Not only are millions more people in South Africa accessing the internet than ever before, but they are doing it in different ways than before. Mobile has been evolving into the primary, go-to channel customers use to connect with their favourite brands for a few years now, hugely surpassing desktop. Put two and two together and you’ll see that this rise in internet usage is synonymous with a rise in both online marketing and e-commerce.

PricewaterhouseCoopers has predicted that by 2017 South African consumers will be spending a total of R59.6 billion on internet access (a massive leap from 2014’s R19.8 billion).

https://www.webgrowth.co.za/blog/internet-marketing-in-south-africa-today/

Businesses, both large and small, are taking the internet by storm and harnessing the power that digital marketing has to offer for marketing, sales and customer engagement. It is becoming increasingly evident that customers prefer to shop and interact with brands in a mobile environment, rather than through any other channels.

In fact, 90% of the time spent on mobile devices is devoted to app use alone. https://www.apptentive.com/blog/2016/08/18/10-new-app-marketing-strategies/ So, if your mobile game is not strong, your customers will seek a more intuitive mobile shopping experience with one of your competitors.

We live in a world increasingly driven by apps. Apple’s famous “there’s an app for that” saying is more of a truism these days than it is a marketing ploy. Research from Mobithinking (https://mobiforge.com/) suggests that the estimated number of app users worldwide will hit more than four billion by the end of 2017. Such a figure not only indicates the growing demand for mobile applications, but the reality lies in the fact that mobile content is shaping the way people utilise their mobile devices.

Customers require a mobile app to be a major touchpoint between them and their favourite brands.  Your company is only as good as the software on which it runs, making it hard to ignore this pressing need. Your business doesn’t just run on a desktop, in an office, on weekdays, from 9-5. Your business is a 24/7 operation and it needs to be treated as such. Mobile applications allow you to operate with this mentality.

According to the digital in 2017 global overview:

https://wearesocial.com/blog/2017/01/digital-in-2017-global-overview

  • More than half the world now uses a smartphone;
  • Almost two-thirds of the world’s population now has a mobile phone;
  • More than half of the world’s web traffic now comes from mobile phones;
  • More than half of all mobile connections around the world are now ‘broadband’;
  • More than one in five of the world’s population shopped online in the past 30 days.

Equipped with this information, it seems unfathomable not to have your own mobile app. Without it, you’re leaving a massive gap in your customer retention and engagement. A gap that your competitors will happily fill.

Understanding that an effective mobile strategy involves more than just a mobile-friendly website, is seeing more and more business’ following this global trend. In today’s mobile environment, there is a need for a holistic solution – whether for business or private use – to increase brand awareness through visibility and greater customer engagement.

Up until recently, tailor-made apps were for organisations with substantial budgets, until App Rocket – identifying a need in the market – developed a complete, feature- rich app to suit your business, no matter the size and complexity, and most importantly, for a feasible cost.

Read on for 9 steps you can take to create a mobile app for your business to:

  • Retain more customers
  • Increase customer lifetime values
  • Engage with customers to increase referral business
  • and so much more!

Step One: Define your objectives with a Mobile App

What do you want to achieve with your mobile app? It is of the utmost importance to define business objectives and goals before you start.

It’s one thing to know what features you would like to include in your app, but if you are not clear about why you are building the app, it will make it difficult to assess whether the features will assist in meeting the objectives or if they have even been successful.

You may be thinking: Why do companies build mobile apps?

Mainly to retain existing customers, provide a better customer service experience or to attract new potential business. That been said, your app needs to deliver these objectives, making it essential not to skip this planning process, ensuring that your objectives are clearly defined before you start.

Here are some examples of some key objectives of a mobile app:

  1. AwarenessGetting your brand or product known
    2. Productivity – Possibly saving people time or reducing the workforce required or reducing complexity in a system
  2. CommunicationThis depends upon what and to/with whom you are trying to communicate
    4. Interaction (Engagement) – Are your users doing what you wanted them to do?
    5. Loyalty – Similar to Engagement but you may want to measure specific loyalty program components
    6. mCommerce – Sales, sales sales

Once you’ve decided on your app objectives, you’ll be ready to start defining your target audience, which is an essential step way before even considering the actual app features.

