eTail East: Transforming Retail. Together

eTail East: Transforming Retail. Together

We’re heading back to Boston! From August 19 – August 22, Shockoe will be attending and speaking at eTail East in Boston, Massachusetts. 

About eTail

eTail is where the top minds in retail meet, collaborate and learn about what’s disrupting the industry today and what’ll change tomorrow. Shockoe’s COO, Alejandro Otañez, will speak from his seven-years experience at IBM, on how digital technology investments can be implemented and measured for success and impact. 

Why we’re attending

Having all the technological expertise in the world means nothing if you don’t understand your customers. Mobile phones and digital technology are the ultimate culprits of the way things operate today, making tough tasks easy. The two together fundamentally unify the entire experience.

We believe that every company operates in a way that is as unique as its offerings. Every technology solution should be as well. Our team of strategists, consultants, designers, and developers work to embrace existing processes, question inefficiencies and deliver custom digital mobile tools that can improve the overall quality of your customer experience.  

If being out-of-the-box has felt like forcing a square peg into a round hole, we get it. Come to talk to us — we’ll help you create a custom technology solution that will help you truly fulfill your customers wants and needs.

The proof is in the pudding

We’ve worked in several facets of the retail industry— learn more about our work here

If you’re interested in learning more or will also be attending eTail, we’d love to speak with you! Click the link below & we’ll make it happen.

5 Mobile Experience Design Trends to Invest In

5 Mobile Experience Design Trends to Invest In

With new technology being rolled out regularly, designers have a fantastic opportunity to use new tools and methods to improve the products we create for mobile experiences. This is our time to marry content, personalization, voice interactions, micro-interactions, and video to produce unique experiences that will attract and impress users for years to come.

 

1. Being Content-Centered

Our clients often look to us for the most effective means of distributing their content in a way that services the users and provides the client with reliable and quality data.

“Time is of the essence” has never been a truer statement. Users have super-short attention spans (Hubspot reports only about 8 seconds or so) that shrink more every year. Seconds matter – so while design can be pretty, more importantly, it needs to be purposeful. If we aren’t designing to make the content the most important aspect of each screen, then we are failing our clients and most importantly, users.

While designing around content that has yet to be provided is far from ideal, there are a few workarounds. You can always default to the popular Lorem Ipsum placeholder text, or you could try using the content that’s being replaced from your client’s current site, create your own, or borrow from a competitor’s site.

By using text and color as interactive design elements, you can strategically create quick, vibrant, and delightful user experiences that expedite the user’s journey with a content-centered experience. Keep it simple. You don’t want to overwhelm your users with too much information.

This insurance app does a great job of displaying multiple options in a visually simple way, both in a tab and main menu format.

 

content-centered-insurance-app

Image Credit: Nimasha Perara

 

2. Personalization

Personalization is one of the most frequently requested features in user interviews. Weather content, design, or navigation, users like to feel connected with the user interface. If there’s a pattern of disconnect, they will likely not want to return, especially given a user’s ever-shrinking attention span.

Personalization can be achieved in a number of ways, including:

  • Enabling cookies on websites to remember what users prefer on your site
  • Implementing location tools on mobile to remind users of their interests
  • Incorporating the seasons or holidays to create a user experience that feels current and relative, and allowing users to create profiles to customize their experience.

More often than not, people are more inclined to share negative experiences than positive ones, so it is imperative that we are creating a more intuitive experience for our users. If users feel a connection with a website or app, they will want to return and hopefully share their positive experiences.

The animation below highlights one of Shockoe’s latest customizable interfaces for a banking application. We helped create a mobile experience that allowed members to customize which cards they land on first, allowing users to get their most important information faster.

 

shockoe-banking-app-personalization

 

3. Voice Interaction

There is no denying the impact that Siri, Alexa, and Google have made on our usability. My seven-year-old daughter chats up Alexa regularly — asking for songs, to make animal noises, and even a few weeks back, asked if she was married! I find this to be a testament to what next-generation interaction looks like and the importance of adopting it sooner rather than later.

Over 30 million households now have voice interaction tools, which is incredible! The rise of voice interaction will undoubtedly drive the increase of designing without an interface. Good UX seeks the path of least resistance, and voice interaction certainly bypasses any friction that may have existed in a physical UI.

When designing for voice interactions, experienced designers will need to to take into account many new considerations. Providing users with suggestions may help alleviate confusion when the system doesn’t understand the command or cannot produce the desired result. For example, you could have a retail app say: “You can ask to order shoes or browse shoes.” You should also consider providing the user with an easy way out by offering “leave” as an option.

Is the mic even on? Users will need to know when the AI they’re chatting with is paying attention and when there might be a problem.

