De­sign, Per­for­mance, and Se­cu­rity of Apps are New Weapons in the Bat­tle for At­tract­ing Cus­tomers

Voice&Data - - FRONT PAGE - Srikanth RP srikan­thp@cy­ber­me­

Voice&Data: What are the key fac­tors that are in­flu­enc­ing ma­jor eCom­merce play­ers to move to app-only plat­forms?

Mitesh Agar­wal: Ac­cord­ing to an in­dus­try study, the num­ber of mo­bile In­ter­net users in In­dia has crossed 200 mn by June 2015. That is the po­ten­tial con­sumer base for an eCom­merce com­pany to tap if they have a good mo­bile ap­pli­ca­tion. Mo­bile In­ter­net pen­e­tra­tion is grow­ing at a faster pace than broad­band paving way for mCom­merce to over­take eCom­merce. A BCG study high­lights that the last 100 mn In­ter­net users will be dras­ti­cally dif­fer­ent from the first 100. The group will shift from be­ing 60% mo­bile led to 80% mo­bile led. The num­ber clearly is still high and in this light the writ­ing is on the wall for busi­nesses—mo­bile is the best way to reach con­sumers any­time, any­where.

The sec­ond rea­son for want­ing to shift an app only model is to re­duce op­er­a­tional ex­penses. There is stiff com­pe­ti­tion in the in­dus­try and eCom­merce play­ers are stretched thin to stay prof­itable. They don’t want to func­tion on mul­ti­ple plat­forms and apps of­fer an op­por­tu­nity to have a leaner op­er­a­tional model. Be­sides, with mo­biles, com­pa­nies can in­ter­act closer with the cus­tomers and of­fer them a per­son­al­ized shop­ping cart. Apps also en­able com­pa­nies to ad­ver­tise and mar­ket to cus­tomers more ac­cu­rately than web­sites, col­lect more de­tailed user data, and po­ten­tially in­crease cus­tomer loy­alty.

Voice&Data: What are the ad­van­tages and dis­ad­van­tages of app-only plat­forms?

Mitesh Agar­wal: With the grow­ing num­ber of smart­phones and in­crease in mo­bile In­ter­net pen­e­tra­tion, it makes per­fect sense for eCom­merce play­ers to switch to a mo­bile-only plat­form to reach a large cus­tomer base at a faster rate. It also helps them glean more ac­cu­rate cus­tomer in­sights and of­fer cus­tom­ized of­fers that have a higher rate of con­vert­ing into a pur­chase. For con­sumers, mo­bile apps of­fer the con­ve­nience of any­time any­where shop­ping.

How­ever, the flip side is—one in four mo­bile apps, once down­loaded, is never used again. That sug­gests a high per­cent­age of apps fall short of expectations. Com­pa­nies and peo­ple want and even de­mand im­me­di­ate ben­e­fit from the mo­bile ex­pe­ri­ence. If there is a lag or de­lay in pro­cess­ing a re­quest, a cus­tomer is less likely to go ahead with the trans­ac­tion. If mo­bile app de­vel­op­ers can’t in­no­vate or de­ploy quickly, users will sim­ply delete the apps or stop us­ing them. In fact, a re­cent study by Or­a­cle found that a poor mo­bile app ex­pe­ri­ence will make mil­len­ni­als less likely to use a com­pany’s prod­ucts or ser­vices. It also found that while they are happy to re­ceive sup­port in the form of value-added com­mu­ni­ca­tions, they are turned off by un­so­licited com­mu­ni­ca­tions in the form of push-no­ti­fi­ca­tions that are not rel­e­vant to their in­di­vid­ual needs. Se­cu­rity and pri­vacy of data are other con­cerns that will dis­cour­age a user from un­der­tak­ing a mo­bile trans­ac­tion. In this light a com­pany with an app-only plat­form has to a tread a fine line be­tween be­ing in­tru­sive and rel­e­vant.

Voice&Data: Do you en­vis­age a fu­ture where play­ers from other in­dus­tries (other than eCom­merce) start tak­ing the ini­tia­tive to app-only plat­forms?

Mitesh Agar­wal: Ac­cord­ing to the United Na­tions, six of the seven bil­lion peo­ple world­wide now have mo­bile phones. Be­sides, smart­phones have be­come more than just a phone. It is also a com­puter, cam­era, en­ter­tain­ment cen­ter, map, per­sonal trainer, shop­ping guide, and even your wal­let. In this con­text, it is not hard to imag­ine a fu­ture where it will be­come the only plat­form for do­ing commerce, sell­ing and en­gag­ing with a cus­tomer. Many sec­tors out­side the eCom­merce space could jump the band­wagon.

In fact, Uber in a sense paved the way for this tran­si­tion. Launched in March 2009, it quickly tapped into cus­tomers’ en­thu­si­asm for ‘ev­ery­thing mo­bile’ and com­pletely desta­bi­lized the tra­di­tional taxi model in the US which sim­ply could not match the agility of a fully mo­bile busi­ness. The model has caught up in In­dia and many taxi ser­vice providers are shift­ing and en­cour­ag­ing their users to use their app for book­ing. Hav­ing said that, as dis­cussed ear­lier, mo­bile has its lim­i­ta­tions and un­less th­ese is­sues are ad­dressed, busi­nesses will be weary to switch com­pletely to an app only-plat­form.

