JUL16-0602-GUESTVIEW-WILLIS

The current NBA Finals have once again proven that it is the most talked about, watched and engaged time of the year for basketball fans. And the increased popularity of these events is happening more and more across mobile applications. Pinnacle sporting events from the Super Bowl to the March Madness college basketball tournament to the Olympics are no different, as fans flock to their favorite fantasy league, sporting app or social video platform in order to track their team’s latest outcome or to talk trash with others.

As a result of the increased popularity of mobile apps, many leading testing companies must cater to this frenzy and ensure that brands are providing a seamless user experience in the new “digital experience” era. In addition, those companies that want to compete in this new “digital experience” paradigm are creating omnichannel strategies that meet customer expectations and create user experiences that help promote their brand.

However, it’s not always easy. Mobile is a major component of any omnichannel strategy and is arguably the trickiest to manage, because mobile environments change constantly. WiFi becomes 3G in an instant, a phone call interrupts an app, and user load spikes without warning. Another mobile challenge is that the inconvenience and cost of switching brands for mobile users are virtually zero. It can be as easy as deleting one app and downloading another. Done.

(Related: How to get testing into your DevOps)

With this in mind, brands must know their customers better than the competition, and must provide a personal and consistent experience, especially during huge, fan-based events. The mobile experience, by design, is very personal, and users are more willing these days to provide personal information with the understanding that their favorite brands will predict their needs. The days of experimenting with a mobile app strategy are over. Either brands get the mobile experience right (in this case, streaming sporting events with no problem), or risk sending the message that they don’t care about their customers.

With the continued rise of importance around mobile apps from brands and consumers, developers need to release mobile apps that earn and keep their customers’ trust. As a result, developers should focus on three key areas to improve the digital experience: collaboration, continuous improvement, and testing for user environments.

Collaboration is key
For an app to reflect a brand’s commitment to customers, the development process should, most importantly, be collaborative. As a result, marketing and DevTest groups need to work together to certify that app performance aligns with the way users expect to engage with their apps. By understanding the app’s primary flaws—from poor performance on 3G, or apps frozen by an incoming call—marketers can work closely with developers to solve real user problems. Additionally, this collaboration also ensures that the app presents a user experience look and feel that’s consistent across all devices and operating systems.

To ensure a successful quality experience, brands also need to anticipate where customers are using their apps in which environments. Whether it’s streaming a highly watched sporting event like the Super Bowl or March Madness during work hours, or watching it on the commute home in a subway, marketers should know how and where customers will engage with their apps and communicate that to developers so they can account for any technical challenges these environments may present. While technical and marketing teams haven’t always seen eye-to-eye, the pressure to release high-quality mobile apps has brought them together.

Continuous improvement
Once developers and marketers are collaborating to find and fix app flaws, DevTest teams need to repeat the process by methodically updating their apps as quickly as possible to alleviate pain points and improve the user experience. The best method to release better apps faster is an agile methodology that emphasizes automation, compatible tools and test reports that help generate fast feedback to developers.

When striving for continuous improvement, it is crucial that teams do not prioritize new features over primary functionality and reliability of the app. Regardless of all the fancy features in an app, if it doesn’t work when it needs to, customers will be left frustrated (for example, watching the final seconds of the game and the app freezes, causing users to miss that incredible last shot). Then, all the hard work that teams have invested in will be negated.

User environment testing
User environment testing is essential in meeting customer expectations, and it needs to be happen for users at all times. By ignoring certain customer demographics or overlooking performance blind spots, brands can potentially alienate previously loyal customers. In order to avoid this, QA teams need to test for a variety of user conditions.

For example, developers need to ensure that an app works on both new devices and outdated devices, to avoid users feeling like they can’t properly load a streaming game on their old iPhone. Additionally, not testing against the appropriate user environments will also lead users to think a brand does not understand their needs.

For example, hikers often travel in remote areas where connectivity is limited. If an app built for these users is not tested in this type of environment, the chance of the app failing and disappointing users is much greater. As a result, appropriate user condition testing is important in order for companies to not risk alienating users who use popular apps.

Looking ahead
A brand’s fundamental goal is to understand its digital customers, anticipate their needs and build trust and loyalty. By collaborating, focusing on continuous improvement and testing under real user conditions, brands can create a mobile experience that delivers a seamless user experience and builds long-term customer loyalty—whether it’s an average day or on game day.

About Christopher Willis

Christopher P. Willis is CMO of Perfecto Mobile.