No, You Don't Need an App

Mobile Strategy: No, You Don’t Need an App

With the iPhone released nearly 10 years ago, mobile web and apps have been around for quite a while now. Still, the question continues to come up: Do I need an app?

The short answer? No.

The long answer? It depends on what you’re trying to do.

As mobile started to take off and the world was enamored with the new app economy, the immediate rush of thinking was to either build an app or miss out on mobile. The question most people didn’t ask was this: What will an app accomplish that my website won’t?
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The Future of TV isn’t apps | TechCrunch

My Thoughts: This whole notion of apps for TV is so misguided. Seriously who wants a separate app for every channel? People don’t watch channels, they watch programming. And all this segmentation between the different apps and what content is locked behind each is a mess.

Amazon has it partly right with their recent additions of HBO, Starz and Showtime as services directly within Amazon Video. But it’s still messy.

That said, it’s not like cable or satellite has it much better. (I hate trying to remember what channel # HBO is. Much less remembering what show is on what network and what channel that network is on.)

Seriously – just build a system where I can say “watch Westworld” and then “watch Scream Queens” right after and I’ll be much happier than I am right now. As it currently stands, I’m switching inputs, or at the very least switching between HBO Now and Hulu.

It’s 2017. This is ridiculous … and it’s only going to keep getting worse as providers keep up adding their own original content and locking it behind their apps and paywalls.

I want “Spotify Radio” for TV, I want to select a show and get suggested ones like that appear next. I want all content to be linked, I want to select a TV star and see all they’ve appeared it. I want to click on a writer and find out more about them. I want my remote to be my phone and control center for all content. I want shows I can interact with meaningfully on it. 

TV is about to go under the most radical transformation imaginable. Lines are going to blur. What is stored locally and what in the cloud? When does TV become Video? What should usage rights be for nations and devices? Do we need a set top box anymore?

Source: The Future of TV isn’t apps | TechCrunch

An Obvious But Unused Application of Geofencing + Mobile in Retail

I’m sitting here at the Orlando Airport, waiting for my flight, thinking about everything I learned during my second trip to the eTail Connect conference. As usual, it was a fantastic experience, with a lot of great conversations with a lot of really smart people in the e-commerce industry. We discussed issues like fraud, personalization, payment processing, social sign-in, loyalty, communication strategies and a lot more … but of all the conversations I had, there’s one in particular that keeps coming back to me.

During the cocktail reception the first night, I met with my friend John and we were discussing his company’s geofencing and beacon technologies. As I currently work in a pureplay dotcom, geofencing isn’t of that much use to me – but it’s a topic I’ve always found interesting. Just being part of the retail community, what’s going on in omnichannel always fascinates me, as they deal with different variations of the problems I deal with, and have to look for other solutions and integrations that make sense across their physical and digital presences.

Anyway, we were talking about geofencing and beacons and I told John how impressed I’ve been with Target’s use of the technology so far. Even things like little reminders to use my cartwheel app when I’m in store are great uses of the tech, as I often forget about Cartwheel until I’m at checkout, and by then it’s too late for me to start looking at offers or scanning my products in the cart. The reminder as I walk in the door has been helping me here considerably.

We talked about this and other uses geofencing has been helpful in, and as we talked we got onto the subject of how the tech can be used to help guide you around the store to help find the departments and items you might be looking for. Then came the “eureka” moment.

My wife and I recently built a new house with a nice deck overlooking our creek. We want to spend more time out there enjoying the view, but the patio furniture we had was not quite matching the style of the new house – so we were in market for something new. Target had exactly what we were looking for, a little chat set called Carag, but every time we went to the store we found out it wasn’t in stock (and they didn’t sell it online). So we kept checking back. Sometimes we’d call, but othertimes we’d just ask when we were in the store for another shopping reason.

The problem I kept running into though was that there was never anyone working in the patio section – at least no one I could find. I had a simple question: do you have this in a box in back? All I needed to do was ask an associate and they could check and if so, they just had a $200 sale. As I discussed this experience with my John I thought of all the other times I’ve been in stores and wanted something or had a question but needed to track down an associate to get help (I actually had a similar experience at Target again the other day when I wanted a new Fitbit but needed someone to get it for me from their locked areas).

So, this all leads to my big question / idea: Why don’t stores add in “call for assistance” into their apps? Sure, a few stores have buttons on kiosks for this, but again you still have to hunt to find them (just like hunting for an associate). With geofencing and beacon technology, working in conjunction with your store app, you should be able to easily allow your shoppers to tap a button to request help, then send a ping with the rough location to your sales associates, telling them where you are and that you need some assistance. In an ideal experience, I’d tap the button, the associate would get pinged, and I’d be told to hold tight for a few minutes because someone is on their way to exactly where I am.

