Smartphones have opened up a world of opportunity for brands. With mobile enterprise apps set to grow 500% by 2014, smartphone technology has the potential to create a new frontier in customer service.

Mobile customer service applications can offer a wealth of beneficial information to brands, enabling targeted marketing, cross-selling & push messaging, and gleaning real-time customer feedback.

But for it to meet the needs of both customer and brand effectively takes careful consideration. Get it wrong, and customers won’t think twice about broadcasting their frustration via the omnipotent social media channel. In fact, 63% of adults would be less likely to buy from a company via other purchase channels if they experienced a problem conducting a mobile transaction.

So, what are those all-important dos and don’ts of mobile app development?

DOS:

Geo-targeted push notifications

Mobile devices are becoming increasingly adept at tapping into available customer data, such as location, to make for an autonomous user experience.  Geo-targeted push messaging essentially means presenting information that is tailored and relevant to the receiver.

So, an example of this in action might be if a clothing retailer automatically sends a push message about fashion events happening in London to users that it has detected live in the vicinity. Going one step further, the same retailer might send details about an offer on umbrellas to all customers that it detects live in Manchester during a particularly rainy period.

Geo-targeted advertising

Geo-targeted ads work in much the same way.  Basically, an app would collate all possible data from the customer to send well-timed, relevant advertising.

If, for example, an app could detect specific latitudes and longitudes about a person that suggested they would find a certain product useful or desirable, they could push adverts for that product over another.

Minority Report - Branded Apps

It’s all going a bit Minority Report

Although in 2002 film Minority Report, this premise seems a little creepy, it’s actually a positive step to make advertising more valuable for both the brand and end user.

In fact, recent research revealed that over a third of consumers would be interested in advertising that was personalised to them.

Creating sales opportunities

Shopping on the go is now commonplace thanks to emergent mobile technology. Consumers tend to access mobile apps when there’s a pocket of time to fill, such as on the morning commute, waiting for an appointment or on lunchtime at work.

Keeping them engaged, interested, and making any potential transactions as simple as possible is the aim of the game. Features like stored passwords and billing information help to keep the process streamlined and drive sales.

Beat the bounce

‘The Bounce’ – otherwise known as when a customer enters a store and then leaves without making a purchase – can present a real conundrum for online retailers.

Customers might leave the site without buying anything for a number of reasons. Maybe their frugal conscience won the battle of wills this time, or maybe they didn’t find what they were looking for. It happens, and there’s not a lot you can do about it.

But what does need to be picked up is the instance of dropped basket cases, either because the transaction process was too long and convoluted, or they simply got distracted and couldn’t be bothered entering their order details again.

Fortunately, emerging CRM systems are going some way to cater for instances such as these.  Emergent apps are able to use a smartphone’s GPS to detect the user’s location and automatically fill in address data, whilst some integrated CRM systems are able to recognise dropped basket cases and inform representatives who can then investigate.

Pay special attention to usability

Choosing to interact with a brand from a mobile device is a different decision to doing so from a laptop or PC. There are commonalities, of course, but mobile and tablet devices are designed for easy-to-use, on-the-go browsing. So treat your content as such.

When developing a mobile app, don’t just make a replica of your website. Include sliding navigations, easy access to search and sharing features from a clear navigation panel, and keep the design image-based and crisp.

DON’T:

Make it battery-draining

Yes, smartphone technology has brought a wealth of potential to our fingertips. We can shop, share, listen, watch, and gossip anytime, anywhere, no longer confined to the humble SMS text message. But whilst you could get away with only plugging your trusty ‘3310’ in every other day or so, the average Apple or Samsung’s battery life will have long since depleted.

Furthermore, research has revealed that ‘ad-serving’ (the process of connecting ads to digital networks) can be held responsible for up to 75% of app-related battery drain.

Which brings us nicely onto the next big ‘don’t’…

Pack it with ads

Customers are choosing to interact with your brand through your dedicated app, whilst some static or well-placed ads can be fairly inoffensive and on occasion even useful, in-your-face pop-up and video ads are just plain irritating.

Firstly, the tiny ‘x’ on pop-up ads are easily miss-clicked, redirecting the app user to a web browser. Not only is this inconvenient, but it takes time. So, unlike if the ad hadn’t been there to begin with, I now have to wait for my browser to load a web-page I have no interest in accessing on my device, and then navigate back to the app to continue using it.

Secondly, video ads that play sound – usually during a particularly quiet and reflective moment in the office – can be interruptive and annoying. Yes ads can bring in extra revenue, but make sure they don’t do so to the detriment of user experience.

Pester customers for feedback & ratings  

This is another don’t in quite a similar vein as pop-up ads; from a usability perspective, no one wants to be stopped and redirected to another site (in this case the app store) to contribute ratings.

Positive ratings can help to push downloads, but be careful not to irritate your users by bombarding them with requests. Worst case is that you’ll drive them away from using the app full stop.

Forget looks matter

Typography, colour, and layout – it all matters. Humans are fickle souls; we want to feel like we’re using a premium service.

Try to think of it in terms of Brad Pitt’s success; the better looking it is, the longer we’re likely to spend looking at it. You want to make sure the design is clean and crisp whilst on-brand and most importantly, navigational.