Businesses of all kinds are now technology companies. From services companies to manufacturers and everything in between, brands are getting into mobile app development to deliver better digital connections with their customers.
Any brand that really wants to compete today must ensure it's putting its best foot forward in encouraging digital customer engagement and creating experiences that are rewarding, enjoyable, and encourage brand loyalty, keeping consumers coming back for more.
The importance of great digital customer experience
In a world where digital CX and overall CX are practically synonymous, providing great digital interactions impacts the bottom line. Consumers are reaching for their smartphones as their first choice when it's time to make a purchase, look up information, or interact with a brand. The only question is: Will they like this process or be disappointed by a brand's offerings? McKinsey & Company reported that since numerous companies in the services sector don't focus on digital CX, the ones that stand out from the pack with good digital offerings stand to increase overall customer satisfaction by 15-20%.
Banking is a prime example of a field where digital CX matters acutely. McKinsey market research revealed that 40% of consumers resolve almost all their banking service queries through online means, whether that means a mobile app, a web app, email, or chat.
Forbes contributor Gary Drenik added some context to the overwhelming use of smartphones for banking, citing recent Prosper Insights & Analytics market research which found consumers across age ranges are doing their banking on mobile devices. Even among baby boomers, who didn't grow up with any sort of advanced computers, 42% of consumers bank on their phones.
A bank’s role in safeguarding customers' money means it can't afford to provide a negative customer journey or experience. A bank whose digital portals are frustrating or confusing to use, or one that doesn't provide a sense of security, can cause major customer dissatisfaction. This need for secure, reliable digital CX even goes beyond banking to touch industries of all kinds.
These digital experiences need to include mobile devices, and not as secondary considerations. HubSpot explained the specific importance of mobile digital CX: Since it's easy for consumers to try out companies' mobile app or website offerings, they can compare various brands before ever buying their products. Dissatisfaction with a mobile app may lead a customer to abandon a company and gravitate to a competitor that offers better digital CX.
Digital customer experience: State of the industry
When it comes to actively creating better digital customer experiences, companies' progress, maturity, and results will naturally vary. Some organizations have come out of the gate with business models centered around mobile apps, while others have been slower and more circumspect in their efforts to complete digital transformation and deliver useful digital touchpoints.
It should be noted that the division between newer companies and legacy businesses is not one-dimensional, with young firms being more digitally enabled and older firms falling behind. For instance, a firm's mobile app could be held back from hitting its efficiency goals by a split development team working natively on separate iOS and Android versions of an app.
Focused Labs CEO Austin Vance described companies' path to better digital CX while speaking to Drenik for Forbes. Whether the companies are legacy businesses or start-ups, they have to make sure they are prioritizing digital design, progress, and innovation. Building internal teams and processes with tech excellence in mind is the way to join the ranks of companies that create positive digital CX.
Drenik noted that digital maturity varies from one industry to another. While fields such as finance have fully committed to the idea of creating mobile experiences for their customers, that level of participation isn't universal. No matter what type of products or services a company provides, however, a positive mobile experience should be a priority.
Organizations can self-reflect about their place in the digital customer journey hierarchy. If there's no easy way for consumers to interact with the brand via mobile devices, creating one should be a high priority. If internal mobile development does exist, leaders can take a granular look at those teams and departments, to make sure they're meeting their potential.
How apps create the digital customer experience
With smartphones so popular with customers of all ages, app development is now a central component of digital customer experiences and the digital customer journey. It's important to remember that apps don't simply have a single role or purpose — they can accomplish a number of functions for companies, depending on need.
A business's app can be a:
- Primary e-commerce channel for a large or small retailer
- Portal for customer interaction with service and care departments
- Key component of a rewards program, allowing customers to carry omnichannel customer loyalty points between in-store and online purchases
- Second-screen experience meant to enrich an in-person show or event
- Game experience designed to entertain and please customers
These are just a few of the use cases for applications, which can deliver smooth, user-friendly experiences on today's powerful iOS and Android devices. Companies that take full advantage of app development can use these software tools as extensions of their overall branding and experience.
Apps are part of an omnichannel digital customer experience strategy, one that spans all digital interaction and communication channels, as well as any in-person interactions. HubSpot specifies that true omnichannel operations involve synchronicity: A mobile app user can also interact with a brand through other digital channels and platforms and pick up where they left off.
Companies should integrate their app development practices deep into their business operations, making sure the messaging on the app is consistent with their presence on social media, their websites, their ads and every other digital channel. This is yet another reason to have a unified development team instead of splitting development between Android or iOS: There's less chance of an inconsistent or fragmented customer experience across platforms.