 

voice-interaction

Image Credit: Juan C. Angustia

 

4. Microinteractions

Engaging with micro-interactions is one of my favorite things when using an app. Micro-interactions are simply subtle design effects based around completing a task. These tiny interactions bring a level of delight to a user experience. If implemented correctly, these in-app gestures and animations can reduce design clutter, increase intuitiveness, and make interaction almost seamless. Fewer buttons on a screen mean more focused content, and we all know that having the right content, is king.

Medium has a controversial “clapping” interaction, as an alternative way to “like” an article you’ve read. Love them or hate them, these tiny claps with fireworks are both silly and cute enough to have caused a plethora of blog posts both praising and cursing the change from “likes” to “claps”. Humans inherently hate change, so it’s not surprising that bloggers took to the Internet to vent about this change, just as they did with Instagram’s iconic logo change a few years back. Change is sometimes a necessary evil — it’s where great ideas stem from. I for one applaud medium for taking the bold step to attempt to improve usability.

With micro-interactions, there is an opportunity to bridge the gap between the user and the app through fun and satisfying actions that leave users emotionally content – they help engage users to interact with tasks intuitively, like express appreciation with likes or favorites, navigate sites with subtle animated transitions, or filling out form fields with hint text.

Predictive micro-interactions can provide directive animations to assist users with onboarding, making it more delightful and ultimately, less confusing

 

microinteractions

Image Credit: Leo Zakour

 

5. Fullscreen & Vertical Video

In 2017, the use of videos surged as a marketing medium. Hubspot reports that 81% of businesses utilized videos as a marketing tool and nearly 100% of those businesses say they’ll continue to do so in 2018. 65% of the businesses that didn’t use videos in 2017 say they are planning to in 2018.

Words are important, but with videos, users are able to experience a more interactive form of content while also consuming more information in a shorter amount of time. This is another form of putting content front and center in a way that doesn’t force users to scroll. With AR and VR becoming more common, a full-screen video will inevitably become the norm, providing users with a more immersive: personally-impactful experience that will give them more of an emotional connection. When users are immersed in another person’s experience, be it skiing the slopes, walking in an impassioned protest, exploring caves, or learning a new DIY project, they are bound to have a richer and deeper connection with the content.

As video content infiltrates our favorite sites and apps, users tend to keep their mobile devices in portrait mode, rather than turning them horizontally for a full-width view. According to LukeW, 94% of users view their content in portrait mode, while only 6% view content in landscape mode, thus the obvious need to provide users with the option to view all content, including video, in portrait mode.

Apple’s new Clip app offers users fullscreen AR selfies similar to Snapchat’s World Lenses. Mashable reports that Clip will offer an animated 360° scene that you can experience by moving the camera around.

 

fullscreen-vertical-app-video

Image Credit: Apple

 

facebook-live-video-app

Facebook Live Video. Image Credit Buzzfeed

 

Other Experience Trend Shoutouts

Since I couldn’t list every single popular experience trend, I wanted to at least show some love to a couple more experiences worth mentioning.

AR and VR

Quickly evolving into affordable and viable options for both enterprises and consumers. Whether you’re looking for augmented/virtual entertainment or augmented/virtual training, this medium has yet to surface its full potential. As AR and VR continue to find great ubiquity and user acceptance, think about how this technology could advance the medical, construction, aeronautics, and engineering fields in the years ahead.

Biometrics

It may seem new, and it sort of is, but since Apple released the iPhone X’s biometric face identification feature, it appears the bar has risen in security authentication. Fingerprint authorization is now common in comparison. Biometrics will continue to innovate and demand designers and developers to push the envelope when considering the user’s privacy and security concerns. Designers will need to keep in mind the willingness of their users to participate in the functionality and devs will need to remember that biometrics don’t protect against passcodes or tokens being shared. They’re simply new ways for users to gain access to their data without being too inconvenienced with passcode interruptions.

Jason Day
Jason Day

Jason graduated from the Savannah College of Art and Design and holds degrees in Illustration and Sequential Art. His diverse professional careers have ranged from comic book artist, picture framer, retail store management, photographer, building inspector, and designer, demonstrating his ability to understand multiple facets of thinking and implementing them in intuitive ways.

ShopTalk 2019 in Las Vegas

ShopTalk 2019 in Las Vegas

We are packing our bags and heading to Las Vegas! As we continue our campaign to connect more enterprise retailers with the right mobile strategy, we are excited to be able to meet with so many at Shoptalk; one of the premier retailing events to discuss everything from omnichannel mobile strategies to enterprise mobile apps.

Why Mobile at Shoptalk?

