This is a guest opinion article written by James Rosewell, Founder and CEO of 51Degrees.
At the start of the year, mobile topped the list of marketing trends for 2016 — making user experience for desktop, mobile and native apps the number one priority. By the year 2020, there are expected to be 6.1bn global smart phone users using multiple devices to browse and access mobile apps.
Recent findings from app analytics firm Flurry Insights found that the average time spent per day on mobile devices is two hours and thirty-eight minutes, with 80% of this time spent in apps, compared to 20% in a browser.
The need for apps is still debated, however – many businesses value their existence and rely on them for income and reputation maintenance. The ability to effectively monetise an app is an art and optimising each user’s experience holds the key.
To understand an app’s user base, app developers must look beyond the data that can be pulled from a user’s device. There are many intelligent solutions, such as device detection, that will help build a granular picture of customers, devices and behaviour. 51Degrees has recently launched an API for native app detection — a solution that will recognise thousands of device specifications in under a millisecond. Specifications include retail price of the device running the app, physical screen size, pixel density and the precise specifications of integrated components such as GPU, CPU, cores and Bluetooth radio support.
It is crucial that app developers and marketers understand how to interpret advanced data analytics to improve the overall user experience. It will allow apps to increase revenue through improved advertising, personalisation, message consistency and ease of use.
Personalisation can dramatically enhance user experience and it can only be achieved by understanding an app’s user base. Layout, content and product catalogues can then be tailored accordingly.
Devices have varying specifications and software capabilities that are often ignored by the employment of a “one size fits all” responsive web design mentality, which is not efficient in conjunction with apps. Consistency and brand messaging are key to encourage brand recognition and respect — the same applies for apps as, if it is done well, apps can nurture a loyal community. A solution must be sought that can effectively personalise all platforms.
Developers and businesses that implement a device detection solution can benefit from granular device intelligence to push new products and reorganise product catalogues. For example, if a user accessed a shopping app via an iPhone 6 — the app could push appropriate complementing products such as iPhone 6 cases or compatible speakers.
Aside from product recommendations, device intelligence can be used to remove the all too familiar “flash needs to be installed on device” error message — just one example of hundreds of software related constraints. If an app user’s software is not up to date or it cannot view video on the device, developers can tailor the experience to replace the content with an engaging, business-relevant alternative.
Navigation is another attribute that must be considered. Although the majority of smartphone devices are touch screen — it must not be assumed that every user that accesses an app can navigate, for example, a large drop down, touch menu.
Clunky apps can be detrimental to revenue and user experience. A study carried out by CA Technologies suggests that users will abandon an app and a brand, sometimes forever, if it does not load in less than six seconds — so time is of the essence.
Advertising is crucial in the monetisation of apps, particularly if they are free to download and access. However, adverts can often intrude on user interfaces and impact page navigation, resulting in users exiting apps prematurely. If advertising affects the usability of an app, it is unlikely a visitor will continue to use it. App developers need to ensure adverts are expertly placed so they are portrayed as a useful recommendation as opposed to an intrusive obstruction.
Advertising placement is now more important than ever with Apple and Samsung’s introduction of ad blockers — a significant threat to the advertising industry. By understanding the devices that are accessing an app — their screen size, software capability and price — developers can not only ensure that adverts are non-intrusive but also targeted by making assumptions about the user in relation to their chosen device.
In October 2015, Google acknowledged that the tools that have been used to date for mobile optimisations have resulted in the “broken mobile web”. In a bid to increase revenue via the mobile web, Google introduced Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) for publishers, a method of mobile optimisation to create multiple web pages for different devices.
AMP teamed with Google’s mobile-friendly search algorithm so it is now more important than ever to ensure that apps, mobile and desktop sites, are optimised for all devices and remain consistent across all platforms. This can be achieved by implementing a solution such as device detection to streamline content and advertising where necessary, optimise brand messaging on all devices and improve revenue-attributing features. If all platforms are in tune, brands can improve reputation and become a leader in their space.
Apps continue to be a dominant form of digital interaction as users shift to the mobile web. Regardless of business type, an app can help find and retain customers. Once an app has been properly optimised, it is far easier to monetise its service – until then it is often a costly luxury. The use of detailed data analytics will help app developers design interfaces that are unaffected by advertising, personalised and consistent with mobile websites. Simple solutions such as device detection — which is available for native apps – can do the leg work, readying apps for maximised revenue and industry success.
By James Rosewell
James Rosewell has 23 years experience working in the IT sector in almost every role imaginable. He founded and is CEO of 51Degrees, a small technology business specialising in device detection, producing open source solutions used by more than 1.5 million web sites globally.
51Degrees tools simplify creating web sites for mobile, tablets and desktop devices ensuring business return on investment is optimised. Clients include Unilever, eBay, Microsoft, IBM and 1000s more with case studies on-line.