What is common between such diverse activities as online shopping, booking flights and hotels, listening to music or transferring funds in your bank account? There is a one-point answer to all these aspects – take out your smartphone and complete these activities on mobile apps. And if you have your own small or medium scale business or even a large corporation, you cannot do without having an app for your business.
Consumers are today reaching for apps on their smartphones to get an insight into the products and services they are looking for. And if your business does not have an app to create brand awareness and bring your products to the limelight, you will be losing out on business opportunities, sales and conversions.
A few cold statistics will bear this out.
- According to Statista, in 2017 app downloads were 178 billion and is projected to touch 205 billion in 2018 and 258 billion in 2022 – a 45% increase.
- In 2016, revenue from advertising, mobile app downloads and in-app purchases were $88 billion. It is projected to increase to $188 billion by 2020, a 113 percent quantum leap in a couple of years.
- Fortune 500 companies have racked up 42 percent of all mobile sales from mobile apps accounts only.
- The average smartphone user has about 30 apps installed on his/her device.
- As of March 2017, there were approximately 2.2 million apps on Apple’s App Store and 2.8 million on Google Play Store.
With all these compelling evidence tilting the score in favor of building a mobile app, it is critical to understand the process of mobile app development, how it will fit into your market niche, the intricacies of marketing of the app and the future trends for mobile app development 2019.
Mobile app development
An app is like a single released by a musician; you can never tell whether it will be successful until it is released. Things might not be perfect the first time around. There may be bugs and glitches that have to be ironed out. However, if you follow specific methods in mobile app development, there is no reason why you should not hit the jackpot right away.
The Planning Stage – This is the crucial first step to get the ball rolling. Identify a problem that has to be resolved or the information that needs to be conveyed by the app. This will be reflected in the features of the app. Some of the areas to be covered include the timeline for development, the platforms to be used, the budgetary constraints and the target audience. The focus should also be on apps developed by competitors and their features.
Discuss in-depth the outlines with your team of product developers, executive leadership and sales and marketing teams with all the data that you have put together during the research phase. Expert feedback from them will make for a smooth and seamless app development process.
Fixing goals and targets is another integral part of the planning process because you have to chalk out a strategy for your app to meet those set targets. The core function of your app, the features and the problems that your app will solve are all crucial for the final structure of the app. Even though there might be budgetary constraints or in-house limitations, the customer engagement of your app should take precedence over everything else.
Optimizing wireframes and storyboards – Once the outline of the app is planned out, the next step is to sketch the fundamental aspects of the app and create a storyboard. While there are many online tools for developing a wireframe, the critical task is to decide on which ones will optimize the setting up of the wireframes and storyboards. It will be a blueprint of how best the users can navigate between the different pages of the app. The focus here should be on enhancing the a user experience, looking for a scope to increase brand awareness and considering how users use a mobile app as against a mobile website.
The wireframe and storyboard decided on will serve as a guideline for finalizing the tools that will be needed to prop up the app – servers, push notification services, data diagrams and APIs. In the initial stages, it is recommended that you have an open-ended approach as you might come up against technical constraints that might necessitate changes in the later stages of app development.
After the wireframe and the storyboard have been agreed on by all the stakeholders, emphasis should shift to building a working prototype. This is critical in app development because you get the opportunity to assess design concepts, get feedbacks and evaluate the flow and utility of the app. As in wire framing, there are many tools to set up a working prototype.
Testing of the prototype should be done by professionals who are not part of the core process. You will get honest feedback on the overall functionality and working of the app.
The App Development process – There are many processes involved in app development and all are closely interlinked with one another. The developer will set up storage solutions, databases, servers, and APIs.
An important aspect that should be initiated at the very primary stage of app development is setting up a developer account for the app stores where you plan to distribute the app. Read through the app stores guidelines and follow them meticulously to ensure that the app is not rejected. Further, this process can take several days and hence you should start-off well in time.
The primary programming and coding phase starts now. Get a non-disclosure agreement from any external agency that you outsource the work to and include non-negotiable delivery schedule in the agreement. Keep open-ended clauses in the contract so that you can back out if you are not pleased with their work.
The designer will now develop the high-resolution renderings of the wireframes that will be the actual screen or interface that the users will interact with. It should include all the feedback and the ideas that were decided on earlier and should be so designed that your customers and target audience get a heightened user experience.
Continual Testing – This is the much-awaited stage in the app development cycle as the full app is before you complete with all text and graphics. But it is testing times ahead as you have to take your app through various real-life scenarios to evaluate if there are any technical glitches or flaws. Compare the app with every design and feature that were worked out in the planning stage to be confident that each one has been incorporated in the final product. Do not take for granted that whatever was thought of before will optimally work in the final version.