Shoptalk drives hundreds of retailers from around the world to discuss the latest in retail technologies. From technology hardware, points of sale, to ERP — mobile is becoming an increasingly critical consideration for B2C leaders, and a staple of everyday shopping. Our
mobile strategy team works from business consultancy to application deployment to deliver applications with measurable results — we can help drive your mobile brand loyalty strategy.

The Mobile keystone of Omni-channel Retail

According to a RetailDive survey, an increasing number of relying on their phones to drive the in-store experience. If the mobile tools are not up to snuff, the bottom line is you’re going to lose customers — that’s where we can help.
Retail success depends on mobile-centered brand loyalty
As consumers interactions continue to rise towards BOGUS shopping (buy online and pick up in store) and price comparing from mobile devices, brick and mortar stores are more on the hook than ever to have retail systems that can speak directly to consumers. From inventory updates to a mobile-first experience, Shockoe can help create a mobile roadmap that fits with your digital strategy and your business objectives

Want to know more about what we’re doing in Las Vegas at Shoptalk or book some time with us?

5 Ways to Use QR Codes to Drive Customer Engagement

5 Ways to Use QR Codes to Drive Customer Engagement

When one of our clients approached us with the idea of building an entirely new customer engagement app for their grocery stores, we were very excited. Their project goal was a mobile application that would allow their customers to pay for groceries by scanning a QR code at the store’s register using just their smartphone. Sounds awesome, right? We definitely thought so. Although a project like this does carry a number of challenges, we hoped to create the best customer engagement app experience possible for our grocery store client and their users. QR codes can be applied to so many parts of the customer journey used for so much more. Here are five useful ways to incorporate QR codes into a cutting-edge grocery store app and drive brand loyalty.

Seamless Payment Option

Customers can pay for their groceries at checkout by simply scanning a QR code with their grocery app. We were able to accomplish this without upgrading the existing POS systems, and since this method uses the device’s camera instead of dedicated hardware (like Apple Pay or Google Pay), we are able to support a wider range of devices including older iPhones and Android phones without NFC chips.

 

Personalized Coupon Integration

The store’s website already lets users order items ahead of time which means in many cases users will already have a saved payment method on file. This means that for this grocer, they were able to remove a frequent barrier to entry and get customers started on mobile payments with greater ease. Users get personalized coupons and deals if they have an account, but now those coupons will be integrated right into the mobile payment app. Customers won’t have to worry about whether or not they are getting all the possible savings when checking out.

 

App Download Redirect

Since QR codes are going to be displayed in the checkout lanes, we had to consider that some customers might scan the code even if they don’t have the grocery store mobile payment app installed. We use this as an opportunity to inform the customer that they are able to pay with their smartphone. If the QR Code is scanned by a different scanner app, the customer will be taken to a web page where they can visit the App Store or Play Store to download the mobile payment app.

 

Scan to Add Items to Your Shopping List

Users can also use their phone’s camera to scan the barcode on items they have already bought in order to add them to their shopping list. The mobile app can use the barcode to fetch images of the item and tell customers where it’s located. This can make finding exactly what you want at the store even easier. And if there are any savings for that item, it will automatically be applied to your account; a far faster option for customers that otherwise would have to type out the product’s name to find it.

 

Streamline Account Signup

When this mobile app was first rolling out, all the existing members of the loyalty program had a card with a unique ID and a barcode. When those users signed up for an account on the mobile app, we didn’t want them to lose anything from their existing loyalty account. Instead of making the users type in a long number from the back of their loyalty card they could just scan their unique barcode from the app and automatically link their accounts.

And as a bonus, a word from this wise: Be cautious of small barcodes! Smartphone cameras have come a long way in the past few years, but they still aren’t as sensitive as the laser scanners at the register. If you have to hold your phone so close to the barcode that the camera can’t focus, you’re going to have a bad time.

Editor’s note: Curious to see our most recent case study for the fifth-largest supermarket chain in the U.S.? You can find it here!

Kyle Engler

Kyle Engler

Developer

Self-proclaimed Google Fanboy, Kyle is a Titanium and native Android developer who has been creating mobile applications for over 5 years. He is always on the lookout for new trends in the mobile space. Kyle is equally at home implementing a front-end UI as well as designing an application’s data architecture.

8 Ways to drive Brand Loyalty with Authentic Mobile Communication

8 Ways to drive Brand Loyalty with Authentic Mobile Communication

As an extension of your brand, your mobile app should have its own distinct voice that communicates authentically with your consumers. Considering the major drivers of ‘how’ and ‘why’ consumers interact with your app will inform the most authentic way for your brand to communicate with them. Below are some things to consider when considering a strategy that aligns with your brand.

