Hitmetrix - User behavior analytics & recording

Don’t Judge an App by its Size

The micro app has been with us for a while —
on the enterprise side. Since the concept was first imagined in 2011, micro apps have become that simple utility that could do something necessary, but very quickly. What IT knows about micro apps, marketers are just starting to find out. That customer who walks around with a smart phone? How about reaching the user with a simple, single purpose micro app that gives them the opportunity to see something or buy something right away?

The strange is familiar…

Mobile users are already using micro apps, even if they don’t know it. Facebook Messenger, Google Hangouts, SnapChat and AccuWeather all qualify. To the user, it’s just something they use because it works. 

Get under the hood of a micro app and you will see why. The micro app is crafted using HTML. It runs on any browser. It is easily created by any competent IT department. The installation is easy. 

Contrast this with a full-blown mobile app (or native app), which must be written to conform with Apple iOS or Android, plus the app store you get it from. The mobile app’s  features will be many, and will take longer to access. (To the user, any lag lasting seconds is experienced as hours.) Micro apps are an opportunity technology for digital marketers, and there are firms waiting to help craft the solutions they seek.

…and the familiar is strange

It was perfectly natural for digital marketers to try to craft small-screen versions of their full-sized web-based screens, back when smartphones were new. Still, there were limitations given the screen size one had to work with.

“The Web approach restricts what you can do in the web browser,” said Bobby Gill, CEO and co-founder of app developers Blue Label Labs. The layout and the buttons are restricted. “You can’t deliver a high-end experience.” 

“The way people use the app is different from a Web site,” added Viktor Marohni?, founder of Five, an agency which specializes in crafting mobile solutions. The Web site approach can take up to 50-100 different screens to fully implement an online store. Going micro can knock that down to 10-15 screens, he noted. 

But there is another dimension one must take into account, one that really plays well for digital marketers: the micro app “is so granular it responds well to search,” said Praveen Kanyadi, VP of product at SpotCues. A user searching online for a product or service will normally have to view dozens of results before picking the one they want. 

What if the top search result is a micro app? The user can  arrange for a service or purchase a good right away, turning the customer journey into an action immediately. “The micro app is not a silver bullet, but it provides an opportunity to match user interest within the context of a call to action.” Kanyadi said.

“Google is offering a micro-app opportunity for marketers to get in front of the user when thy search.” Kanyadi said. The micro-app “drives conversion from the search.” It can be crafted to take personal information from the user and insert it into the transaction, he noted.

Focus on the familiar

The technology behind the micro app is simple. The application, however, is human. Digital marketers have to view their web sites or full-blown applications as a collection of actions. Expert firms have to guide their clients to this view, focusing only on the bare essentials that deliver. The goal is to design the app around the marketing to deliver the good or service. 

Typically, clients are not tech savvy, Marohni? observed. They may not ask for a micro app solution, but they do know what they want their marketing campaign to do. 

“We rely on user testing to show them how much every feature will cost,” Marohni? continued. The client may be eager to field an app with 10 or 20 features, but they really should focus on just two or three.

Five Agency will typically begin a project with a week-long design sprint workshop, Marohni? said. “We encourage the client to launch a minimally performing product and learn from that.” The app may be completed in one to six months, depending on complexity.

Blue Label does something similar with an agile design approach. In a week-long design sprint,  the client, user experience and user interface people are brought together to figure out the function and the purpose of the micro-app. A rough prototype will result, further refined by a series of two-week sprints over the course of several months. The goal is to get a product to the customer, then listen to their feedback. “Get to market quickly. The customer will tell you how to evolve.” Gill said. 

Telling your phone to do it

It is only a matter of time until voice-activated search makes the micro-app easier to use. “A couple could use Siri to book a hotel. [The micro-app] would bring up the card, fill in the details, and you are done,” Kanyadi said. 

Another dimension is using voice to arrange two micro-apps to interact with each other. Kanyadi gave the example of ordering pizza from a name-brand chain. One could use the mobile app crafted by the pizza vendor, or better yet, rely on a micro-app resident in Facebook (the platform everybody has on their mobile phone), and have that app interact with the pizza ordering app to place an order and indicate the location of the user.

However the solution is crafted, the full functionality of any full-blown application can be delivered as a series of micro-apps. You just have to figure out how.

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