As in prototype testing, it is advisable to get the app tested by those who are not directly involved in setting it up. They will have queries and might seek clarifications in areas that you had not thought of. You can also use one of the many online mobile UX testing tools which give accurate and real-time analytics and feedback. Make sure that your app has cross-platform compatibility for all features, graphics and images.
When all these aspects are in place, and you are satisfied with the ultimate looks and functionality of the app, steps have to be taken to launch the app and market it well.
Marketing the Mobile App
Start the marketing process well in advance of the scheduled launch date so that you have time to deal with any setbacks that you did not anticipate. Proper planning will make sure that you are well prepared for a hard launch. Further, keep the launch date for a time when there are no significant events taking place in your space, industry or organization to preempt your launch from being overshadowed by them.
Preparing for the launch – Get you marketing dept into the launch planning process early as there are many aspects that have to be considered. These include –
- Keyword research, essential for SEO and app store optimization (ASO) that will help increase awareness of your app and increase online presence.
- Creating a landing page on the website to promote the app. The App Indexing API of Google ranks app on search results pages based on your app’s webpage and content in the app. The landing page should necessarily have the apps name and icon, stores where it is placed and contact and support information. Have promotional videos and screenshots of the app on your landing page as well as links to your social media accounts.
- Before the launch, include a mailing list/subscription form and after launch insert download links on the landing page.
- Identify the target audience; if you cannot address them, your app will not be successful regardless of how well-developed it is. Know the influencers like bloggers, groups, forums or websites that are likely to help promote the app.
Promoting the app – The app has to be promoted on all your social media accounts and your business website. Keep updating progress made in app development on the blog site to increase audience anticipation of your app. Details to be posted include the market niche that your app will cater to and use of app analytics to determine and appeal to your target audience. Involve experts and social influencers to promote your app too.
Even though you might have fixed the designated store for your app, Apple’s App Store or Google Play for app distribution, it is wise to look for alternative app marketplaces. PreApps link app developers with early adopters that can provide valuable pre-launch feedback.
Highlight the Unique Value Proposition (UVP) of your app as part of your promotion and marketing strategy. It will help others know what makes it exclusive and unique in that category. A strong UVP will make user acquisition easy as they will know what the app can do for them. Once the UVP is established in the minds of the target audience, news of the app launch will spread rapidly through word of mouth.
Releasing the App – The official release date should be a culmination of all your marketing efforts and exercise. Immediately before the official launch date, orchestrate a buzz around your app on social media platforms and through write-ups in the press and other authoritative sites specializing in app development. A highly focused email campaign should pay rich dividends and result in generating downloads.
Once the app is released, the app should be kept in the forefront through enhanced engagement with new users. Offer discounts and incentives to those who download the app. Promoting and marketing your app is a continual process even after official release.
Keep open channels for feedback – Keep channels for feedback open and be quick in responding to any concerns or comments that you might receive. It is an integral part of customer service that you cannot afford to ignore. Paying attention to analytics and tracking KPIs will be the key for a successful marketing campaign.
Once you have all these factors in place, from planning the app to development to marketing to release, you are assured of having an app that meets all your requirements while being within your budget and timelines.
Mobile App Development 2019
It is exciting times ahead for mobile app development in 2019. The trends are towards incorporation of more cutting-edge technologies and a massive upgrade of what is in the hands of the users today. With 5G network trials in an advanced stage all over the world, and an improvement in integrated chips powering smartphones, there will be greater scope for mobile developers to create apps that guarantee a rush of adrenalin for users.
Here are some trends in mobile app development 2019 that is slated to hold center stage in future.
Wearable devices – At present, the main niche of wearable devices is the fitness industry that has many apps geared to track workouts and other parameters. Apple had first introduced affordable wearable devices, and others have now followed suit primarily in the smart watches segment. 2019 promises to include more like fitness bands and movement trackers that will surely challenge app developers.
Artificial Intelligence – Artificial Intelligence and machine learning will play a significant role in app development in future. This will be manifest in the use of Chatbots in mobile apps. Siri from Apple is another example where you get a dedicated personal assistant to answer all your queries and follow your bidding in a few specific areas of life.
Chatbots – Chatbots are now an active part of the mobile app development space and work as virtual assistants within mobile applications. With Artificial Intelligence to back up developers, it is easy to integrate Chatbots in apps without going through complex coding. Studies have shown that 50% of B2B buyers opt for self-service CRM and Chatbots promise to fulfill this expectation.
AR and VR Technologies – Futuristic technologies AR and VR have today gone beyond popular advanced gaming apps. AR is widely used in social media campaigns. Even social media giants such as Snapchat and Instagram have incorporated this innovation and have seen a surge in user engagement. AR and VR have made apps more interactive. Hence, it is not surprising that the global market for AR and VR technology is expected to grow exponentially from $27 billion in 2018 to $209 billion in 2022.
Technologies are continually being upgraded and new ones are being introduced. Mobile app development 2019 will undoubtedly take full advantage of it.