You have a product. You have a service. You have a business plan. Now you want to leverage technology and build a relationship with your customers by offering them an app. I am here to talk you out of it.
Nobody wants an app
You may feel like you are extending your brand to your customers' smartphones by giving them an app. In reality, however, it is a false sense of security.
The concept of an app to install has been around ever since computers with permanent disk drives became widely available to consumers, i.e. the early 1990s. Things became a bit more convenient lately with the rise of App Stores and mobile payments. The fundamentals of the process have not changed – a brand, or a company, ask that you download an app and install it on your computer and use it.
Remember back in the 1990s when a “PC Magazine” issue would come with a CD with “free software” on it? It would have all sort of junk on it that brands wanted you to have on your computer. In that regard, little has changed except now brands want to occupy memory on your smartphone and track your every movement.
Asking people to install an app is just a way of creating barriers for people to start interacting with your brand. The reality is that nobody wants another app on their phone. What your customers want instead is a path of least resistance to getting something done – purchasing a product, booking a service, or contacting you.
There is something else that both you and your customers want – a relationship. Consumers aren't just looking for a service provider – they are looking for a trusted advisor. Both you and your customers will benefit from this long term relationship.
The path of least resistance
Building an app requires UX design, front end and back end coding, App Store approval process, and a never ending maintenance cycle. Most apps on the Apple App Store have meager retention rate. People install an app and then never use it.
On the other hand, there is a channel for reaching your customers that is not going away: messaging. To get straight to the point – you shouldn't build an app, you should make a chat bot.
In some ways, a chat bot is easier to develop than an app. You skip the whole process of UX design and front end development. You just focus on the interactions and the back end development. If you do it right, the back end can be reused for other forms of applications later. A chat bot, in other words, lets you reach your customers faster and cheaper.
Imagine a chat bot that is also an intelligent agent. Here is what I mean by that.
From the customer's perspective, an AI-backed chat bot delivers a truly personalized experience. It notifies the user of products and services that they might be interested in – based on what the agent learned about them.
From the customer's perspective what they perceive is a “robo-advisor” that is there for them permanently, from day one, to offer insight and advice uniquely suited just for them. It is as if this chat bot's only reason for existence is to make your customer's life better.
Some final thoughts
Regardless of whether you are planning an app or a chat bot, don't forget that there are three main dimensions to any business application:
- Your customer and how they interact with your brand,
- Your employees and how they deliver goods and services to your customers, and
- You, as a business owner, who needs a dashboard and key performance indicators to have insight into how your business is performing
You could accomplish all three with a chat bot, but that may not be appropriate. If I were architecting an app ecosystem for a brand, I would make a chat bot for the consumer and for the employees, but have an app for the business owner. I would evolve all three at the same time.
I wish I had concrete evidence or statistics to prove my point. You can google around and find articles out there on this topic, but for this post, I just wanted to get something out of my head.