The ultimate guide to creating a mobile strategy that works in 2018

May 2018

We assume that if you read this article, your company is focused on serious study of mobile trends, is looking for opportunities to win leadership in its niche and is willing to get a worthy mobile development product that makes communication between the brand and its customers easier and more personalized.

For you to successfully beat competitors, even those who perform online only, VALFOR experts suggest carefully considering mobile strategy for planning, developing and post-release activities. Having a comprehensive mobile strategy is as vital as having a basic business-plan.

Our team wrote this blog post to share useful research data and give a clue to mobile strategy steps and approaches that prove to be effective in 2018.

According to Salesforce research:

Smart Insights provides the following impressive data: 89% of mobile media time is spent in apps. Let your customers consume your products and services through an app and provide an outstanding experience for your persona there.

So, how to create a working mobile strategy? Here is a step-by-step guide.

Step 1: Structure information, analyze competitors and target goals

The first thing to do is to work on existing customer journey that includes points of contact you already have (offline-stores, call-center, communication through the website). It is helpful to understand the internal steps your customer moves through. Think of how mobile experience can make it better.

Engage your company’s stakeholders working in different departments of your business to get a comprehensive understanding of the ongoing processes and priorities. At this point you can implement Porter’s Five Forces Framework Porter’s Five Forces Framework is a tool for analyzing competition of a business. It draws from industrial organization (IO) economics to derive five forces that determine the competitive intensity and, therefore, the attractiveness (or lack of it) of an industry in terms of its profitability. An “unattractive” industry is one in which the effect of these five forces reduces overall profitability. The most unattractive industry would be one approaching “pure competition”, in which available profits for all firms are driven to normal profit levels. The five-forces perspective is associated with its originator, Michael E. Porter of Harvard University. This framework was first published in Harvard Business Review in 1979.
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to analyze microenvironment and carry out value chain analysis Value chain analysis (VCA)
is a process where a firm identifies its primary and support activities that add value to its final product and then analyze these activities to reduce costs or increase differentiation.
Value chain
represents the internal activities a firm engages in when transforming inputs into outputs.
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to have a clear idea or cost and differentiation advantage and understand the process of creating value in this project.

Take your time to define clear company goals and specific tasks the mobile app is going to solve. To do that you can use knowledge and data from competitor performance analysis.

When analyzing competitor’s performance, figure out what they are offering via mobile. Make a list of what you are going to offer and NOT going to offer. A clever idea is to have a separate field for writing down in what ways your offer will be different and exceed the mobile experience of your competitors. The abovementioned value chain analysis can help.

Form your vision of the app. It should be laconic, feasible and encouraging. Here are three check-list questions:

  1. Does it fit the overall business strategy of the company?
  2. It is realistic for the budget and time-frame you possess?
  3. What is the plan B in case something goes wrong?

After you have a clear vision, you can move to building personas. This important process helps considering various users ever exposed to your app, of different gender, age, digital experience and frequency of engagement.

A reasonable solution is to apply the rule of thumb: develop for 80% of your user types.

To be able to take the next step, find the answer to the following question: why users should want your app?

Mobile strategy differs from the overall online strategy: according to Google study, mobile apps are used to participate in loyalty programs and sharing purchases, while mobile web is preferred for searching products and looking for store information.

Find out marketing statistics and use it in context your company provides. Make customers sure, their individual demands are better met, and their problems are better solved by having your mobile app installed on their device than by visiting your website.

Check-list for Step 1:

  • Analyze existing customer journey;
  • Engage company’s stakeholders;
  • Use Value chain analysis and Porter’s Five Forces for mobile opportunity identification;
  • Think of company goals and specific tasks for mobile app to solve;
  • Carry out competitors’ analysis;
  • Form your idea of the app;
  • Work on building personas;
  • Why users should want your app? Market analysis.

Step 2: Choosing development team, building MVP and choosing metrics

As you have approached to building product concept, the next question you should ask is: outsourcing or hiring a team?

There is no simple answer.

Outsourcing has the following pros:

  1. It provides a highly competent team for working on your project;
  2. Business advice in included on the closing price;
  3. You pay for the clearly evaluated result;
  4. You get a branded app design according to recent trends and technical standards;

If you decide to create your own team, you should be aware of the following issues:

  1. Additional taxes and social payments associated with creating new jobs;
  2. You spend more time and efforts for hiring professionals (iOS developer, Android developer, back-end developer, analyst, mobile interface designer, tester, project manager) and building a team.
  3. You are going to lose some flexibility as it takes time for team to adapt to changing demands, changes in team list and so on.
  4. Team training and competence improvement occur randomly. The team receives local experience that may not meet market standards.

