile apps have a lot of ‘moving parts’ and partners — and a lot can go wrong. (This is beyond the scope of this blog, so I invite you to check out a recent white paper I researched and wrote on behalf of Crittercism, a provider of mobile APM solutions.)
At one level, issues around fragmentation (devices, operating systems) and network connectivity (latency and limited bandwidth) that can cause an app to crash. At the other end of the spectrum, third parties can also breakdown — and take your app with it. (In other words, integration with third parties such as Twitter and Google may bring value to your app, but you also need to be aware that it can also boost the complexity you need to understand and manage your app in real-time.)
And that is precisely the point here: mobile APM matters to marketers.
If your app is on the fritz you need to know ASAP — and so do your users. They rely on it to get things done and they increasingly rely on it to solve customer service issues. Your app can’t afford to deliver a poor user experience.
But you also can’t afford to waste your money. Be smart about what you monitor and choose a mobile APM solution that delivers real and positive results by zeroing in on what really matters — in real-time and in real-life. A mobile APM solution that delivers loads of data after the crash is like medicine after the funeral.
about having a solution that allows you to prioritize problems and make tough, but necessary, choices. That way you don’t squander money addressing ALL crashes and issues that arise, and you can focus on delivering an excellent mobile app experience that keeps your customers coming back for more.
Peggy Anne Salz
Lead analyst and founder