Find the Right Voice

The right tone between being an authority & relating to your consumer is a fine line. It’s different for every brand and will be informed by your target audience. People prefer to buy from people (and brands) they relate to. Communicating on the basis of truth and honesty sets that as the baseline and helps to establish trust with your users. This can be done when introducing new policies or when there is a problem, making sure your straight forward. Your voice should always align with your brand promise.

Be honest & approachable

Bold brands might win but don’t make claims that you can solve every problem under the sun for your customers. Approach your audience in a tone that’s human, honest and helpful while also being authoritative. When brands strike that balance in the messaging they create, they position themselves as being trusted partners versus just sellers of goods.

Be transparent

There is enough brand variety worldwide to make any consumer happy. Only your relationship with each individual will set you apart. When a customer can leave your app experience unsatisfied but connected to your narrative, they will return and tell their friends about their experience. This is one of the most powerful byproducts of brand transparency.

Know audience values

A huge part of brand loyalty lies in consumer’s values. Do they value ethical or domestic manufacturing practices? Or perhaps they care about charity commitments and want to feel like their money is going towards something altruistic. Social listening & focus groups can tell you specific language that highlights the most important values to focus on.

Add customer voices

Being transparent means that not only are consumers reading your side of things but are able to see how other consumers are interacting with the brand and what their peers are saying. This can be done with accessible reviews, comments, or by integrating a social aspect that gives an authentic narrative that isn’t controlled by your company’s agenda.

Create thoughtful content

Pushing relevant content adds value to how consumers interact with your brand which is important considering 41% of consumers admitted to unfollowing brands who fail to. Apps with utility should organically foster brand loyalty. Featuring things such as care tips for products or recipes shows that you’re considering their daily life and how your brand or products are a part of that.

Being smart about when to deploy Call-to-Actions

Show users the content they want to see and retarget them later with push notifications. It doesn’t always make sense to go straight to the call-to-actions even if that is the ultimate goal. Consumers are increasingly sensitive to feeling locked into actions falling into pushy marketing schemes.

Have a cohesive brand message

No matter what you’re saying, it should always support the core vision of your brand. Every communication touchpoint matters, which means a brand’s sense of self must shine through all of them.

Laura Little

Laura Little

Laura graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University and holds a degree in Creative Advertising. She’s passionate about authentic narratives, finding what a brand believes in and figuring out how to best translate that to consumers. She feels fortunate to have worked in and have experience in just about every part of the advertising and marketing world. In her downtime she can be found going on outside adventures with her dogs, enjoying local breweries, or doing experiments in her kitchen.

Why Using Mobile for Customer Support is the Smartest Thing You Can Do

Why Using Mobile for Customer Support is the Smartest Thing You Can Do

If you go to a diner and the server is super nice, gets your food out fast & makes sure you never have an empty glass – you’ll factor that into deciding to go back to eat there. However, you probably won’t tell your friends or leave a review. Yet; if the same server takes forever to greet you, puts in your order wrong, and seems less than enthusiastic you will have something to say about it. Point being:

  • Customers who have a bad experience are 2-3x more likely to write an angry review than customers who had a great experience are to post a happy review.

This is bad news if the server in the situation is your brand. According to a formula worked out by a leading business strategist:

  • It takes roughly 40 positive customer experiences to undo the damage of a single negative review.

Bad customer service is a huge killer of brand loyalty. By focusing on reducing dissatisfaction, you build more customer loyalty than by taking action on increasing satisfaction. Ways to reduce dissatisfaction are both easier to identify and take action on. This is important considering that according to NewVoiceMedia U.S. companies lose as much as $75 billion each year due to poor customer service and support.

Below we’ll highlight ways you can keep this type of damage from happening to your brand credibility.

The Power of Responsive FAQ

By building robust customer support into your mobile experience, you can give the consumer a chance to solve the issue in-app. Having an easily accessible FAQ section handles this if you:

  • Make it Searchable: Having an auto-fill search that anticipates the user’s intention as they type will help them know more specifically what they’re trying to solve.
  • Establish Metrics and Feedback Loops: make your FAQ section a living, breathing entity, that changes along with its readers. If 380 people have opened the “How do I cancel my subscription?” article but 200 of them are still contacting customer support after than you need more in-depth info.

When you empower customers to solve issues themselves, you streamline support processes and develop proactive measures- ultimately saving time and money.

Give consumers the channel they want to use

Keep up with mobile users’ expectations by innovating in handling problems or issues. According to a report, 81% of companies with well-built capabilities for delivering excellent customer experience are outperforming their competitors. For mobile app developers, 800 numbers, website forms, emails, and other desktop-based methods are not effective enough to reach your mobile users.

Building a chat interface into your app eliminates communication barriers, significantly increasing the chance that consumers will actually contact support.

