Having spent two days at London’s ExCel conference centre at AppsWorld; it was great to see the level of advancement and constant change that is prevalent across various industries. Technology is playing an ever increasing role in industry, and the panel discussions that pulled various contributors from different areas was a great insight to how similar the challenges of keeping up with the consumerisation affect is having on IT programmes.
The conference focussed on open content areas; such as:
- Developer World
- Droid World
- Cloud World
- Connected Car
- Gaming World
- Enterprise World
In addition there were a series of premium tracks that covered a wide array of topics:
- Mobil Payments & Retail
- Mobile Strategy & Marketing
- TV & Multi-Screen Apps
- API Strategies
- Wearable App Tech
- HTML5 Workshops
The use of APIs
As I mentioned, the panel discussions were very beneficial. On Day One, listening to the discussion around “Exploring the business value of APIs – Opening data as a channel for Innovation” was very thought provoking. With speakers from councils, retailers and product companies; there was a very balanced feel to proceedings. The main takeaway from the session centred on the consistency and availability of message transport. Oliver Ogg (Product Owner of APIs for M&S) focussed on how the company are not only providing digital solutions for their customers; but also, providing solutions for their staff to use in-store to ensure there is a ‘single source of proof’ for customer enquiries. The digital; omni-channel experience; though focussed on the consumer, needs to consider how staff interact with consumers. How the in-store display of message is translated to the consumer on their mobile device or at home on their desktop is key to converting enquiries into product sales.
API conversation; specifically publically available APIs were present across multiple tracks over the two days. Companies are making APIs available in the public domain to encourage innovation in the market. Providing the tools (or guidelines) for developers to be creative in designing new or better ways of completing transactions is actively being encouraged. This was epitomised for me during the open track session presented by Mark Dearnley; HMRC’s Chief Digital and Information Officer. During his session; Mark provided an outline of the Government Digital Strategy, and how over the course of 2015, HMRC’s APIs will be made publically available for developers to ‘make things easy’. HMRC have no desire to control the market; preferring to adopt a natural selection process.
What this means is that if we take the example of Self-Assessment (SA); over the course of 2015; there may be a number of privately developed apps; across mobile platforms that attempt to make SA submission more efficient. During the course of consumerisation, only the best apps will survive. Natural selection will ensue, as app store ratings take effect. Only the most user friendly and easy to use apps will survive, thus reducing the need to control the marketplace. As the APIs are in the public domain; HMRC can control the integration.
CRM Strategies, Push Notifications and App Usage
The session hosted by Patrick Mareuil, the Chief Innovation Officer of Accengage; provided a very good overview of the brand loyalty of consumers with respect to app usage. Some highlights of the statistics shared, provide interesting reading:
- 20% of users access mobile apps only once
- 40% of users access the app between 1 and 3 times
- 40% access apps 11 times or more
These statistics are interesting, as looking at them at face value; we can see a lot of missed potential in terms of consumer engagement.
From a testing perspective, the overview of the way push notifications are used outlined a number of use case scenarios that companies; such as Sogeti can assist with productionising apps ready for general use.
Concentrating on the right message, at the right time, in the right place on the right channel is an important feature of maximising conversion of message. From a testing perspective, being able to replicate these scenarios; will provide customers with the right data to complement their digital marketing strategy. As with all approaches, there is a fine-line between optimising the interaction with customers and over-kill. Too much interaction and prompting the user, can also have a negative effect on a consumers willingness to buy.
In addition, the way in which this marketing activity interacts with other applications on the mobile device should be considered. If a user is playing level 105 of Candy Crush, and at that key moment of completing the level, a push notification interrupts their enjoyment, this again could cause negative feedback. Balancing the need for interacting and promoting offers with not interfering with the consumers day to day use of smartphones will need to be covered by the test scenarios that constitute the scope of a release. Throw into the equation the different approaches to notifications across device platforms, and the scope of testing increases exponentially to ensure the maximum consistency of message across platforms to keep the user experience standard.
A number of the tracks either showcased or made reference to the use of beacon technology as a means to delivering up to date messages and special offers to customers based on their location within a store or theme park.
The use of the technology does; in my opinion counteract the intrusive nature of the audience; as the consumer will be captive and in the right mindset to take on board the advertising messages. Some of the challenges that were outlined during the various talks centred upon the proximity challenges of the technology. In an expansive space; such as a theme park, there are unlikely to be beacons that interfere with each other’s transmission; however; how do companies ensure that in relatively small retail stores, the use of beacons is appropriate and displays the right message at the right time?
It was this example that outlined to me one of the key challenges to the testing of the beacon. How do you replicate on a large scale? If you set-up a test lab, with a selection of beacons; do you lose the desired proximity locations in the live; store environment? Is it sufficient to test using a small selection of beacons, to conduct interruption testing scenarios?
This is a very real consideration that companies need to consider when introducing new technologies to their digital marketing strategies.
References to the Internet of Things and wearable’s, brought some interesting viewpoints; but for me the best and perhaps not unsurprising summary of this area came from the session on “Privacy and the adoption of wearable technology”. In this session, the key message was that most; if not all policies around data security and protection apply to all devices. Securing the transport of message from back-end system through to ‘thing’ must follow the same policy and legislation.
For me; the same can be said in terms of the development of the ‘thing’ and also the testing of such devices. Validating the message transport, identifying weaknesses and vulnerabilities remains the challenge. Validating the display and user experience will require testing; developing Omni channel automation frameworks that maximise coverage, whilst controlling the amount of maintenance will appeal to companies as the industry matures. This is certainly a key area of development that I am overseeing in the Sogeti Studio. In the coming months; we at Sogeti hope to be able to demonstrate these service innovations, to provide customers with an alternative approach to the current mode of operation.
The rise of Crowdsourcing – Testing device compatibility
Device fragmentation; specifically within the Android landscape, raises a number of challenges with regards the age old question of “How much testing is enough?”
Speaking to a number of companies; including app development agencies at the conference the challenges were very similar. How do you make sure that the apps released are compatible with the devices? Some of the answers were the use of emulators, to provide the breadth of coverage complimenting this with a top 10 physical device list to perform the depth of coverage. Others mentioned the reliance on crowdsourcing, booking slots to open up the scope of testing on real devices, seems to be becoming a popular supplementary approach to release testing.
When we add in to the mix operating system platforms and screen resolution, there needs to be a more robust way of achieving the right level of quality. Tools vendors need to look at ways of replicating the user interactions in a standard manner, to provide options in the marketplace.
All in all, the conference was very thought provoking, and has certainly provided a number of takeaways regarding how we at Sogeti can answer some of these challenges through the extension of the current offerings within the Sogeti Studio and developing models that can improve testing coverage on devices, through complimenting emulation with physical device testing and creating Omni channel automation frameworks that promote efficiency in the test cycles.