How apps have led the way to a digital future
What would we do without our apps? Booking a train or plane ticket? There’s an app for that. Keep track of your bank account? There’s an app for that too. Monitor your health, order a takeaway, play a game? Yes, there’s an app for all those.
Mobile apps have transformed our lives to such an extent, it’s hard to think that they’re not yet 20 years old. They entered public consciousness when Steve Jobs introduced about 500 of them in the first Apple AppStore in 2008: from those small beginnings, Apple now offers nearly two million apps, many of them having a profound effect on the way that companies conduct their businesses.
With talk of the approaching metaverse and the Internet of Everything, we’re now reaching a new stage in the journey and it’s time to look at what apps have become. Let’s look at a bit of history: if you cast your mind back 20 years or so, the way that firms could interact with their customers was via a website, but this was often a hit and miss process. In those early days, corporate sites needed to be constantly updated, and to be fully responsive there was the need for human intervention. In fact, many business websites in the early days were little more than catalogues sitting on a PC (no mobile websites in those days) and were limited in their scope.
If you go back even further in time than that, there was even less scope for customer interaction. Companies had various types of promotions; the problem was that there was no way of working out what was successful. As industrialist Lord Leverhulme noted, “Half my advertising money is wasted. The problem is that I don’t know which half!” In the days before social media, online forums and comment pages, the only indication as to whether a company’s promotional budget was effective or not was watching the monthly sales figures – and they provided a very blunt guidance as to what was piquing interest.
And the salient point is that this was all one way: enterprises had a crude way of assessing the effectiveness of a promotional budget and customers had no way of expressing pleasure or displeasure – there was a lot of stumbling around in the dark.
The emergence of apps changed all that. Now businesses had a cast iron way not only to get to grips with how the company was perceived but also a means for communication with an audience.
This wasn’t immediately clear, however. Back in the early days of Apple’s iPhone, Jobs was unaware of the importance of apps. In an interview on the tenth anniversary of the AppStore, he explained how the success of the store had surprised everyone at Apple. “We didn’t expect it to be this big. The mobile industry’s never seen anything like this. To be honest, neither has the computer industry. [laughs] 60 million downloaded applications in the first 30 days,” he said.
The ‘neither has the computer industry’ that’s the real zinger here. It started out as an add-on for a phone – a novel download – but it’s changed the way that the whole computer industry operates. And beyond that, as technology has increasingly become the centre point in turning any good idea into a commercial prospect, the entire marketing industry has had to consider how best to incorporate apps and other platforms into their digital strategies.
Apps started to bring value to a brand, to bring customers closer, but now should be considered as part of something far more complex and sophisticated when it comes to an ongoing relationship between customer and brand across digital platforms.
Apps started to bring value to a brand, to bring customers closer, but now should be considered as part of something far more complex and sophisticated
The underlying truth is that apps are aimed at humans and to be effective, they must get to the heart of human behaviour. A travel app will recognise your journeys, a clothing retailer app will pick the colours and styles you like, a dating app has a vision of your ideal partner – these are all learned behaviours because the app developer has recognised there’s a human at the other end and has tried to reflect all those human complexities.
Hamlet, who surely could have made use of a decision-making app, appreciated the difficulties of reading humans. “What a piece of work is a man! How noble in reason, how infinite in faculty,” he mused. Every approach to digital transformation can only go part of the way. But the company that understands how to make the best use of digital channels and how to relate to their customers in this way will gain a real advantage against the competition.
And now the next stage – multi-platform, multi-channel experiences – is where brands need to be. Retailers like talking about the phygital experience – the bringing together of the physical and the digital world. So, the apps, the websites, the voice commands, the augmented reality and all the other digital touchpoints are inextricably linked with the physical world. (Next stop the metaverse?)
We at Vidatec have seen this evolution of apps – from those tentative first steps to becoming the central point in so many digital journeys, always available in the palms of our hands. We’ve grown as apps have grown, and we’re also taking a front seat as they continue to evolve into more sophisticated platforms of the future. This is how we remain ahead of the curve in digital transformation, and how we help our customers in doing the same.
To find out how we could help your business in its digital transformation strategies, you can get in contact with our team here.