Mobile’s Ever-Evolving Role in Customer & Employee Experiences

The mobile devices we all rely on started as simple data-retrieving tools and quickly evolved into data-gathering goldmines for the enterprise. But as the latest and greatest technology seeps its way to warehouses, shop floors, and corporate offices, both the possibilities for businesses and the expectations of consumers grow to unprecedented heights.

Mobile experiences cover everything from B2C apps for ordering groceries to offline-capable portals for field service technicians. Offering a mobile experience is not a nice-to-have, value-added service anymore. It’s an essential prerequisite for organizations looking to differentiate and evolve for the better.

High competition and modern-day disruptions have led many industries to explore mobile, but exploration has been slow. Those that have progressed their mobile customer experience strategies are seeing benefits. An IDC survey reports that organizations that invested in digital transformation technologies — like mobile apps — in 2020 have seen a 20% increase in employee productivity, and 85% agree that enhancing the employee experience leads to better customer experiences.

Architecting The Experience

Delivering exceptional customer experiences hinges on the mobile app architecture. Your options are browser-based architectures like web and progressive web apps (PWAs) or App Store-based architectures like native and hybrid. The right framework for your app depends on the type of experience you want to provide users.

Web and Progressive Web Apps

If you’ve ever eaten at a restaurant that presented signs for QR codes instead of tangible menus, you’ve used a progressive web app. Like responsive mobile websites, PWAs run in web browsers but with the added benefits of offline use and push notification capabilities.

Building a PWA is one of the fastest ways to launch a simple app that doesn’t require device installation. Even though PWAs have limited device-specific capabilities, they create a richer user experience than responsive mobile websites.

PWAs are ideal for providing quick consumer experiences that need a few more features than basic websites. For example, Mendix uses a PWA to manage social distancing and the flow of employees at the Rotterdam office. Employees scan a QR code before entry, which takes them to a health check form. Once complete, the app shows the direction to the desk the employee is assigned to for that day.

Native and Hybrid Apps

Native apps provide the best customer experiences because they are designed for specific devices and operating systems. Users have a more tailored user experience because these apps can interact with native device features.

Since native apps are built in device-specific programming languages, you’ll need to develop an app for Apple devices and a separate app for Android devices. But using conventional development methods for multiple operating systems can be costly, time intensive, and only possible with highly specialized developers.

A faster alternative to native is a hybrid app. Written in cross-platform languages using a single codebase, hybrid apps are a mix of web and native. This is perfect if you want to launch a native-like app quickly, but the biggest benefits of hybrid apps are also the biggest hindrances. Since hybrid apps aren’t designed for specific operating systems, loading speeds are slower and overall app performance is inferior to native. Hybrid apps are quickly becoming obsolete because support is dwindling, and businesses are quickly realizing the undeniable value of native apps.

For engaging experiences, native is the way to go, and you can build a native app without traditional development. Forward-thinking low-code development platforms are equipped to streamline native app development by generating both Android and Apple apps using one model. Cross-platform tools such as Flutter and React Native also make development more accessible.

Related reading: Native vs. Web vs. Hybrid Apps vs. PWAs: The Pros & Cons

Going Beyond Just Mobile

Mobile technology is maturing beyond PWAs and native apps. The consumer space has long enjoyed connected smart devices, and forward-focused businesses are adapting the same technologies for industry use.

Sensors, IoT devices, wearables, and the like seamlessly integrate into user experiences to unite the digital and physical worlds — whether it’s in a warehouse, on a construction site, in the field, or on the shop floor. Here are a few examples:

  • Augmented reality glasses display plans, instructions, and messages so teams can work hands-free.
  • IoT connections gather data from machines and equipment to predict maintenance needs.
  • Sensors on smartwatches or lanyards automatically grant employees access to certain areas.
  • Digital twins virtually replicate physical products and environments for faster innovation.

Industry-specific technology is also making its way to the consumer space. Heads-up displays are an emerging trend in consumer vehicles, but the technology was originally developed to display data and flight information in military aircraft. Modern vehicles with heads-up displays help drivers keep their eyes on the road by showing dashboard information — like directions, mileage, messages, etc. — on the front windshield. Drivers don’t have to divert their attention to the center display or their mobile devices, improving safety for everyone on the road.

Arguably the most significant benefit of emerging smart technologies is the data they collect, which can be used to enhance user experiences and influence future processes to improve productivity, safety, and innovation.

Related reading: How Your Employee Experience Affects Your Customer Experience

Building Smart Apps for Smarter Customer Experiences

Creating smart mobile experiences takes more than a browser-based architecture. The cutting-edge tools and technologies available today require a sophisticated, smart app architecture to deliver exceptional customer and employee experiences. That’s why the future of mobile is smart apps.

Smart apps are advanced mobile apps that lay the foundation for immersive, ambient experiences. Compared to PWA and native apps, smart apps work proactively by collecting a massive amount of data from sensors, IoT devices, and other tools around the user. This data supports the three core attributes of smart apps: Contextual awareness, intelligence, and proactiveness.

  • Contextual Awareness – Context-aware apps know who the device user is, where the user is, and what the user is doing.
    Let’s say a doctor is entering a patient’s room in a hospital. A context-aware app can use location settings and sensors to automatically pull up the patient’s information on the doctor’s tablet as soon as they enter the room. The app becomes embedded into the doctor’s processes, creating a historical data trail that can be used to enhance context along the way.
  • Intelligence – Using context, analytics, algorithms, machine learning, and AI, smart mobile apps are highly intelligent.
    Smart apps continuously analyze data to provide app users with the most comprehensive, up-to-date information possible. In the doctor example, an intelligent app would explore historical data and present a detailed analysis of the patient’s symptoms and treatment options.
  • Proactiveness – Context and intelligence lead to proactiveness. Rather than a user seeking out the app, a smart app comes to the user by way of push notifications, chatbots, and messaging. Proactive apps also use context and intelligence to provide smart recommendations.
    A truck driver delivering packages shouldn’t have to update their location on their mobile device every time they stop. A proactive mobile app knows when and where a driver is doing their rounds. It knows what packages are on board and can work with vehicle technology to automatically unlock cages in the back once a driver stops at specific locations.
Looking Forward

In just a few years, mobile customer experiences have evolved from simple responsive websites to proactive smart apps that are reshaping entire industries. The near future looks to favor smart apps but developing them isn’t as straightforward. Conventional mobile development is a specialized field and although many businesses are putting forth the effort to create better mobile experiences, many are still struggling to build simple apps that connect to the cloud.

The silver lining is that there is ample opportunity to differentiate with a low-code application development platform. Whether you’re in need of a simple web app or an advanced smart app, the right platform will help you create the right mobile architecture for the right users, quickly and in cross-functional teams across the business and IT.

Low-code enables teams to innovate faster than other development methods. Experiment with several different app solutions a month, as opposed to maybe one a year. Low-code’s flexibility and accelerated development methods make it easier for organizations to build cutting-edge apps that enhance efficiency and provide unbeatable mobile customer experiences.

If you’re interested in more information, do read Mobile’s Ever-Evolving Role in Customer & Employee Experiences blog from Mendix.

Post by Johan den Haan

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