Furthermore, omni-channel customer support is tomorrow’s blueprint for customer satisfaction and success. It takes multi-channel support a step further, focusing on customer support from the customer perspective. Rather than fragmented interactions, omni-channel is all about cohesive customer experience. If you chat with support on mobile, tomorrow’s email case shouldn’t restart the conversation, it should continue it.

Ways to Make Mobile Support Work

  • Decrease wait times for support tickets by searching for problems or issues with similar themes.
  • Put in place an automatic follow-up system to help you focus on those users who still need help with their issues.
  • Deeply integrate your customer service software within your app – Automatically collect information about your users and their devices when servicing problems or issues to avoid annoying, repetitive, and time-wasting questions.
  • Utilize push and in-app notifications when replying to a user’s message.

The average annual value of each customer relationship lost to a competitor or abandoned is $289. Great customer service needs scalable and modern support software to efficiently manage incoming tickets.

If you’re investing in mobile, it only makes sense to devote time to a well-rounded customer support strategy including tools designed natively for mobile.

Laura Little

Laura Little

Laura graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University and holds a degree in Creative Advertising. She’s passionate about authentic narratives, finding what a brand believes in and figuring out how to best translate that to consumers. She feels fortunate to have worked in and have experience in just about every part of the advertising and marketing world. In her downtime she can be found going on outside adventures with her dogs, enjoying local breweries, or doing experiments in her kitchen.

Design Tips to Increase Satisfaction in Banking Apps- Part 2

Design Tips to Increase Satisfaction in Banking Apps- Part 2

In the first part of these series, we covered examples of best practices that we have seen play a role in facilitating engagement and improving the user experience.

For the second section of this two-part series, we will cover examples of best practices that we have seen play a role in facilitating engagement and improving the user experience.

Got question surfacing as you read? Give us a ring!

Search & Navigation Part 1

Content Part 1

Guidance Part 2

Privacy & Security Part 2

Appearance Part 2

 

Part 2: Guidance

Similar to what we mentioned for Search & Navigation— ease of use is the most important factor in overall app satisfaction. If users need to complete tasks, make sure you help guide them through the process from start to finish. Here are some tips:

 

Related functions not grouped together.

If you have multiple ways to complete the same task, organize the navigation in a way that makes it easy to find all the similar tasks in one place. For example, some financial applications separate sending money via a mobile number from other payment/transfer operations.

guidance search and nav bank apps

Unnecessary steps to make the user get to where they want to go.

Don’t make the user dig for the information they need. Several banks hide useful details behind another tap, and some even request the user to fill out a form before showing them the details they are looking for. For example, some banks don’t provide easy access to view savings accounts and/ or interest rates.

my credit card - showing info

Progress trackers help users understand how many steps it takes to complete a task, what the next step is, and how far along they are in the process.

Providing a stepper is an easy UX improvement in terms of giving a user more guidance in completing their tasks. You’d be surprised how often you see a multi-step process in bank applications that don’t incorporate this simple yet effective guidance method.

progress trackers in banking app

Provide guidance when you are not letting the user proceed to the next step, let the user know why and how to resolve the necessary actions.

If a user is not allowed to transfer more money than their account balance tell them why.

provide guidance for next step in banking app

User real-time validations on field entries

Don’t play “gotcha!” Whenever possible, let a user know right away if they’ve made a mistake or need to correct something.

User real-time validations on field entries baking app

Either indicate which fields are required, OR only indicate which fields are optional.

indicate which fields are required in banking app

indicate which fields are required in banking app banking app 2

Make it easy to contact the support center

When a user can’t complete a task they are trying to perform they are frustrated, and making them look for help will make them even more frustrated. Make it easily accessible at all times.

support center contact banking app

Part 2: Privacy & Security

Generally, only 31% of bank members use their bank’s mobile app. Of this 31%  there are advocates for the app and prefer using the app over visiting a branch, or using the website. If people are enjoying the app so much why is adoption only 31%? The primary hurdle banks need to overcome is trust. This isn’t a surprise to anyone. We are all aware of this hurdle and have seen great efforts in increasing trust. However, there is always room for more improvement.

Biometric login

Some banks have been making the switch to utilize device biometrics like fingerprint, voice, face recognition. These security measures are not only comforting for consumers but easy to use and adoption is high.

