Mobile

Building Revenue-Generating Mobile Apps Ecosystems

Mobile-first solutions that prioritize the needs of customers and stakeholders

We’re known for blending award-winning design with scalable, engineering-focused performance

what we do
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We think beyond 'screens' in today's multi-channel world - designing systems that fit into people lives across the mobile, web & connected device spectrum.

We start by understanding each of your customer & stakeholder touch points and knowing how to best interact with them. Then, we map out the experiences that drive customers and stakeholders to be more loyal, more valuable, and more productive.

Is the future of mobile already gone?

Mobile experiences were novel ten years ago. Not today. In order to see through effective future mobile strategies, the future of mobile ecosystems lies in 'ambient' computing. Unless you're building the next Facebook, Instagram or WhatsApp, your business needs to recognize how to build mobile app ecosystems that don't expect to monopolize your users time. This comes from the "NPA" methodology in which we focus on "Notification" (alerting users to what happened), "Personalization" (contextualizing to users what's happening), and "Anticipation" (delighting customers based on what may happen)

How to align Mobile App Development Investments through CX

Today's consumer exists everywhere. Gone are the days where brick-and-mortar stores are the primary interaction in the marketplace. Users are no longer looking for the nearest store - they’re looking for the nearest device, and organizations need to be available across all platforms and mediums. At Icreon, we work with businesses to build out a holistic approach toward contextualized experiences that resonate across different devices & media. We’ll take the time to understand your consumer, and build out seamless paths for transactions.

This ultimately means developing and designing mobile app ecosystems that are continuous extensions of the overall CX for your customers & employees. Mobile data-points are valuable - from geolocation to short-term-engagement to mobile commerce. Figuring out how best to activate your customers on mobile based on the activities they're most likely to complete and enjoy is critical to ensuring you don't fatigue your customer or overdo your investments in the wrong mobile experiences.

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thoughts

Some of the considerations we think about when creating mobile apps

Thoughts and Considerations

Purposeful

Making experiences that win customer trust incrementally and continuously

Connected

Linking apps to the cloud and infusing them with data to keep them relevant

Delightful

Infusing apps with micro-interactions and moments of surprise to maximize stickiness

Cognitive

Leveraging artificial intelligence to understand customer intent and goals faster

Growth-Facing

Devising moments to generate opportunities for customer-buying moments

Adobe
Android
Angular
Drupal
Google Analytics
HTML5
Ionic
iOS
Sitecore
Swift
Thunderhead
Xamarin

Technologies core to creating compelling mobile ecosystems & experiences

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dive
deeper

The True Costs of Developing Mobile Apps

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The Argument for Hybrid Apps for Business Use

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How Mobile is Driving Value for CPG Companies

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Messaging Apps are Changing how Businesses Interact with Customers

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The True Costs of Developing Mobile Apps

It’s the first question asked when it comes to developing a mobile app:

“How much will my mobile app cost to build?”

While there are many factors that go into the cost of a mobile app, the real cost lies in the time and resources of the talent specialists required to build the app. If you think you’ll be able to hire a freelance developer and app designer to build an app within a month or two for a few thousand dollars by all means, go ahead. But you won’t get what you want. App development is like most things in life, you get what you pay for.

In order to build a quality mobile app that is well-designed and fully functional, you need different specialists to play a part of the overall development. While general factors like the design and framework of a mobile app figure into the cost, what you’re really paying for is the hours, resources, and skill set of the talent specialists. To gain a better idea of who the major players in app development are, we’ve put together this guide of the required specialists for a quality mobile application.

App Designers / UX Specialists

Responsible for creating the application interface and the overall look and feel of the app, the UX designer lays the foundation of how users will interact with the product. First, the designer will gather data to understand how users will interact with the functionality of the application.
Then they’ll create mock-up designs that fit to the specific the needs of the end user. The UX specialist will ultimately develop the ins and outs of navigation and on-screen elements that deliver a seamless experience.

A good designer will know how to design for different devices: iPhone, Android and Windows phone screens. That’s why the app designer plays an important role, as it doesn’t make sense to code the app until you’re sure it meets users’ preferences and needs. The app designer will create the right size, graphics, icons and theme for the app across all platforms.

Once they’re set with the design of the app they feel is best suited, they’ll provide proper guidance to the programmers and quality assurance team who are developing and testing the application. The UX specialist ultimately creates the experience you want out of your mobile application, and is compensated well for doing so.

App Developers

The app developers are responsible for turning the app from an idea to a reality. They’ll take what the app designer has created and turn it into working software. They’re responsible for coordinating the implementation of supporting architecture/infrastructure, and ensure all code is written within the project standards.

