The rebirth of the app era: why new technologies will drive downloads

By Mark Armstrong, VP and MD EMEA at Progress.

It’s been an interesting time in the app market. Last year Apple boasted a record year for downloads from its app store, amidst industry cries that apps are dead. Apps such as Nintendo’s Super Mario Run and the cultural phenomenon of Niantic’s Pok?mon Go have also reinvigorated hope that apps still appeal to the mass market. So, are the older statistics that suggest that smart phone users download only one app per month, now redundant? And, has the Lazarus that was the app come back to life?

It does look like the clouds are clearing over the long term future for apps. However, rather than this being a consequence of consumers rejecting ‘app fatigue’ – it is in fact a result of new and advancing technologies that are changing our relationship with how we interact with apps.

Enterprise apps can take a piece of the pie too

Enterprises are catching up when it comes to delivering the same technologies that their employees use at home. Consumer apps offer sophisticated functionalities that business apps often can’t match due to finite resources. Yet, as VR and AR technologies become more affordable, businesses have the opportunity to make their apps as compelling or engaging as those that their employees or customers are used to.

However, to ensure adoption, it will be better for businesses to prioritise their app development. Users expect quality and have a limited tolerance for apps which don’t perform which is why 80 per cent of apps are deleted after just one use. So, spreading resources thinly to develop apps to solve every need won’t work. Concentrating on solving challenges that align with business priorities will help to narrow down the deliverables and increase the likelihood of developing an engaging app.

And, additionally, businesses should look to popular consumer apps such as Pok?mon Go and Super Mario Run for inspiration. Both apps bring something people have wanted for years – Mario on their smartphones – while Pok?mon Go brought a new kind of experience in AR (both have also been helped by lashings of nostalgia).

E-learning apps have had the most success to date in replicating such experiences through gamification. For example, Kineo worked with their client McDonald’s UK on a Till Training Game, which delivered an engaging and memorable learning experience to support the launch of a new till system to 1,300 restaurants. As well as trending on social media sites as learners set up self-styled leader boards to compete against each other.

Now businesses have the opportunity to layer on top both AR and VR experiences to capture users’ attention and to demonstrate that they are a digitally forward enterprise.

AR and VR will drive innovation

New technologies - which apps can tap into and integrate with - deliver excitement, interactivity and extra level of utility. And this type of interactivity is changing. The global Intelligent Virtual Assistant (IVA) market size is expected to reach $12.28 billion by 2024 according to a new report by Grand View Research. The virtual assistant is set to become the next new interface for applications. Gartner says: “Conversational systems shift from a model where people adapt to computers to one where the computer “hears” and adapts to a person’s desired outcome.”

So, apps built to capitalise on voice recognition technologies and AI are where enterprise apps will see real success, leveraging powerful decision-making intelligence and the natural input method of voice recognition to deliver improved interactivity, experience and utility. The information provided by the digital assistant is personalised, accurate and relevant - in other words every app’s dream scenario.

In 2017 will see tech giants double down on AI products that use user and context data such as location and time, and combine it with advanced search and powerful decision making to respond directly to voice requests and questions. Google opened up its assistant to developers in December 2016, allowing them to build "Direct and Conversation Actions" for Google Assistant. This is a huge opportunity for a new wave of applications.

The meta-app era will be founded on lessons already learnt

The future of apps is looking more exciting than ever before. New technologies have sought to reinforce their relevance. The ways in which they are adapting to the way users want to use them, and also driving ease of use, is increasing their popularity once more. Businesses and app developers have the opportunity to take ‘best practice’ lessons from consumer applications and apply these to their long term app development strategy. In doing so, we will truly start to see a meta-app era where apps are truly smarter, genuinely interactive and can anticipate our needs in both the consumer and business domain.

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