Since I don’t work in physical retail, I have no idea how many sales are lost simply due to customers not being able to find an associate at the time they have a question. What I do know is that I’ve walked out of stores plenty of times when I went in with intent to purchase, but wasn’t able to get the help I needed to get the product / close the sale.

It’s a pretty simple use of the technology, but it would give customers the ability to ask for help when they need it, where they need it, rather than hope that an associate and a guest would cross paths at the right time in-store.

So there you go stores. Go do this.

… and while you’re at it, let me pay for my purchase in-store with my phone, so I don’t have to wait in lines. Barnes and Noble, I’m looking at you in particlar … you don’t want to know how many piles of books I’ve not bought because your lines were too long and slow, and then just put them on a table, walked out the door and bought them on Amazon instead. But that’s for another conversation.


“Selling” Should Never Get in the Way of Usability

The other day I bought tickets for Batman V. Superman, and with that purchase I got a batch of free digital comics. Pretty great deal, especially since even though I’m a big comics fan, there were a few included that I hadn’t read yet. The extra bonus? They were on a digital comics platform that I’ve been a long-time customer of, so they were getting added the ecosystem I’ve already built up a library in, vs. having to use a whole new system just to access the content.

Before I get into the meat of this article though, I have a sidenote that will put things in better context. Even though I said above that I’m a longtime customer of the platform, I have to admit I hadn’t used it in quite some time. Back when I used an iPad as my primary device, I used this service extensively. But then I traded in my iPad for a Surface Pro (which was one of the smartest things I’ve ever done, by the way). My Surface was on Windows 10. The comics platform had a Windows 8 app. It didn’t work at all. I don’t think I ever once got a comic to load without it crashing. A few months later, they announced they were dropping Windows support completely and that I should just use their web experience (which although nice, is nowhere near as useful as the old iOS app I was used to – and couldn’t be used offline). Long story short? I stopped buying from them.

In the time since, I’ve continued my love affair with comics, but have returned to the comic book store and the classic printed books as my format of choice. But I got these free comics … and there were a ton of other comics I’d bought previously through this platform that I hadn’t even gotten the chance to read, so I decided to dive back in.

Like most everyone these days, I pretty much live on my phone. It’s an Android (a 2nd generation Moto X, to be precise), so I decided to get the comics on there. I downloaded the app. Simple, like it should be. But then I tried to use the app, and was reminded of the other issue I had back when I’d been trying to use the Windows 8 app, because that same issue was front and center here: There was no clear way for me to access my library of purchased comics.

What I got instead of a quick access to my comics was a page with all the stuff I could buy to use in the app. In fact, if I didn’t know that the app was actually the way you consume your purchased products, I’d have thought it was purely a shopping app. And while I can understand the reason to want to monetize in the app, what I couldn’t understand was why the “read my comics” area was ridiculously hard to find. I eventually found it, and every time I open the app I am starting to learn more and more where to go to get my actual purchased content – but that is not the way an app for consuming digital content should work, which leads me to the point of this whole article:

When you design any app or website, design with the purpose of fulfilling the user’s primary goal.

When you design any app or website, design with the purpose of fulfilling the user’s primary goal. In this instance, the main use of a digital comics app will in almost no instance ever be to just buy comics. It will be to read the comics. Yes, you want to monetize. Yes, the customer needs content to actually consume. But above all, the customer wants to experience his or her own brand of joy by actually reading the content.

Amazon gets this with their Kindle app. Yes there are promos, but the books in your library are what’s front and center. At Musicnotes our app is designed to let people access and use their sheet music. True, we don’t currently have in-app purchases, but even if we at some point do, they will not take over the main experience. If someone wants to shop, give them quick access to your store. If you want to promote, find relevant ways to cross-sell. Heck, you can even run a promo on your home screen – but don’t go to the extent where you actually make it difficult for the customer to use your product.

Here’s how I look at it: If you keep the customer’s ultimate goal in mind, and build your experience around helping them best realize that goal, you will succeed. A great experience isn’t just bells and whistles or personalized adds, it’s one that guides the customer to experiencing success in what he or she set out to do. When you do that, those customers come back. They tell their friends. Their LTV goes up, as does their word-of-mouth.

So again, don’t let your short-term goals get in the way of the customer. Figure out what the customer really wants to do, and help them do it. If they need to buy something to get there, help them along the way – but the main purpose in any interaction is to make your customer achieve their goal.

Oh, and yes I did like Batman V. Superman. It wasn’t perfect, but I liked it.