Depending on the platforms and devices your app needs to function on, you may need app developers who are well versed in multiple programming languages including but not limited to objective c, swift, and java. This is where the process becomes extremely resource intensive. The developers need to build multiple native applications and possibly integrate them with external data sources.

After the app developers have completed writing the initial code, they will work with the QA team to automate testing scenarios, signing off on known bugs, bug fixes and any technical troubleshooting that may arise. In order to build a quality mobile app, it’s imperative to hire experienced and talented app developers that will deliver the product you want.

QA Team

The Quality Assurance (QA) team, as their name suggests, is responsible for ensuring the quality of the product. They extensively test different scenarios to ensure all facets of the application run smoothly. They’ll test integration with third party software, logins on difference mobile devices, swiping features at certain stages, handoff capabilities, and everything you can possibly imagine.

The QA team is extremely detailed oriented and have experience in looking for the functionality and design issues that are not easily seen by the app developers. If you want your app to be top-notch, you’ll have to pay a team of experts to make sure you’re delivering the best possible product, or suffer the consequences of a sub-par app.

It should be pretty clear that developing and maintaining a mobile application is a much more complex process than many think. It’s a major investment of time and resources of certain skill sets. If you’re looking to build a quality mobile application you should expect to have a team of at least 4-6 and expect to pay tens, or even hundreds of thousands of dollars. It’s important to always keep in mind – you will get what you pay for.

The Argument for Hybrid Apps for Business Use

Figuring out which type of mobile app to develop—native, hybrid, or web-based—doesn’t have to be a complicated decision. You should ultimately go with the one that makes the most business sense and contributes to your bottom line. That could come in the way of added agility and efficiency, savings, or revenue.

While each type of mobile development offers its own unique solution, this article’s focus will rest squarely on hybrid mobile apps; why they make sense, and what goals a business can expect them to help achieve. This information should give you a very good idea whether a hybrid solution will meet your specific needs.

How an app is developed is far less important than what it can do for you. So, here’s the simplified version: a Hybrid app is a web-based application that uses a mix of native technology and code written in HTML5 and JavaScript to give users—across multiple platforms—access to device-specific features such as a GPS, camera or iPhone fingerprint login.

A general rule of thumb is that if your app will be used to present content that requires frequent updating (news), access and management of accounts (banking/utilities), or productivity apps for use by enterprises (CRM), then hybrid apps are a good option. On the other hand, if an app requires location targeting, animation, videos, or photos— a native app is typically going to give users a better experience.

Save Time and Money

Consider what your business wants to accomplish with the launching of a mobile app. You might want to get a new product in front of prospective customers in short order, making the buying experience easy and simple for new customers. In that respect, a hybrid app would at least help kick-start your revenue-generating goals.

Even if down the road you find that your competitors have launched an app that makes a user’s experience faster and easier using native technology, you can consider your hybrid app as a bridge towards building a better user experience in the future. Take inventory of what works, what needs improvement, and begin the development of a native app to take the place of your hybrid app. By developing in stages you’ll be able to get your product line in front of customers quickly, which will often result in added revenue.

Write Once, Use Anywhere

Because hybrid apps are written with HTML5 and JavaScript, app developers have to make fewer tweaks to the coding to work on multiple platforms, making it a true “write once, use anywhere” solution.

This means the app will work on an iPhone or Android phone, tablet or laptop, regardless of the operating system. Hybrid apps can do this because they automatically detect and change the user interface for each platform, and then adjust according to browser, screen size and device orientation.

This allows users to have as close to a native experience as possible without being entirely native—which, of course, takes more money and time to develop.

Updates Made Easy

Uploading a new version of an app when even the smallest of changes are made to it can become tedious. Hybrid apps allow content to be updated as much as necessary, and tweaks and improvements can be made whenever necessary without interrupting the experience of the user.

In fact, even if an internet connection is lost on a device, the app will continue to work. If updates are made during the time a device is disconnected, they are automatically made when a connection is re-established. Any feature that adds flexibility to a user’s experience can result in customer retention and growth. Or, if the app is being used by a mobile employee, being able to access the app offline adds to efficiency.

Granted, hybrid apps are not for every business. Those who can’t afford the least bit of lag in app performance—or who need users to experience the “wow” factor of a premium app that’s been built for a specific platform—would most likely be better off spending their time and money on a native app.
However, if the three reasons above give you the confidence that a hybrid app can work in tandem with your business goals, then you’ve found a fit that’s at least exploring further.

How Mobile is Driving Value for CPG Companies

The leading Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) operations in the world are embracing mobile at an explosive rate. Johnson and Johnson offers over a dozen mobile apps available across a variety of tablets and smartphones. Unilever also provides a selection of product oriented mobile applications, and even a dedicated app for investors to track company financials.

