When your app should be smooth, not sticky

Some applications should grab users and never let them go, but others should move users in and out as quickly as possible. Follow these tips to make those ‘get in, get out’ apps smoother.

When your app should be smooth, not sticky

Consumers are changing.

When was the last time you went into a bank? Or do you do most of your banking via an online application or website?

What about shopping? Do you still go to the mall to find that perfect Christmas present, or are you more likely to look online? How many empty boxes from delivered packages do you have in your garage right now?

What about eating dinner? How often do you go to a restaurant versus ordering from an application and picking up the food or having it delivered? Even if you are eating at a restaurant, are you interacting with a menu on your phone? Are you paying your bill from your phone?

Consumers are interacting with your physical storefront less and less. Instead, they are interacting with your virtual presence—your website and online applications.

Your customer cares what your application looks like, and how it works. As the modern customer’s first view of your company, your website or app is just as important as the window displays and front door experience is to a brick-and-mortar store. Can your customer easily perform the tasks they need to accomplish?

Consumption apps vs. transactional apps

When you think about improving the customer interface to your application, it’s easy to fall into the trap of trying to figure out how to get users to stay in your application as long as possible. Well, it turns out, stickiness is the exact opposite of what you want for many (but not all) applications.

There are, in general, two different types of applications: consumption applications and transactional applications. In consumption apps, your goal is to keep customers engaged in your application as long as possible. But in transactional apps, your goal is to get them in and out of your application as quickly as possible.

Let’s look into this deeper.

A consumption application is an application where your customers actually consume your product while they are using your application. Being in the application is what attracts customers to your products.

Video streaming applications are classic examples of consumption applications. Game applications are another good example. Social media applications, productivity applications, news applications... all of these are consumption applications. Your customer is using your product while they are within your application.

Certainly, in these types of applications, your goal is to create the most compelling user interface possible, and the most compelling content within the interface, to keep your customers engaged with your product for as long as possible. Whether your income comes from in-product advertising, renting the right to use your content, or making in-app purchases, a general truism is the longer the customer spends in your application, the more money you make.

If your business relies on a consumption application, then direct customer engagement is the lifeblood of your company.

A transactional application, on the other hand, is an application your customers use in order to accomplish some sort of discrete task. This might be to purchase a product that will be later shipped to them. It might be to order dinner for pickup or delivery. It might be to order a taxi, or to reserve a flight or a hotel room.

Transactional applications are the opposite of consumption applications. In a transactional application, your goal is to get the customer in and out of your application as quickly as possible. You want them to come in, to easily accomplish their task, and to exit. If it takes your customer too much time to accomplish their task, then they are less likely to return.

If you ordered a product on Amazon, and you want to know when it will be delivered, you expect to open the Amazon application and find order status quickly and easily. You don’t want to see unrelated content, and you don’t want to have to push 25 buttons to get to the product delivery screen. You want immediate access to the one piece of data that’s important to you, then to leave the application.

Get them in, get them done, get them out. That’s the goal of a transactional application.

Get them in, get them out

To improve a transactional application, the improvements you make should be specific to the “get the customer done and out” goal. Specifically, you need to focus on:

  • Tasks and flows. Understand how your customer moves through your application and what tasks they are most likely to want to perform.
  • Simplify tasks. Important tasks and common activities should require as few steps as possible to accomplish.
  • Clearly marked paths. Customers should be able to figure out easily and quickly where they need to go to accomplish the most common tasks in clear and unambiguous ways.
  • User history optimization. Paths and routes should automatically be optimized based on the tasks the user has performed in the past.
  • Analytical optimization. Usage data should be analyzed to create more optimal paths and routes through your application.
  • Shorten and simplify. Fewer options and alternatives make paths easier and quicker to follow. Limit the options to only the most essential options that are critical to what the user wants to accomplish.

Understanding your customer’s needs

The customer experience for a transactional application is very different from the customer experience for a consumption application. But one thing is the same: If you don’t optimize the experience to match the goal of the customer, you will lose the customer. Understanding why your customers use your applications, along with what they want to accomplish, will help you understand the changes you need to make to keep your customer engaged with your business—whether that means in your app or out of your app.

Application modernization is essential to maintaining a competitive edge in a rapidly changing marketplace. Now more than ever, your customer’s first—and sometimes only—view of your company is through the applications and websites you present. Presenting an outdated user interface or user experience, one that fails to match your customer’s expectations and desires, tells your customer that you are not interested in building a quality relationship.

Application modernization is not a nicety. It’s absolutely mission-critical for nearly all companies in our modern digital economy.

Copyright © 2022 IDG Communications, Inc.

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