App development practices that encourage positive customer experience
Developing apps using best practices can provide the kind of boost that companies need to compete in the demanding world of digital CX. Rather than just engaging in app development as an afterthought, businesses can truly focus on creating software that will lead to an optimal user experience and help the brand keep pace with industry norms while meeting customer needs.
Practices closely associated with this kind of development include:
Engaging in multi-platform development using Flutter
Running multiple development teams can be a major drag on organizations' efforts to create strong and consistent digital experiences.
The emergence of effective multi-platform development solutions such as Flutter, however, has changed the calculus for companies. Now it's possible to create apps with impressive customer experiences while working with a single code base. This allows organizations to concentrate all their developers on a single project, saving resources and focusing on creating polished user experiences.
Omnichannel consistency is one of the marks of an effective digital CX, and engaging in multi-platform development via Flutter is a one-step way to create such an experience. When coupled with the efficiency and quality assurance benefits of using a single code base, it's clear that organizations should consider shifting to multi-platform development, if they aren't already using it.
Embracing continuous deployment and automation
Continuous deployment has become a major priority among software developers of all specializations. Corporate, customer-facing apps are no different. Continuous deployment methodologies mean pushing more updates more quickly, making small, low-impact changes that cumulatively keep apps up to date, rather than waiting for major scheduled releases.
Continuous deployment makes heavy use of automation to ensure that developers can keep up the faster cadence of releases. When working as intended, the methodology removes some of the risks associated with slower update methods, including the danger that a large set of changes will cause unintended consequences, or that a feature will spend a long time in development, but not be relevant to users by the time it goes live.
The digital CX of an app benefits in several ways when engineers use continuous deployment. The methodology allows developers to quickly address errors or inconveniences, while also enabling them to roll out new features that suit customer needs. Companies can continue tweaking their apps in subtle ways that won't cause them to break or confuse users with major shifts in functionality.
Relying on standardization and simplification
While app development is essential to the creation of a positive digital customer experience, this doesn't mean the process has to be complicated. In fact, companies tend to fare best when they use practices based around simplicity and standardization, such as relying on well-known Git processes and keeping pull requests small and limited in scope.
By using practices such as a layered architecture, where each part of the app's architecture has a standard role, development teams can make their software easy to understand. This allows the fast onboarding of new team members, who will be familiar with what they're looking at. The developers should also make sure they're using a reliable and well-understood state management tool.
The Flutter framework also provides numerous ways to take a more simple, straightforward approach to development. A team can use the build flavors functionality to separate the development version of the app from the stable build that's in production, allowing teams to work without stepping on each other's toes. The Flutter ecosystem also contains thousands of open source tools for developers to take advantage of.
Keeping digital customer experience strong over time
One defining aspect of digital CX is the fact that success is a moving target. Organizations across industries are continuously developing and updating apps and other digital experiences to suit customers' evolving needs and tastes. Keeping up with this churn is essential.
An organization's mobile app should be supported by strong backend tools that will allow developers to analyze and assess customer data around performance and usage. Through reports and dashboards, engineers can collect customer feedback and see how users are actually interacting with their apps, determining where improvements are needed, and measuring the performance of the application against customer expectations, as well as goals and projections. Observability options for Flutter continue to improve, reflecting the framework’s rapid maturation.
One of the most significant roles an app can fulfill for a company is a customer data collection and actionable insight generation tool, gathering real-time information about a company's audience. The business can collect that information, analyze it, and use it as a tool, both for long-term efforts such as drawing up a development roadmap for the app, or short-term efforts such as sending in-app messages as part of a marketing campaign.
App development can't be a set-and-forget process. Every aspect of modern customer experience management demands constant attention and frequent action by development teams. Companies that not only embrace these priorities but also give themselves the tools and systems for success are well positioned to create an impactful digital customer experience management strategy.
Working with experts on app development
App development is essential to digital CX. In turn, digital CX can lead to companies' success. All the processes involved are too important for organizations to take for granted. Working with industry experts is a way to get a leg-up in the digital CX space by collaborating with experienced development professionals to infuse development processes with best practices.
Depending on an organization's needs, partners can help with the following:
- Moving development to the Flutter ecosystem
- Implementing development best practices
- Engaging in digital experience design
- Running analytics and reporting programs
- Deploying and maintaining apps in app stores
Working with the development experts at Very Good Ventures, who bring highly refined processes and years of experience to every project, is a way to create solutions that deliver the digital CX users crave, leading to customer satisfaction, and business success.