Companies are also developing custom apps for business processes that never even face the consumer. While not every business has reached the billion dollar threshold or possesses the resources necessary for in-depth development teams, mobile strategies benefit businesses of every size. For SMBs hoping to one day reach that milestone, incorporation of mobile apps into varying aspects of operations will invariably drive growth.

Particularly when it comes to Fast Moving CPGs (FMCPG) where stock is depleted by customers over the course of days and weeks, having access to real-time operational feeds on a smartphone can provide competitive advantage. With customers inundated with competitor offers and cheaper alternatives, maintaining a direct relationship and driving brand engagement via mobile apps is important in today’s CPG market.

By strategically using mobile apps for customer facing experiences and strategic internal decision making, up-and-comers in the CPG industry can help improve their chances of reaching the billion dollar club.

Mobile Apps for Customers Increase Brand Engagement
Companies like Johnson and Johnson, Procter & Gamble, and Unilever have hundreds and thousands of different products being sold across a network of retail vendors. With such a diverse range of products, the main brand (i.e. P&G or J&J) behind the multitude of products (like Charmin or Rogaine) can become lost. Through the use of product oriented apps that provide value for customers, these brands can increase brand notoriety, engagement, and customer loyalty.

While not every business can afford a comprehensive in-house mobile development team, there are alternate economical options. When developing a branded mobile app it must aim to accomplish three things: accurately represent a brand, provide utility for customers, and act as a valuable source for marketing data.

Procter & Gamble developed a Charmin toilet paper themed app 'Sit-or-Squat' for finding restrooms near a user's location. Johnson and Johnson developed a Listerine '21 Day Challenge' app to help customers stick to an oral health regimen using their product. The company also developed a customer service and support app for Rogaine buyers. Strategically assessing the customer profile for specific products, is the key to delivering a branded mobile app that increases engagement.

Entrepreneurs and SMBs hoping to one day establish market dominance should look to leaders in the CPG space for guidance.

Visualizations and Data Analytics on a Tablet
A majority of apps the Google Play and Apple App Store are designated specifically for the public. In comparison, CPGs and other large organizations are developing custom enterprise apps specifically for employees. These lightweight mobile applications are ideal for augmenting paper driven processes or legacy applications (augmenting existing applications and eradicating paper driven processes).

Specifically in the realm of tracking metrics and reporting, mobile apps are ideal for tracking total supply chain costs, inventory turnover ratios, and even things like machine downtime. Companies such as Microstrategy specialize specifically in enterprise mobile app offerings that empower business users to create their visualizations and dashboards for specific data reports.

Mobile apps that use visualizations and interactive dashboards for reporting complex data sets are quickly becoming an alternative to Excel sheets with hundreds of columns and rows. Rather than peruse through a dense and maze like spreadsheet detailing daily operations for a factory fleet, executives can access a visual representation of data to quickly surmise insight.

Using Technology to Adapt to Market Flux
A great deal of SMBs and global corporations alike are turning to mobile apps for processes such as customer relationship management (CRM), supply chain management (SCM), and fleet tracking. In fact leaders in the CPG industry like P&G are aiming to spend 25% of media budgets on digital. This trend is in part due to the staggering growth in consumption power from developing markets.

Consulting firm McKinsey & Company predicts that, "by 2025, a staggering 4.2 billion people will be part of the consuming class." Due to the surge in market opportunity resulting from more consumers with purchasing power around the globe, mobile apps that deliver real-time analytics and reporting will be more attractive to CPG brands.

Every aspect of the value chain is being disrupted by digital technologies in a variety of ways, mobile being one of them. In fact, McKinsey specifically designated mobile as the top disruptor for CPG operations worldwide. For fast moving consumer packaged goods, mobile should be a major pillar of their IT, marketing and management strategy in the years to come.

Messaging Apps are Changing how Businesses Interact with Customers

You don’t need Mark Zuckerberg to tell you that messaging apps are a big deal…and are probably going to become even bigger. There’s a reason Facebook plunked down $19 billion for WhatsApp last February. According to a recent article in The Huffington Post, WhatsApp has an even higher engagement rate than Facebook, its users sending out an average of 50 billion messages a day.

Never mind Viber, Snapchat, WeChat, and Line….
What does this ever expanding realm of messaging apps mean for your business? It depends on how you look at it. In her 2014 Internet Trends Report, Mary Meeker suggested that “global messaging ecosystems” could offer businesses the opportunity to connect more personally with consumers. Given just how quickly messaging apps have evolved over the last year and how mobile usage is at an all-time high (and just getting higher), it’s obvious that businesses have a real opportunity to connect with customers through this ever widening vehicle of intimate communication, but the question is how?