Biometric login in banking app

Provide privacy policies in context

When asking for personal information in an effort to make the app more beneficial to the user, explain why you need it and only when you need it.

privacy policies in context in banking app

Bank first, instead of the customer first

Some apps will not provide the interests rate for a product until after the user applies and provides personal contact information. This is a breach of privacy for the benefit of the sale/marketing and not helpful to the consumer. All the user wants to know is the interest rate so don’t hide it from them.

customer first mobile banking app showing loan amount

Part 2: Appearance

components of app satisfaction chart

Appearance is the second most important component that impacts user’s app satisfaction, coming in at just 1% lower than the most important— Ease of Navigating. An aesthetically beautiful app will elicit a positive emotional response to the experience. At Shockoe, we understand how important this is, which is why we value UI just as much as we do UX. Here are a few tips we’ve used to help clean up bank app interfaces:

Poor content hierarchy

Content organization is a role for both the UX of an application and the UI. Determining the type of content display, and the order in which it’s displayed is pivotal in UX design, while UI design will bring that experience to life using visual hierarchy. Visual hierarchy is based on the Gestalt theory which examines the perception of elements in relation to each other and shows how people tend to unify elements into groups using size, contrast, proximity, negative space, and other design techniques.

content hierarchy in a banking app

Crammed screens

Order makes everything more comprehensible. The same works with user interfaces of digital products. Make sure the focus of the UI is clear and minimized. Don’t cram lots of unnecessary text that doesn’t help the consumer accomplish their task. Don’t bombard them with too many actions to choose from.

comprehensible screens for banking app

Illegible text

Accessibility is mandatory. Make sure all content is legible and follow contrast & size guidelines.

illegible text banking app

 

Make sure actionable items look interactive.

For mobile devices, Google Android and iOS have guidelines on how large a touch-area should be so that any finger large or small can tap an interactive element with ease. Make sure these guidelines are being met.

Make sure actionable items look interactive banking app

large a touch-area should be so that any finger large or small can tap an interactive element with ease on banking app

 

Make sure the interfaces have visual cues as to which elements are actionable or not. Keep in mind that depending on the type of action; hold, swipe, tap, etc— that the correct commonly understood visual cues are being used.

What did you think about these design tips? We’d love to hear your feedback!

Ready to increase user satisfaction in your app? Connect with us here.

 

 

Samantha Carbonell

Samantha Carbonell

UI/UX Designer

In addition to traveling all over the world — China, Thailand, Korea, Germany, Amsterdam, and El Salvador — Samantha has experience working overseas in Japan. While living in Okinawa, Japan, she freelanced as a graphic designer for a transportation company, tasked with finding a creative solution for encouraging a younger audience to use the bus system. A graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University, Sam holds a degree in Graphic Design. Inspired by modern, simplistic design, she adds an aesthetic and conceptual quality to all branding material she creates.

Successful Messaging in the Age of Over-Communication

Successful Messaging in the Age of Over-Communication

The year is 2018. A vast majority of people have embraced mobile technology and with it, the ability to stay connected and engaged. While in theory, receiving emails, push notifications, SMS, and chat messages means users now have the chance to remain informed, such methods are becoming increasingly overused and contributing to the noisy landscape which in turn is selectively consumed by recipients. So as marketers or operative managers, how do you succeed at ensuring your message, sometimes a critical one, is actually engaged? Let’s start at the top.

My Message is Important

Everyone thinks so, and some people are right to think it. So how do you stand out? Messaging teams have long-relied on statistics and trends around open and click-through rates to ensure that their next message has optimal delivery. Take as an example a hypothetical grocery store sending app users a push notification to visit the store on the way home from work. If the strategy involves sending a push-notification at 5:30 pm to catch people on the commute home, this tactic is constructed on the variable of general time.

Conversely exists the strategy of “on my time” (timing). Applications can provide administrators, marketers, and managers information that is knowledgeable about the end user. In the same scenario, a grocery store can use geofencing to detect as users approach the store and notify them of sales and promotions on their personal commonly purchased products.

Both scenarios used the same messaging format, but one delivered invaluable utility while the other one took broad strokes. The latter is considered part of the noisy landscape — a message that can ultimately drive users to turn off push notifications or sometimes delete an application altogether.

 

Timing in Business Operations

Many of these messaging methods have become increasingly thought of as consumer-facing tactics. Truth is, enterprise operations have more to gain than ever by embracing the right medium at the right time. As the supply chain makes a shift to be increasingly digital, it’s not just the senior management and supervisors leveraging technology. Companies such as Amazon, Oneok, and one of Shockoe’s electronics distribution clients, are placing more managers and operative members into the digital environment to ensure the quality of process and deliver. How so?

Warehouse operators

  • As shifts begin, a push notification including a short list of initial items can remind operators of where to begin their work and click on the application and begin the picking process.
  • Notifications can be sent for upcoming picks or incorrectly scanned items.

Mobile workforce

  • Appointment reminders, traffic updates, and route adjustments — whether employees are on the field fixing pipeline or servicing HVAC, companies can use application data to send well-timed SMS and push notifications to keep employees on track.