There is one more option:

Your company has its own team of developers working on your online-store. For mobile development you decided to find outsource specialists. Either delegate the coordination of development process between two teams to one of your managers or provide transparent communication between the three parties. Select and approve the mechanism for making final decisions for seamless and trouble-free operation.

If you haven’t created a mobile strategy yet, we suggest using VALFOR company services. We have necessary resources and ready methodology in place to deliver customized mobile products and build digital company identity.

The next task is working on new customer journey that includes communication via your mobile app. To increase value in every step you can make use of habit-forming technology suggested by Nir Eyal in his book “Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products”.

When developing your app, you can think of implementing the model elements to increase value:
  • External trigger The next round can start from the combination of external (segmented push-notifications, emails) and internal (desire to start the app looking for loyalty program bonuses or weekly discounts) triggers – for example, list of functions that became easier due to the app, offering welcoming bonuses for installation.
  • Action – intuitive and branded interface, loyalty program enrollment, personal recommendations based on previous purchases and more;
  • Variable reward – better solved customer issues, faster and easier in-app purchases, personalization, loyalty program gamification.
  • Investment – referral program, product reviews to help customers feel their own value and expertise, information about collected points and bonuses, exclusive offers, differentiated discounts by the days of the week

The most powerful way to build a brand via mobile moments is to model your customer’s journey and improve is as much as you can. Figure out, what people want and – most important – don’t want. What are the marketing touch points? Make all of them mobile-friendly and remove unnecessary losses to improve value.

The customer should have a clear idea on their mind: “I can buy the product at X quickly and easily”. Such a mindset is created by carefully selected list of functions.

How to select most useful function to build an MVP Minimum Viable Product

First create an entire feature set for your app you can first name all the features you dream it could have. You should take every single feature and put it in a table according to its importance degree for every stage of the user flow:

To illustrate priority, you can also use colors or numbers. It is necessary to define your minimum viable product, the leanest app version you can create to satisfy customers and gather their feedback for further development on non-MVP app features.

Some people compare building a minimum viable product to the sequence No.2. We want you to think of your MVP as at the third sequence.

After you have a clear idea of your MVP, it’s time to keep going and define the priority platform you are going to build your app on: iOS users are likely to spend five times more for in-app purchases and it usually takes less time to develop an MVP for iOS. However, Android is extremely widespread – by the end of 2017 the market share of Android was 87%.

When choosing a platform, we recommend that you focus on personas and niche analysis: for example, potential consumers of premium segment products choose iOS more often.

Special attention should be drawn to choosing technology stack. It is better to discuss this issue with the development team. VALFOR developers use Java/Kotlin for Android, and Swift for iOS. For back-end development there are a lot more options: we suggest choosing a well-tested system that is popular in technical specialists. Feel free to consult our company on technology stack. If you are interested with what we offer, we can start our partnership right away.

The next stage is creating a list of your team-members and assigning roles. Plan how many people you want to involve, this will help calculating expenses: the major part of the budget is used to finance human resources.

The following task is defining your KPIs and ready to start measuring from the very beginning. This step should be discussed with company’s chief officers. Careless approach to metrics or incorrect measurements can make you unable to prove that some important indicators were the outcome of your mobile strategy.

As for the company metrics, you should pay attention to:

  1. Reduction of expenses to serve (mobile app can fulfill some of the tasks);
  2. Net Promoter Score;
  3. Market share and revenue.

The list of app metrics to consider includes:

  1. New and active users;
  2. App rating;
  3. Mobile user lifetime value;
  4. Retention rate;
  5. Session length.

It would be useful to plan development process KPIs Here are nine objective metrics (marked by bullet points) that you should monitor continuously, to make incremental improvements to processes and production environments. Improvements in these numbers will not guarantee that your customer satisfaction levels will rise by leaps and bounds. But at least these are the right things to measure.
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also. You can use agile process metrics, such as lead time, cycle time, team velocity, open/closed rates etc.

Check-list for Step 2:

  • Outsourcing or your own team?
  • New customer journey mapping;
  • Choosing most important functions for your MVP;
  • Choosing the platform (Android, iOS or both);
  • Approving the team;
  • Defining product KPIs;
  • Defining KPIs of mobile development process.
    • Step 3: Writing user stories, planning sprints and choosing analytics tools

      Start this step from planning the app launch beforehand. Receive a DUNS number and register an account with Apple Developer, as it usually takes time. For Google Play you can skip this. This task is relevant, if you prefer releasing the app for iOS and Android on behalf of your company.