Voice&Data: What are the chal­lenges for or­ga­ni­za­tions to move to an app-only model?

Mitesh Agar­wal: Cus­tomers equate the ex­pe­ri­ence they get via a mo­bile or tablet app with the qual­ity of the brand be­hind it. The de­sign, func­tion­al­ity, per­for­mance, and se­cu­rity of apps to­day have be­come the new weapons in the bat­tle to at­tract and re­tain cus­tomers, and busi­nesses that do not arm them­selves ap­pro­pri­ately have lit­tle chance of com­ing out on top.

Poor app per­for­mance and speed are clearly deal-break­ers for a com­pany when it comes to their apps. While some busi­nesses would ar­gue that part of this lies out of their hands—as the strength of data net­works is of course not their re­spon­si­bil­ity in most cases—it will fall to them to de­velop apps that ful­fill cus­tomers’ re­quire­ments for func­tion­al­ity with­out be­ing so clunky as to al­ways re­quire above av­er­age net­work con­nec­tiv­ity to work. This may ex­tend to pro­vid­ing users with some off­line func­tion­al­ity or back­ground syn­chro­niza­tion op­tions in in­stances when net­work per­for­mance is lack­ing.

De­vel­op­ers must also con­sider the im­pact of mo­bile traf­fic and load on back­end sys­tems that weren’t orig­i­nally de­signed for mo­bile apps. Ideally mo­bile in­te­gra­tion should be an ex­ten­sion of the Ser­vice Ori­ented Ar­chi­tec­ture (SOA) that is al­ready in place in an en­ter­prise. This will help bring down cost and pro­vide greater agility to busi­ness ap­pli­ca­tion. And then there’s the cloud; by ab­stract­ing back-end func­tions in the cloud, busi­nesses can free up their re­sources to si­mul­ta­ne­ously fo­cus on front-end de­vel­op­ment and de­velop strong mo­bile busi­ness mod­els.

An­other ma­jor chal­lenge re­volves around en­sur­ing data se­cu­rity. With peo­ple ac­cess­ing in­for­ma­tion and shar­ing per­sonal de­tails rather in­dis­crim­i­nately to­day via smart­phones, tablets, and their per­sonal com­put­ers, com­pa­nies will need to take proac­tive mea­sures to pro­tect their data. No longer will sim­ple en­cryp­tion, fire­walls, and net­work se­cu­rity con­trols alone do the trick. Com­pa­nies will need to con­trol ac­cess from the in­side out and at ev­ery layer of their IT, from the data­base that pro­cesses data to mo­bile de­vices tied to the sys­tem.

Voice&Data: In an app-driven world, what kind of op­por­tu­ni­ties does Or­a­cle en­vis­age in In­dia?

Mitesh Agar­wal: Our strat­egy is based on the par­a­digm ‘Sim­plify En­ter­prise Mo­bil­ity’. We are the mar­ket lead­ers in Fu­sion Mid­dle­ware and Or­a­cle’s Mo­bile Plat­form lever­ages our mid­dle­ware in­fra­struc­ture for easy in­te­gra­tion be­tween mo­bile apps and back-end sys­tems.

We own Java and de­vel­op­ers use Java and HTML5 to build mo­bile apps once and de­ploy them to mul­ti­ple op­er­at­ing sys­tems and mul­ti­ple mo­bile de­vices. Our mo­bile plat­form works with pop­u­lar na­tive, open source and third-party frame­works, just as it works with Or­a­cle Mo­bile Ap­pli­ca­tion frame­work, pro­vid­ing for a very open and flex­i­ble ar­chi­tec­ture. Our prod­ucts are also go­ing mo­bile. We have pre-built mo­bile apps across our prod­uct lines, to help busi­ness users in In­dia ac­cess, and work with th­ese so­lu­tions any­where, any­time, and on any de­vice of their choice.

—Mitesh Agar­wal, CTO, Or­a­cle In­dia

—Mitesh Agar­wal CTO, Or­a­cle In­dia

There is a lot of dis­cus­sion in the in­dus­try around on­line plat­form mov­ing to mo­bile as the main source of en­gage­ment with the cus­tomers. Many eCom­merce play­ers are firm­ing up plans to chan­nel ef­forts and mar­ket­ing dol­lars en­tirely on their mo­bile ap­pli­ca­tions. Com­pa­nies such as Flip­kart, Myn­tra, Snapdeal, Quickr, and Ola get 70-80% of their traf­fic from mo­bile de­vices, which is a key fac­tor to in­flu­ence th­ese play­ers to con­sider mov­ing to app-only plat­forms. How­ever, a re­cently re­leased sur­vey by Or­a­cle on cus­tomer re­sponse to apps re­veals that 56% of mil­len­ni­als rarely act on the push-no­ti­fi­ca­tions they re­ceive. Voice&Data caught up with Mitesh Agar­wal, CTO, Or­a­cle In­dia, to understand the trend to­wards mo­bile plat­forms, and the chal­lenges and op­por­tu­ni­ties for com­pa­nies in mov­ing to an app-only plat­form. Ex­cerpts.

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