Likely you are one of the more than a billion users on Facebook. Take a look at your Facebook messaging app (assuming you have one). What can it do? A whole heck of a lot. Not only can you message your friends, you can share photos with them, transfer money, or order an Uber to pick you up from the airport.

Messaging apps already dominate the Internet communications spectrum for the newest class of users (Millennials), and are beginning to supplant e-mail, SMS, and other communications paradigms of the past for other users as well.

According to a recent article in Business Insider, “Companies like Facebook, Google, Atlassian, and Slack are expanding their messaging apps beyond mere sending text, video, and audio into something a little bit more like an operating system.” As a marketing and communications tool, this “operating system,” or, maybe more appropriately, this ecosystem that knows you intimately is a unique means by which businesses can deliver targeted content and services.
If you thought phone books were outdated, consider how you use those messaging apps on your smartphone. Your messaging app of choice has become your phonebook. It’s intimate, and it’s largely for one-on-one communication.

But that’s not all messaging apps are about, not anymore….
Business Insider recently noted, “Messaging apps are about more than messaging. The first stage of the chat app revolution was focused on growth. In the net phase, companies will focus on building out services and monetizing chat apps’ massive user database.”

How can you take advantage of mobile messaging monetization as a business trying to leverage the brave new world of messaging apps? We’ve got four tips, plus ideas from businesses that are already in the know on this mobile marketing tool.

CREATE A VALUE-ADDED RELATIONSHIP

Consider that, according to Meeker’s report, 36 percent of U.S. adults with smartphones use messaging apps, and nearly half of Millennials do. If you don’t have a business chat profile in Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, SnapChat, or other mobile messaging app platforms that your target audience uses, get one, and use it regularly (but not to the point of harassment) to engage directly with your customers. Seek to provide a value addition via messaging that is consistent with the value addition your business inherently provides.
Who’s Doing It?

Uber, for example, has become the king of marketing itself through messaging apps. Currently, Facebook Messenger is the most widely used messaging app, and Uber is right there in the chat window, offering you the opportunity to order a ride to the airport in seconds. If you have an Uber account, your payment information, phone number, location, everything is already there. What’s a better value-add than being able to order ride service from your phone?

USERS NEVER HAVE TO LEAVE

The big advantage to building a business enterprise app that works right inside a mobile app framework (such as those provided by Facebook Messenger, Google, or Slack), is that it can work anywhereyou use that messaging app. What’s more, because your app is built on a messaging platform, users can discover you and your business via recommendations from their friends, naturally through their conversations.
Who’s Doing It?

China’s popular Tencent-owned WeChat app offers users the ability to book flights without leaving their chat app. Both online Chinese travel agency LY.com and low-cost air carrier Spring Airlines offer booking service. They also offer check-in service and seat selection—all through WeChat. These services are so popular in-fact, that WeChat is turning into the go-to app for travel transactions.

PICK THE APP EVERYONE IS USING

Right now, frankly, we’re all inundated with messaging options, from texting and email to WhatsApp and SnapChat. But if China’s WeChat is any indication, the next big thing is an all-encompassing platform that everyone uses. In the U.S., the most likely candidate is Facebook Messenger with its 700 million users, according to Wired magazine.
Who’s Doing It?

Moneypenny, a virtual assistant service in existence since 2000, is working to take advantage of Messenger’s user base by providing a 24-hour virtual assistant service directly through the Facebook Messenger app.

The message we’re getting at here (pun intended) is this: if you’re seriously considering a foray into building an app within a messaging service, be savvy. Make sure you choose to build in the the messaging app where your target market is spending most of its time—and provide your services wisely.
MILLENIALS PREFER IT

This Toronto-based messaging app, also owned by Tencent, is looking to become the “WeChat of the West.” And part of that exploration is determining how to “monetize” messaging apps. Kik’s answer? Promoted Chats, which allow brands to engage one-on-one with followers through video and photo sharing, text updates, and audience feedback.

Who’s Doing It?
Seventeen magazine, Skullcandy, Vans—all are seeing an organic reach of 75 to 80 percent of Kik users, according to Kik’s own data. That data further indicates that some 10 million users have participated in direct conversations with a brand. Perhaps it’s time you became one of the brands that people are connecting with.

So what could your customers do if they had instant access to your service on a mobile messaging app? Start imagining…. Because you really can’t afford not to. Messaging apps are quickly working to supply all of the functions of the mobile Internet without the user ever having to leave his or her chat session. You want to make sure, especially if Millennials are part of your target market, that your business is in the chat window.

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