Mobile “apps” are the rage, and every company with a desire to enhance their customer relationships has been jumping on the bandwagon with mobile app offerings of their own.
It seems like a great way to engage customers, especially for insurers—a number have rolled out helpful mobile apps that provide assistance filing a claim, or even value-add advice on buying a car. But as with every good thing, there's a catch: There are now several multiple platforms to be supported in the mobile apps space—Apple's iPhone, Microsoft Windows Phone, Blackberry and Android-enabled smartphones, to name the leaders.
That's one of the issues discussed in an article I just published in the November/December issue of INN, which explores the opportunities and issues carriers are addressing with mobile computing. I spoke with Dennis Giglio, AVP of interactive marketing for Nationwide, who explained how the proliferation of mobile platforms was stretching his developments teams thin.
“Every time we do an app, we have to make sure what we're doing works on all the different operating systems,” he said.
Nationwide launched a mobile app for the iPhone last spring, and more recently, one for Android.
“There are so many things that we learned,” says Giglio. A new update to the Android app, for example, necessitated the same upgrade work to the iPhone app to maintain a consistent customer experience. When making significant changes or updates to mobile platform apps, “if you have multiple platforms, then you're constantly going back to make changes,” he explains. “There was a tremendous amount of work involved in making sure that all of the experiences that had for that one app were consistent across all the different operating systems and platforms.”
Ultimately, the solution to this over-platformed space may be the same solution devised more than a decade ago for PCs—make applications available through the Web via a universal browser. As Web applications came into vogue, developers only had to write once to deploy across all user platforms. For its part, Nationwide is shifting its efforts toward mobile Web, which enables apps to still run across all the various smartphone platforms. In fact, while previous generations of phones had very clunky Web interfaces, the iPhone and Android-style interfaces make accessing the Web a very smooth and interactive process.
As was the case with investing in Web functionality versus writing different applications for various desktop systems in the 1990s, companies are recognizing that this will be the way to go with mobile computing as well.
“We believe really the future is in mobile Web,” says Giglio. “We're not going to get out of the app business. But while in the last one to two years everyone thought that the future was in apps, we all sort of took our eye off the ball on mobile Web. We decided to get back to that, to make sure that we’ve got both apps and mobile Web, and are deliver a phenomenal experience for customers.”
Joe McKendrick is an author, consultant, blogger and frequent INN contributor specializing in information technology.
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