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2013: The Year of Mobile Optimization

AlanH
Jan 08, 2013

By 2013, most major companies with a mature web presence have had a couple of iterations of their mobile apps out in the marketplace. As with any new and maturing channel (web, social, etc.), customers begin to look less for new features - and more for features optimized for their daily lives. Recent studies show a 30% increase in marketing costs for new apps.

Many companies that implemented their mobile app in 2012 or earlier simply ported the most compelling experiences from their website to mobile devices  and expected to see the same or improved levels of engagement. A few reasons why this hasn’t worked:

  • Mobile devices have short session times. Studies have shown that the average session time on a mobile phone is from 1 minute to 4 minutes. On a tablet, session times are around 8 minutes. Most desktop experiences - especially transactional experiences such as buying a product - were designed for customers to use one app for an extended amount of time.
  • Mobile devices have fundamentally different network performance characteristics. Because mobile devices are used on mobile networks (with sometimes unpredictable connection speed), the customer experience with these apps is far different than in a lab with a high-speed network connection.
  • Mobile devices have different form factors. Doing certain actions, such as typing, on a touchscreen phone is slower than if using a keyboard. On the other hand, clicking points on a screen is fundamentally faster on a touchscreen than when using a mouse. Recognizing these differences can be key in your customer experience.

The next logical phase of a mobile strategy is to build and improve user experience to where users want to keep using your app. This involves identifying and addressing problems before they are experienced by too many users and before an app's reputation is shot. In a recent study in which users revealed top frustrations that lead to bad mobile app reviews, 99% of respondants said they would take action when apps don't perform as expected, and 44% say they would delete a mobile app immediately in that scenario.

There’s a clear imperative to optimize.

What can you do to optimize your mobile app?

1. Observe your users in the wild

Nothing beats simply observing users as they use your apps in the real world. This can be done by simply paying users and looking over their shoulders or instrumenting your app to capture all user interactions. (See 3 Levels of Understanding your Mobile Customers.)

If the average time to complete key workflows (e.g. finding a product and buying it) is longer than your average usage/session time - there is a good optimization opportunity. Also, look at the performance of your app. Does it take a long time for a mobile page to load? Does your app sporadically have errors or crashes?

2. Reduce time to complete an action

Certain workflows, like going through a checkout process, can be drastically sped up by remembering preference information. (This is the basis of one-click checkout.) Other workflows can be sped up by moving multiple screens to one screen. For example, using “infinite scroll” for a mobile app reduces the need for customers to go to multiple pages to page through results.

3. Fix your crashes and performance issues

This is a no-brainer. If you app sucks, customers will delete it. The good news is that Apigee has built analytics tailor-made to capture application errors and network performance issues and made it easy to push configuration changes to fix issues directly to apps on devices without having to go through an app store redeployment. Read on to point #5 below for more about making your app “configuration driven”.

 

4. Measure and remove superfluous mobile features

Because mobile app usage is fundamentally different than desktop app usage, it is likely that there are features your customer never use. Taking these features away in the mobile app can benefit the user by allowing them to focus on the key features to get their task done.

Start with the mindset that “you only have a fixed number of customer seconds to work with”, then start eliminating features.

5. Make your app “configuration driven” so you can experiment in production

At the end of the day, it’s going to take some experimentation to see what works and what doesn’t. Unlike webapps where you can push changes to production just about any time, mobile apps need to be uploaded to an appstore, then downloaded by the customer. This introduces a long cycle time, and makes it difficult to modify and measure the effect of any optimization.

To mitigate this, make your key features driven via configuration that can be modified without the need to make a push to an appstore. Need a helping hand in getting it done?  Check out the Apigee Mobile Analytics’ Configuration Management feature.

6. Develop Key Performance Indicators and goals to ensure mobile optimization programs are funded

Key Performance Indicators, such as Net Promoter Score or Loyal App User metrics, are much better indicators of the business performance of your mobile apps. By setting goals, hitting those goals after doing some incremental optimization - you are much more likely to not only build trust with your mobile users, but also build trust with your business stakeholders who ultimately fund future optimization initiatives.

Why should you spend your time and money optimizing your mobile app over developing new apps or feature? Higher and faster ROI. We’ve developed Apigee Mobile Analytics to help you get early wins through performance analytics and configuration management, and is applicable to just about all six recommendations above. 

If you have comments, questions, or need help optimizing your mobile app, feel free to reach out to us at mobile@apigee.com.

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