Technology evolves at a rate much quicker than most of us can keep pace with. Right now we are in the era of mobile applications. Here are three ways to capture the interest of your app happy customers.

Can you remember when you got your first Bag Cellular Phone or firstPager? Technology at its best. Business was no longer confined to thephysical office; we could take calls or get messages on the road.Itwas all about being informed and being accessible. No one really thoughtabout it as a way to drive the marketing potential of their company. Over the next few years, technology took off like a rocket, heading forthe stars and leaving a trail of ever-evolving devises in its wake. Flipphones, PDAs, two-way pagers and BlackBerry’s were everywhere,increasing our ability to communicate, to conduct business. Butbusiness-to-business or business-to-consumer interactions were stilllimited to voice, text and email.

Enter The Era of Apps

Innovationmeets creativity, and the Era of Apps is born. Blackberry devices getsmarter with online calendars, web browsing, and business relatedapplications such as file viewers and the ability to play media files.The term “crack berry” was established; everywhere, business men andwomen were on their phones, writing emails, sending txt messages,surfing the web; they were addicted. Other “smart phones” wereintroduced, and competition was driven by the techno-addicted populationto see and do more.

The iPhone, the wonder device that does it all, wasintroduced, and Apple led the charge on true customer interaction.Applications were created, games and media applications were abundant,and finally, companies have avenue to reach the masses with interactiveprograms. Other devices including Palm and Android hit the market withtheir own platforms and applications to entice the population.

Insurancecompanies now enable their clients to submit claims, check statuses,find repair shots and pay their premiums from their mobile devices.Banks allow their users to make deposits, check account activities, paybills and view transactions from their mobile devices. Retail storesallow shoppers to find coupons, see deals local to the user via GPS andprepare shopping lists from their mobile devices. The Technology rockethas traveled a long way in a short time, but the final destinationhasn’t been reached, let alone defined yet.

It seems everyone hasa device that keeps them connected to the world around them. Schools(even elementary schools) have to establish rules of conduct for whenand how children will use their phones and pads; movie theaters have toremind us to turn the devices off just to watch a movie. Everywhere youlook, people have a device in hand and are more interested in thevirtual world than what is happening in the real world around them. Itseems that news isn’t valid unless it comes across a phone or pad.

Capturing the Interest of App Happy Customers

Moreand more companies are looking at a way to capture the interest of thisapplication-enlightened world. Most organizations are taking at leastone of the following approaches: formatted website, informationalapplications or interactive applications.

Formatted websitesare nothing more than applying the appropriate formatting of anorganization’s WWW website for mobile devices. Informationalapplications are designed to present users with important content in astreamlined application based on user credentials sent from the mobiledevice.Interactive applications are designed to allow users to notonly received user-specific content, but also perform certain functionsfrom mobile devices. The following chart outlines the good, bad and uglyof each mobile methodology:

Learning Opportunities

 Formatted WebsiteInformational ApplicationsInteractive Applications
The Good
Quick to Deploy
Consistency with current WWW Website
Re-inventing the wheel not required
Deployment times relatively low
Good solution for keeping users updated
Can target specific content based on user credentials
Users expect fully functional applications which enable them to truly interact with the providing company
Users perceive a well-built application as a reflection of the organization which created it
Users are more demanding of expectations, and truly interactive applications meet public demand
The Bad
Development time extended due to number of devices, sizes and abilities
Some capabilities such as FLASH and other functions not supported on all platforms
Low user interaction
Requires authentication requirements through application
May require different application versions based upon device, platform and versions
Development requirements may be extensive based on the functional specs of the application
Developersneed to keep in mind all the different platforms, devices and versions to provide consistent functionality to all users
The Ugly
Even with the best formatting, traditional WWW sites do not present well on mobile devices
Users find it difficult to navigate
User expectations include function specific tasks which are not often presented in traditional WWW formats
User expectations include interactive functions
Users and potential customers are accustomed to convenience; poor application design can lead to loss of business
Competition in applications is extremely high; innovation is the key to success, and near misses can lead to unhappy customers

Planning for Mobile Engagement

Forcompanies looking to engage their customers through mobile devices, itis important that they create a focused plan, outline strategicfunctions of the application, and provide a technical solution whichsets them apart from their competitors. This is often easier said thandone as new applications are added daily, or existing ones are updatedto include the “newest and greatest.” A lot of work has been done in thearea of convenience. By using GPS information, tracking the user’shistorical actions, and applying business intelligence, companies havestreamlined the user interactions.

Retail stores, for example,have done a good job of promoting sale items through applications andeven giving the users information about where the closest store is tothe user at any specific moment. The next generation of apps in retailwill probably take user purchasing information (collected through storememberships and reward cards) and display items which the users haveshown an interest in. The downside to that is that we as users feel likeour privacy is invaded when retailers collect and store informationbased on our buying habits. It’s a fine line between providing afriendly service and tracking what we do with our money.

Companiesneed to understand their market, the key points to success, what theircompetitors are doing, and what are acceptable limits to informationgathering and sharing when it comes to user specific data. Creating aplan to maximize all of this can be a daunting task, but a well builtand user-friendly mobile application can provide a huge payoff incustomer loyalty and return transactions.

Final Thoughts

Therocket of technology is still in flight. Every day new advancements intechnology open new opportunities to grab our customer’s attention. Theproblem is that there is always a shiny new toy to capture a user’sinterest, but in the end, solid convenience and ease of use will winout.

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