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Emily Rogers
June 30, 2016

5 Mobile Trends You Should Consider Before You Build an App

So you’ve decided you need an app.  No doubt you’ve reached that conclusion because you need to meet a specific need or solve a problem. Perhaps your customers want more information about product features or your employees need training resources in the field. Simple problems are best solved with simple solutions, but even if you’re not investing thousands in a multi-featured solution, it can help to be aware of the market trends that shape app development these days. Even simple apps are impacted by market forces, and the users and customers of your app will have expectations based on what else they’re engaging with in the world of mobile apps.

Here are  5 trends to be aware of and tips to think about before you build an app. These trends may also be good to keep in mind for when it’s time to upgrade and expand.

1. Everyone’s Multi-Screening

No one looks at a single screen anymore. A global study from Adobe found that 83% of global consumers multi-screen, meaning they split their focus between two screens at the same time. Your customers may be working on a laptop while they use your app on their smartphone, or watching TV with the iPad on their lap. On average, people use at least 2 devices simultaneously for large parts of their day. This is not only mentally draining, it also means that people are distracted, rather than focusing their energy on one thing at a time.  



Source: Adobe State of Content 2016


When designing an app for a multi-screen environment, the primary focus should be on simplicity. App developers can remove distracting content, keep additional features to a minimum and help guide users through clearly labelled, uncluttered workflows. Adobe found that ¾ of app users feel good about how productive they can be when engaging with multiple screens simultaneously. Rather than battling against the trend, look for opportunities to connect or engage users with related experiences on other screens. People don’t tend to choose one screen over another these days. Instead they move back and forward between screens and are happiest when the experience flows seamlessly.  

2. We’re Shopping in Three Places at Once

Today’s shopper does a lot of research and preparation before walking into a store.  People are looking up product features, prices, reviews and recommendations online and via apps before making a buying decision. While this is not a new phenomenon, these days the mobile activity doesn’t stop when someone walks into a store.  More than half of consumers have used their mobile device to continue researching while in store. It’s called Showrooming, and in certain groups that number is even higher. A survey of U.S. consumers found that as many as 72% of 30 - 44 year olds have participated in showrooming activities. With web search right at their fingertips, people are no longer happy to head straight to the checkout. Instead they’ll whip out their phone and do a quick search for better deals elsewhere  Location targeting and clever use of data means retailers can now serve up ads to customers while they’re hunting for deals from within their competitors’ stores.

But it’s not all about cost cutting and stealing customers. Retailers can do much to take advantage of a captive audience with mobile devices in hand. Apps that help people find out more about your products when in store will capture their attention and keep them focussed on your brand. Apps can be used to serve up information about product features, special offers, stock levels, diet advice, nutrition panels and even demonstration or usage videos that supplement customer service activities.



Source: SecureNet The Way We pay

3. A Virtual World is On The Horizon

Most app developers are not considering virtual reality features yet, or even planning to in the near future. But the fact remains that customers are increasingly drawn to highly engaging, immersive experiences on their mobile devices. Early adopters are keen to disengage from reality and dive into the experiential world of VR. It’s a VIP world of virtual interaction that most of us won’t experience for some time yet.  



The Oculus Rift is a popular Virtual Reality headset


But the biggest  brands are already investing and we should expect to hear more and more about VR in many industries and contexts. There are obvious applications in gaming and entertainment, but VR experiences can also add value in the fields of education and training, tourism, health, and even shopping. Already, innovative brands are creating VR department stores, stocked with a personalised selection of products based on who’s looking. This level of hyper-personalisation is highly appealing to some and meets the needs of an increasingly demanding audience. This kind of Immersive, interactive experience has no place in most functional, practical and enterprise apps, but all app developers can - and should - make the best possible use of visual techniques to make content engaging and interesting for users. People have high expectations of mobile apps and place great value on visual beauty, even when it doesn’t offer any practical benefit.  In an Adobe survey, 59% of people said they’d prefer to engage with content that’s beautiful over a more simply presented alternative.


Source: Adobe State of Content 2016

4. App Discovery is Being Reinvented

For many years, awareness and discovery have rated among the top challenges for app developers and marketers. One of the players with the most to gain from solving this problem is Google. As the web becomes increasingly app-centric Google knows more and more people are searching for content in their favourite apps before resorting to Google Search. Google needs a way to help people search for and evaluate content within apps, without actually downloading and searching the apps. Late last year they introduced a change to search results in their Google app for Android. For selected apps, instead of directing people to the app store to download, Google now streams the app content straight into the web browser. This means if someone is after a piece of information that’s only available in an app, they’ll be able to grab it straight from Google, without downloading the app. For now this is only available on Android phones, for Google App users, and only with certain apps. As a trend however, these moves have significant ramifications - both positive and negative - for app developers.


Google App Streaming - How it works


Many app developers would be delighted with an opportunity to build awareness through discovery in Google Search. Others may be challenged when customers have less of a reason to download their app anymore.  Game changing moves from big players like Google can lead to rapid adjustments in consumer behaviour. While it’s still early days for Google app streaming, it’s worth being clear on how you’ll reach your target audience. Having a direct relationship with your users means you can directly ask them to download your app and explain the benefits. Developers catering for a broader market should be able to articulate a discovery plan and be ready to respond when the market changes.

5. We’re All Watching Mobile Video 

In 2016 more than half the time people spend watching videos will be on a mobile device. Cisco recently reported that mobile video accounted for 55% of total global data traffic. There’s no mistaking the meteoric rise of mobile video consumption. People love watching videos on their personal devices. As attention spans shrink and people need more and more stimulation to stay focussed, video is the perfect antidote. It’s visually appealing, engaging and memorable. Video has the potential to cut through distraction and create memorable connections on an emotional level. Clever use of video content can build richer experiences with a far more powerful impact than text alone. App developers should consider how video could be incorporated in app content to strike a more visually engaging chord. Training and education material is well suited to the video format, as are product guides, FAQs and instruction manuals. With production costs dropping, video content is more viable than ever before and mobile audiences globally are undoubtedly keen to engage with what you create.

Know Your Customer!

No matter the scope of your app development project, it’s worth keeping an eye on the trends that will impact on how your users and customers engage with what you build.  Even if virtual reality, mobile video and showrooming are far removed from the goals of your simple app, remember that this is the world your customers live in. By being aware of their expectations you’re best placed to grab every opportunity to surprise and delight them.  

Get in the loop with the latest mobile trends by downloading our white paper, Mobile App Trends: What You Need to Know in 2017.

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