Every leading business knows its competition. It knows the features and benefits that sets it apart from the other firms in the market. It knows where its offer is strong and where it is weak, both independently and in comparison to others. For example, Barclays knows a great deal about how it can differentiate from Lloyds and Santander et al to acquire and retain clients. This market intelligence is replicated and mirrored across multiple companies, operating in multiple industries. However, technology has changed the traditional nature of business competition. If your firm has an online, app and/or mobile offer you are competing not just against other companies in your area, but against every single company, anywhere in the world, doing anything with this offer. Barclays isn’t just up against Lloyds and Santander. It is up against Google, Amazon, Tinder, Candy Crush and Netflix (to name but a very few).
This may sound like a strange situation to be in, but technology has made it the reality. Users of apps, mobiles and the like have come to expect a certain level of user experience from companies. Within the tech ecosystem, that people now live in, the benefits and values brought to them by apps and online offerings are clear in their mind. This changes everything in terms of competition. It changes how firms have to market their offer, changes how future technology is developed and necessitates a change in culture from features and functions, to benefits and value.
There are now very few companies currently in existence that do not have, or need, some form of mobile strategy. The simple truth is, regardless of what a certain politician in America may think, smart phones are not a luxurious toy but a vital part of our lives. Consider the rise of app only companies, from the challenger banks in the UK to global tech titans, more and more companies can exist and thrive through only a mobile offer (in some cases supplemented by an online portal). It is these kinds of companies that are the real competition when attracting customers to your app, and, make no mistake, this is a zero sum game. If your app is not up to the level expected, it will not be used. End of.
The issue for existing corporations is an approach to technology that means they are still viewing mobile strategy and digital transformation from a perspective that holds competition as just within their industry. This approach colours every move taken inside corporations to improve their tech offer. It maintains a focus on features and functions, rather than a more beneficial approach that would focus on people, on the users themselves.
The expectations people hold on how their apps should work are informed by what they have been exposed to; what other apps they use and how they are using them. Take my own smart phone: I have multiple Google and Microsoft Office apps downloaded, all focused on editing, reviewing and working with information I need to see on the move. While I have problems with some of the functionality, in the main, they work exactly how I need them to.
I also have a dictation app that takes the spoken word and turns it into text. The tech behind this works and the results are among the best of these dictation apps. I never use it. The user interface and experience are just not up to par. Within the dictation space, the app is one of the best. In the context of the wider tech ecosystem we now live in, it is not even close.
Compare this to the American Express app, while quite Spartan in its design (much in keeping with the Amex online offer), the presentation of information and the ability to easily navigate what is needed sets it on the same level as apps by the tech giants. It is almost as if someone at American Express, with a budget, actually thought through what users want out of their technology and made it happen. (For anyone who read my last piece, I really wish they would take the same approach to customer service but that’s by-the-by.)
For any company developing mobile and online offerings (which is nearly all of them) it is this approach that they should follow. View competition as defined not just within your industry but also from everyone. Focus on people and benefits, not features and functions. And above all, think through the ecosystem in which your users live in and plan accordingly.
Whether you or they know it or not, everyone is out to get you now. Get ready.
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