Why businesses need to be thinking in terms of platforms, not products

Published: 12/05/2021
Author: Vidatec

Mobile apps have stolen the limelight in recent years. When Apple iOS App Store launched in 2008, it went live with 500 apps for people to download and use. Today, that figure is closer to 2 million. That’s because apps are great. They provide a smooth end-user experience and are designed with speed, flexibility and convenience in mind. Apps have become such an intrinsic part of today’s digital landscape that businesses are practically falling over themselves to get native apps built for iOS and Android as part of their development strategy.

On the surface, these single-purpose apps solved some of the problems that have long been associated with platform development, such as long implementation cycles, high costs and difficult UX challenges. When the app boom arrived, most CTOs were glad to see the back of platforms. However, this new app-first mentality is creating a fresh set of problems for businesses that want to scale and grow, from poor data pipelines to sub-par content management systems – all of which can stifle growth and adversely impact customers. Apps are absolutely here to stay, but in terms of business development and digital adoption it is much more important to take a holistic view of apps as being part of platforms.

Data pipelines and the customer experience

Businesses are built on data. Running a business without data is like trying to drive a car without fuel; it isn’t going to go anywhere no matter how many times you try to start it. Just like data, that fuel must be refined and optimised to maximise performance. The problem for many businesses today is that they’re often drowning in data before they’ve even begun, and that data is often siloed and ringfenced, limiting its potential. It isn’t refined, it isn’t optimised, and it isn’t helping to improve the all-important bottom line.

An app-first approach might make sense from a marketing perspective, increasing brand awareness and getting your brand into people’s pockets with a great user experience, but the trouble with app-first approaches is that they’re often not aligned with broader business strategy. You can design and build the most intuitive and user-friendly app on the market, but how is that app utilising the data it gathers? Is user behaviour being monitored? How is the app updated with new products, features or services? In other words, is the app fully integrated as part of an overarching multi-touchpoint strategy?

This is a crucial question for e-commerce businesses who might have a website, a distribution facility and high street branches scattered across the country. Their data and touchpoints should be aligned perfectly for the best customer experience, with each channel being updated in real-time according to things like availability, distribution times and more. For these businesses, platforms – not apps – are the key to a solid foundation.

But what about digitally native platforms, or businesses that are literally built around a single-purpose app like Uber or Deliveroo?

Platforms and app businesses go hand-in-hand

Nobody thinks to use their desktop PC or laptop to order an Uber, nor would they pick up their phone to call for one like they would a traditional taxi. It’s an app-based business through and through, and customers use it for its flexibility, speed and because it offers a reliable experience. From a customer’s perspective, Uber is 100% an app-based business. However, if we were to peel back the curtains and take a look at what was going on behind the scenes, it’s clear that Uber is in fact a platform-based business.

Millions of user accounts and records need to be managed, marketing data needs to be gathered and segmented according to customer personas and geography, an entire fleet of drivers and their vehicles need to be managed, and that’s just the beginning. Uber was able to scale up because it approached its app-based business with a platform-first mentality. If you want your app-based businesses to succeed, you’ll likely need to take the same approach. Luckily, that’s where Vidatec can help.

The platform first approach with Vidatec

We’ve worked hard to earn an excellent reputation for mobile and app development at Vidatec. We know the value of taking a design-led approach to frontends, mastering UX to optimise conversions, increase basket sizes and lower cart abandonment rates. However, one of the key reasons our clients choose us is because of our handle on broader platform-based business functions, from website development to the implementation of CMS and CRM tools, as well as the application of technologies like AI and ML to enhance data segmentation and flow. By zooming out in this way your business can focus not only on in-app customer behaviour, but on every single customer touchpoint – closing communications loops, decreasing the cost of acquisition, encouraging repeat purchases and more.

Your app should be a core part of your digital ecosystem, built on a data-centric platform that is scalable, futureproof and easy to adapt. To find out more about how we can help you develop a cross-platform digital experience across mobile and web, get in touch today.