Management and Supervisors

  • Performance metrics can be emailed at the day’s conclusion. How many successful picks? Who is overperforming? Who needs additional training?
  • Chatbots can bridge the gap between onboarding and company know-how. Common questions can be answered by seeking out keywords. More challenging queries can now be processed through AI-powered chatbots that can seek out common threads, tone, context, and timing to give the best possible answer.

The common element in each instance above is ‘utility.’ A message is likely to be engaged if it provides value at the right moment, and in each case above it helps workers optimally complete a task. This is the universal ingredient to successful messaging in 2018 — if you’re delivering irrelevant content at the wrong time it is likely that the user will learn to disregard messages and ultimately drive the overall process to failure.

 

Consumer Facing Timing

When it comes to customer-facing applications, timing is arguably trickier, but in truth, it’s built on the same principles as before. Earlier we took a look at how a grocery store could provide utility vs. blanket marketing. As a CMO, this is the fundamental principle that should be looked at when figuring out the best moment to engage your customers.

Great timing stems from understanding your specific consumer and their buying/use habits. Whether you’re a bank, a retailer, or a service provider, nobody likes unsolicited sales pleas having nothing to do with their day. Nevertheless, if you know when your customer is supposed to be boarding their plane, or you know when they regularly shop at your store, or you got to know a need of theirs through a customer service chatbot, leverage your knowledge to push information that will deliver the utility they seek from working with your company digitally.

How are different industries delivering this type of utility?

Banks & Money Management

  • Reserved for truly personal and time-critical information, banks should use a mixture of SMS and push notifications to notify users of security breaches and irregular withdrawals from their accounts.
  • For less pressing information including account statements and policy updates, an email will ensure there is a delivered record. Without the urgency
  • Companies like Mint and YNAB are communicating updates on excessive spending and budget thresholds through push notifications that ensure users keep an eye on their finances day-to-day.

Travel & Logistics

  • Travel updates, flight cancellations, train re-routes and detours. When there are adjustments that impact the path of travel, companies can communicate with passengers through SMS and push notifications to potentially save a trip to the airport and get rescheduled through the application.

Retailers

  • Brands recognize the importance of keeping consumers connected to their carts, regardless of if they complete their transaction. If a consumer has added products to their cart in the app and they lock their phone/go inactive, a push notification to remind them that they have items in their cart and increase the likelihood of a completed purchase.
  • To help reconnect customers to brands, emails are helpful for helping customers plan for sales events. Customers can receive coupons after not visiting their site for a certain set of days, invites to sale events on products based on their shopping habits, or even calendar events so customers can have a sale set in their personal calendars.

The Noisy Messaging Landscape

Email, SMS, push notifications, and in-app messaging began with humble beginnings — mechanisms for maintaining personal relationships and running business processes and workflows. Marketers saw an opportunity to embed themselves as part of that world, first by email, then by text, and today through push notifications and chat-bots.

The result is a digital space filled with endless noise. Consumers and employees are getting inundated with messages. According to the Worldwide Daily Email Traffic Report, by 2019 people will receive and send between 100 and 250 emails a day.

 

Worldwide-Daily-Email-Traffic

                                          Worldwide Daily Email Traffic

 

Similarly, text messaging, once an exclusive space for friends, family, and close colleagues, is becoming an increasingly used medium for businesses and marketers to promote products and services. Even though there are the limitations to length and content, it’s a popular enough medium that people will exchange anywhere between 25 and 130 daily messages.

 

Daily -Texts

                                                  Daily Texts by U.S. Adults

 

Last but not least, push notifications, in-app messaging, and toast, have finished saturating the space by engaging audiences across all connected devices (PC, tablet, phone), regardless of whether the device is in use or not. As with the previous two mediums, marketers have found a way to interrupt the average person as many as 45 times per day with push notifications.

 

Benchmark-Open-Rates

                               Push Notifications Benchmark Open Rates

 

So what does this all mean? Unsurprisingly, the limited bandwidth and desire to sift through content means open and engagement rates are at an all-time low.

 

You can still stand out

The reality is when used at the right time and for the right purpose, these three mediums can be highly effective at engaging users. Shockoe approaches messaging in the same way we approach all other technology; we incorporate utility into technology that will make work easier. The result should be a user base that will grow to believe in the value of your message, your application, and your service.

If you’re not sure how to approach messaging in your own application, internal or customer facing, give us a shout! We’ve got a few tricks up our sleeve to help your company leverage the power of effective messaging.

 

Jaime De La Ree

Jaime De La Ree

Business Development Lead

Jaime De La Ree is the acting business development lead at Shockoe with five years of experience in mobile technology consulting. Before joining Shockoe, Jaime worked in supply chain distribution management and later as a non-profit technology partner. When he’s not helping Shockoe build partnerships, Jaime spends his time with his wife and son, and in the remaining time is an avid carpenter, photographer, and astronomer.