      The next task is working on good requirement documentation to launch a successful app. In agile approach such documenting implies writing user stories. You can apply the following format to start writing user stories:

      As a
      I want to
      So that i can

      To continue the task, it is useful to apply INVEST rule. This acronym includes all the necessary attributes.

      • I – Independent – each story is a single unit to be able to add or delete any from a release or sprint easier;
      • N- Negotiable – co-create details with customers and developers – scope priority and requirement can be adjusted at any moment;
      • V- Valuable – ensure the business value of the user story;
      • E- Estimable – proper estimation helps prioritization: use Fibonacci series and planning poker as most popular relative techniques for estimation and make sure too long stories are divided into smaller ones;
      • S – Small/Sized Right – in SCRUM user stories are scoped out to enable the team complete some within s sprint; you may start high-level, but make sure you do the rightsizing later;
      • T – Testable – each user story has a measurable set of acceptance criteria for testing.

      User-stories are a must-have for agile methodology. Allocate enough time and resources to finish this task properly.

      The next task planning the mobile sprint roadmap, i.e. creating a visual timeline of activities the team is going to deal with based on the expected pace. A sprint is a unit of measure used in SCRUM framework and agile methodology that can vary from one to several weeks. At this stage the app development process starts.

      During this step you should choose and adjust analytics tools. VALFOR analysts use Appsflyer, Appmetrica, Amplitude, Google Analytics, Firebase and a few other services and deal with the following tasks:

      • Analytical system installation and customizing necessary reports;
      • Advice on analytical tools and their features;
      • Training on the system use (optional);
      • Collected data analysis, conclusions and recommendations (optional).

      Analytics helps obtaining detailed reports on sales, most popular products and categories, customer activity and loyalty, promo activities in the app, customer behavior analysis etc.

      Finish this step by turning to stakeholders for their approval: prepare a presentation for your CEO about the ways mobile strategy will influence the company growth. Your CTO should be aware of how mobile solutions integrate with the existing system and your CIO should know in which aspects the strategy is interesting to the business and to the customer.

      Check-list for Step 3:

      • Planning the app launch (signing up for Apple Developer and Google Play);
      • User stories;
      • Sprint roadmap;
      • Analytical tools;
      • Getting green light from stakeholders.

      Step 4: Marketing, testing, launching and post-production activities

      This is the time for marketing. At this stage marketing specialist should have a clear idea of marketing activities to carry out within the mobile app: in-app loyalty cards, QR-code scanning on products and receipts, personal offers and discounts.

      At the same time it is important to carry out early marketing efforts (before the app is launched) to promote the app itself. It can help you engage loyal customers in app testing process and implement their views and ideas. By starting a blog with relevant content on app functionality and flows you can draw more attention to the app launch.

      Early start of marketing activities, regardless of which marketing strategy you apply, help support the dialogue with existing and potential customers along the way.

      At this step you should also come up with a testing strategy by defining the responsibilities of testing team members, the systems and versions to be tested and a well-structured test plan. Decide if your company is going to invest in testing automation tools used in QA and production environments. If you choose manual testing, specify the pass and fail criteria and how and when the tests are carried out.

      The last step is production-ready, app launch and post-production activities. It is vital to make them well-thought-out, clearly structured and documented with the app development team. Think of a roll-back plan, sanity check, tracking and fixing issues and version control. Besides, make sure that all the necessary marketing materials for App Store and Play Market are prepared by the time of release (app description, icons and screenshots).

      After the app is released, there is still a lot of work to do. VALFOR implements Amplitude tool, information and reviews from App Store and Google Play, server log and user reviews in social networks to collect analytics and report on user behavior after app launch. It also helps collecting ideas on new features to be implements in later versions.

      Check-list for Step 4:

      • Marketing activities: in-app promo activities and loyalty program and pre-launch app promotion;
      • Testing;
      • App release;
      • Post-production: feedback, user behavior and app performance analysis;
      • Continuous work on updates.

      Summary

      Check-lists are considered in a different way in Agile and Waterfall methodologies. Agile approach allows changing the tasks order and adjusting them to the current needs of the company. This is almost inevitable in constantly changing business environment. Our solution is to be flexible and attentive to details: in case we got an important insight or received new data at one of the stages, this won’t make a problem at all. The processes and sprints are immediately adjusted to changing environment and the team keeps going.

      Data-driven approach in mobile development is highly important to create relevant products and add value to customer interaction with the company.

      Have you already found the right app development team to implement your mobile strategy?

      At VALFOR, we understand the importance of building enterprise mobile apps as a part of corporate strategy. Our company empowers businesses to build native apps for a variety of business functions.

      Be one step ahead of your competitors with excellent mobile products we deliver.

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