Step Two: Lay out your App functionality & features

Once your main objectives are defined, you can focus on the layout of the app in order to meet those objectives.

Write down what your ideal solution would look like in as much detail as possible

Some key things you’ll want to consider when doing that:

1). Is your app paid or free?

2). Is it an app for internal processes or customer focused?

3) User Simplicity – Convenient user interface. The simpler it’s delivered, the better for you. All the content should be accessed in the simplest way possible. Let clients perform every action with ease, and you will not lose them. That is the thing that keeps mobile apps going and makes them popular.

2) Accessibility – The app needs to be accessible on all platforms, hence the app should be specifically designed and thoroughly tested on each device you choose.

3) Good performance –  The speed of loading mustn’t keep users waiting.

4) Security. This issue is vital to many apps. It is important to keep user’s private information secure and it must be highlighted

5) Support and updates. To build a long-standing app, you need to consider support and updates. Maintain the server. Ensure that your content is made up of up-to-date, relevant information.

6) Feedback and contact means. Be open to everyone and engage clients into mutual communication. Let clients leave suggestions, rates, reviews. Include contact means and click-to-call, if required. Make communication as quick and simple as possible, with a minimum number of taps and text input.

7) Personalisation options – Flexible settings are a must

8) Search. Create an intuitive system of search and filters. Search matters, when the app delivers much content.

9) Analytics – this feature allows usage tracking and provides information about user behaviour. This information is vital to upgrading the app and continued success.

10) Social media integration. Turn sharing into an easy and productive way for other people to get acquainted with you.

Step Three: Competitor Research

Entering a market without performing a competitive analysis is about at outrageous as driving with your eyes closed.

Yet so many people do it…

If you can’t see the obstacles ahead of you then your chances of success are massively reduced.

Competitive analysis is about risk mitigation and identifying a gap in the market so that you can get a solid footing in the market.

Upon completing these exercises, you will have a clear vision of the competitive landscape, enabling you to establish where threats lay and most importantly, you won’t be putting your success up to chance. Knowledge allows for smart, calculated and accurate decisions.

Step Four: Sketch the Mobile App & Use Cases

With your app feature set mapped out and the functionality researched, it’s time to look at how all these individual pieces come together.  It is advisable to sketch out each screen of the app to:

  • ensure each use case makes sense in practice
  • connect the dots from one feature to the next showing the user experience that someone will go through based on their use case

The recommended concept called wireframing is the best way to achieve this. A wireframe is a skeleton version of your app using only lines and shapes. This gives us a functional representation of the app that can be walked through step by step.

You can do this offline on paper using something like SneakPeekIt, or you can use one of many wireframing tools and templates.

If you’re Adobe Suite savvy, here are some templates you can use for wireframing:

https://speckyboy.com/20-free-web-mobile-wireframe-templates/

https://speckyboy.com/free-wireframe-templates-mobile-app-web-ux-design/

If you want to use a specialised tool, we recommend one of these:

Balsamiq Mockups

Gliffy

Mockflow

Below is an example of the kind of images for each of the use cases your app covers:

This will map out the flow users will take from opening your app to achieving one of the goals you’ve set out to achieve

Step Five: Testing & Customer Development

With the use cases mapped out based on the objectives set, it’s testing time!

You will want to test the use cases and individual screens you’ve wireframed to see if the experience is intuitive enough, addressing the customers’ needs in the right way.

Separate the screens and use a tool like Invision to make the wireframe interactive. With Invision you connect one screen to the other to simulate the user experience someone would go through in your app.

The Invision link can then be sent to customers or anyone who will be able to test the use case and see how functional it is. Ask them to start from opening the app to achieving the particular goal you’re after.

Along the way, you can request feedback from the tester with regards to improvements and anything remaining unclear. This phase, if carried out correctly, establishes whether everything is laid out correctly and determines the ease of use.