Customized Development vs. Out-of-the-box Software

Customized Development vs. Out-of-the-box Software

Today banks, credit unions, and financial institutions are in a constant battle to offer users the latest technology features. Features like cards on/off, mobile deposits, and card management seem to be among the standards users have grown to expect within the ever-growing fintech industry (common competitors in this space include PayPal, Venmo, and Cash App).

As a software developer focused on created financial applications, I’ve learned that these features do not come easily. Let’s discuss why.

Many financial institutions already use out-of-the-box, white label banking systems for their digital experience.

The majority of the small banks and credit unions’ core banking solutions are developed and maintained by only a handful of vendors. This results in banking products which are built on the same functionalities that, unfortunately, are not easily customizable during the development process.

Although an out-of-the-box solution may seem like an economical way to go, this introduces severe limitation in customization and competitiveness. White labeled banking systems provide a consistent build and user experience regardless of the financial institution. Adding new features that are unique, company-specific, and user-centric to a banking institution becomes a complex challenge.

Core banking systems often provide the necessary backend infrastructure. Banking applications rely heavily upon an infrastructure that includes a white-labeled user interface. Yes, this user interface can be customized to fit a financial institution’s branding (i.e. logo placement, terminology, and mainstream features).

So why choose an in-house solution instead of an out-of-the-box product from the system vendor? A custom solution helps financial institutions secure quite a few advantages.

 

Benefits

 

Custom provides the tools users want:

Core systems provide very common modules and services readily used by financial institutions. However, such services fail to cut it in this competitive fintech environment. Innovation is key in engaging customers and an in-house solution provides the flexibility that gives users the latest features. In our recent deployment with Virginia Credit Union (VACU) we added a simple new feature to its banking platform: displaying account and routing numbers. Our custom solution was able to resolve many of the limitations presented by the white labeled vendor’s ERP.

Custom design for a thoughtful customer strategy:

Some vendors may provide a customizable interface (think drag and drop elements, color pickers, etc.) within their core system. These customizations cannot account for the unique needs of every financial institution. The core system used at VACU provided a tile layout with drag and drop elements. Based on their users’ feedback, VACU wanted to steer away from this layout, but the core system was not flexible enough to accommodate the desired usability strategy.

Custom solutions saves money:

A custom solution adds value to customer expectations because a thoughtful roadmap will be dependably better received than plugging in half-baked modules Always start by building on what your users expect from your business. Deploy a solution from the ground up that is thoughtful of the end-user rather than pushing in the core system’s ERP that can be a mismatch to the way the bank operates.

Core system ERP’s are designed to capture the needs of a general audience — they succeed with the broader picture but sometimes fall short when getting into the details of what makes one bank unique from another. Custom can provide an opportunity for banks to stand out, listen to their customers, and create an experience that is tailored to fit.

In the case of VACU, customers were looking for a way to access routing and account numbers, but the cost of producing this feature from the ERP system was prohibitive. The vendor’s resources would need to be allocated directly to the financial institution – which would have ended up costing the union both time and money. The credit union chose Shockoe to rebuild a customized accounts module so that the feature would be present.

 

Process

 

When to consider custom:

VACU’s mobile roadmap stated that certain features were integral to driving repeat mobile traffic and engaging a growing contingency of young users that won’t step foot in a bank. Therefore, VACU paired up with Shockoe to steer away from some of the core system features that were currently dictating their mobile user experience (more on this in our complete case study here). They wanted to keep the necessary parts of the core, such as the backend infrastructure, but rebuild the UI from the ground up with new designs and added functionality.

How we approach custom:

To follow the agile approach we use here at Shockoe and to accommodate our client’s needs, the application architecture was split into different sprint-sized modules: View Accounts and a Transactions module. Each new module was developed based on VACU’s prioritization, and deployed by embedding it into their existing application without disrupting the existing UI and UX that would house it.

The idea has been to progressively rebuild their online banking platform modularly until the whole platform can be replaced with the custom solution.

Users deserve a digital experience flexible to their needs and expectations as they are constantly shifting. I’ve had the opportunity to work first-hand on an application that increased productivity and provided cutting-edge technologies to the highly loyal customers of VACU. As with most financial institutions, staying innovative and user-centric is the key to succeeding in both the digital and brick and mortar space.

 

Lucas Mezalira

Lucas Mezalira

Lucas is a full stack web developer who has experience working with different backend and frontend javascript frameworks. He has been writing code for over four years and is always curious to find out how things work under the hood. He started by creating simple digital circuits using VHDL and FPGAs, moved to low-level kernel programming in C and ended up in the web programming world.