Mobile engagement, customer experience

Creating apps for mobile devices is not just about software development, but about creating engaging experiences. A new report from Forrester Research assesses the capabilities of what it calls the leading “mobile engagement providers” -- and finds that no major vendor currently has all of the required skills.

The report, Wanted: Mobile Engagement Providers, found no vendor of the 79 examined that has the complete set of engagement competencies and management skills -- but some firms are getting there, including digital agencies, management consultancies, mobile specialists, product development specialists, systems integrators and telecommunications companies.

Needed: Multi-Disciplinary Approach to Mobile

While the first wave of mobile application development may have simply sought to shrink a website down to a mobile screen, the report points out that user expectations and publisher needs have now evolved far beyond simple porting.

Forty-one percent of of mobile e-business leaders use an outside vendor to build apps, according to Forrester, which is driving growth in the market. But, in working with a vendor, companies must deal with four dimensions of complexity identified in the report -- the mix of technology components, program execution that matches business strategy with a great user experience, integrated development tools and a fragmentation among vendor partners.

The requirements for creating mobile engagement, according to Forrester, is more like a multidisciplinary “liberal arts degree than the technical-track model of engineering." It requires sophisticated business strategy for multichannel selling, user experience design and development, integration and API management, implementations for security and privacy, analytics, global deployment and continuous updates.

That's not all. Modern-day mobile experiences are delivered on a four-tier engagement platform: the client tier, the delivery tier, the aggregation tier and the services tier. 

The Mobile Growth Curve

The report pointed out that digital agencies like Atos, iCrossing, Mobile@Ogilvy, Razorfish and SapientNitro are adding missing digital skills, including ethnographic research, analytics and API development.

Management consultancies, such as Bain & Company, Booz Allen Hamilton, Boston Consulting Group, and McKinsey & Company are building up their mobile strategy practices, although they don't actually build applications, and system integrators like Accenture, Capgemini and IBM are adding mobile design and businesses process re-engineering skills. Such product development specialists as 3Pillar Global have acquired digital and user experience agencies, and telcos like AT&T are adding or working with mobile app development services.

This growth curve has only begun. Forrester projects that the market for mobile engagement providers will boom over the next several years, growing from US$ 5.6 billion this year to US$ 32.4 billion in 2018. Given that the demand for mobile engagement services only began to reach critical mass in the period from 2009 to 2012, the period when iPhones and Android phones established major installed bases, it's clear that we are now in the second wave of vendor development.

Long-Term Relationships

Forrester envisions that the next three years will be dominated by partnering between providers who need to complement their services, while 2017 to 2022 will see consolidation into a smaller number of larger "providers of record."

As this evolution occurs, Forester recommends that IT departments begin to work with "agencies of record," just as marketing departments have done for years. These long-term relationships will be based on direct outcomes related to business strategies and will draw providers into the strategy and planning processes.

This report’s emphasis on the huge skill set required for mobile engagement recognizes that great user experience on a mobile device is no easy thing. One wishes Forrester would have found at least one vendor that met all the requirements and could serve as a role model, but the report's indication that mobile app development is now in a new, and much more demanding, phase means that capabilities are just now catching up.

Image courtesy of Aleksandr Bryliaev(Shutterstock)