Step Six: Revise & Test

During the testing process, you’ll inevitably get feedback on the app. Most importantly, you require feedback around navigation – if buttons and prompts were logical – ensuring there is no difficulty in achieving the end result. Based on this feedback, either a step back to the wireframing will be necessary, alternatively, if the app is practical and easy to use, you are then ready to move to step seven.

Step Seven: Choose a Language or Platform

At this stage, you should have your app use cases defined, functionality mapped out and a working wireframe of your app.

The next step is to choose a programming language to code your app or a mobile app building platform to create your app. If your choice is to create your app through an app building platform – such as AppRocket– move to the next step, however, if you’ve decided to code your app, then you will need to choose a programming language on which to build your app.

In the realm of mobile apps, there are two ways you can go:

  • Native App Development

A separate app would be built from scratch for whatever mobile operating system you wish to launch it for. If you wanted to have an app go on the Apple App Store and on the Google Play Store, you’d have to build two apps from the bottom up. The alternative to this is using a framework for cross-platform development.

  • Mobile App Frameworks

These frameworks are hybrid frameworks that allow you to build an app once and deploy it across multiple platforms. For example, PhoneGap is a popular framework that allows the single app you build, to be compiled and distributed to iOS, Android and Windows phones, through the respective app stores.

Some of the most popular hybrid mobile app frameworks include:

Step Seven and A Half: Design

If you’ve chosen to build the app with a developer through either a framework or from scratch, you now need to design the mobile app’s User Interfaces (UI).

Here’s an example of what your mobile UI designs might look like when they’re ready:

To help inspire you, here are 20 well designed mobile user interfaces.

During this phase, each screen of the mobile app and the elements that may be present in the app (like graphs or sliders) will be designed.

If you are going to spend tens of thousands of dollars on a developer, then this may be a good time to bring a designer on board. Behance and Dribbble are two great places to find designers. You can search for “mobile UI” on either site, identify some designs you like and then contact that designer to see if they can design your app. 

Step Eight: Mobile App Testing

If you feel you are at a point where you think the app is ready, it is then time to test.

Whether you’ve built your app using a mobile app builder or a developer to customer code it – testing is a crucial step in the app creation process.

In most cases, there are two rounds of testing with any mobile app. When you are custom developing an app, you may even have 10 or more rounds of testing, the focus being on an internal test and an external test.

Internal testing is when you and your team test the app as if you were the end user. This can be automated or done with the help of software. The goal of this round of testing is to identify bugs, see if there are any user experience issues and ensure things work as you’ve designed them to.

External testing is where you bring in people that are not familiar with you, to test the app and give feedback. The feedback could be bug related, but mostly it’s about the user experience and determining just how intuitive the app is.

Some app testing tools and services that can help:

These tools are used to assist with refining the app, to achieve the objectives.

For example, if it’s hard for someone to navigate to the rewards section of your app and get registered, then it’s likely many others down the road will avoid registering for your rewards program because of its difficulty.

Step Nine: Launch your Mobile App

Finally, you’ve made it!

You now have a well-designed app created, tested and ready to launch. It’s time to plan your launch strategy. In most cases, mobile apps are built with the focus on existing customers and there are several relatively easy ways to launch it:

  • Put a Banner on Your Site

Simply find an area of your site most of your existing customers would frequent – like a blog – and put a banner there announcing your mobile app.

Here’s a great example:

  • Email Your List

E-mailing your customer list is one of the easiest ways to get your app out there. A simple email announcing that the app is now live with links to download it, is all you need. If you don’t want to send an email just announcing the app, you can add a link to the app to your email signature, so that every email reminds people to download that app.

  • Post-It to Social Media

Another effortless, cost effective way to get it noticed is to post a link to download your app on social media. You can do this regularly to capture new customers without annoying them.

AppRocket can, however, provide you with a 360-degree solution to your own business app, incorporating everything from the planning right the way to the testing and launching of your app.

‘Apping’ has never been so easy and affordable. Get in touch