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7 lessons from building SA’s top apps

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Building an app that is a appealing, appropriate and offers a good user experience is sometimes quite a challenge. LYNETTE HUNDERMARK, co-founder of Hundermark mobile solutions, shares some tips for building a popular app.

We love mobile and have been fortunate enough to work on the initial versions of many of South Africa’s leading apps over the last 7 years. In some cases, we have continued working with these brands throughout the course of their app journeys and these are some of the fundamental (as well as subtler) learnings anyone looking to make a dent in the space can take from this experience

Lesson 1: Your app target audience is never EVERYONE

It may seem like common sense, but even today we still get approached by potential clients wanting to create an app for ‘everyone’ with no real understanding of who their app target audience is. The only time we have ever been approached to create an app for ‘everyone’ was when we worked on the initial SterKinekor apps and we still use the term “everyone” somewhat loosely.  Even if you have a defined audience in mind for your app, you need to understand their personas and what the core goals of these users are likely to be.

Lesson 2: Establish what value your app is going to offer to its target audience

Why will your target audience need an app? With over 2 million apps available in both the Google Play and App store (Statistica 2017, March), there is literally an app available for almost anything and everything. This makes for a tough competitive landscape, so when launching your app, be aware of how you’re going position your app in order to set it apart and what value your app will bring to the table.  The only core differentiator is going to be the unique value you are offering.

Lesson 3: User Experience is key in app success

Developing an app is easy and there are many development companies out there, who could easily put together an app in a short amount of time, however apps are consumer facing (be it a B2B or B2C customer) and since customers are spoilt for choice, there are high expectations in place for an outstanding user experience.  What does this mean in simple terms? Plainly put, it means having an app that makes efficient use of small screen real estate, one that considers phone functionality and most importantly from a South African context, considers data costs (which is very important for lower LSM clients).

Lesson 4: Your app is not a once off cost

Having an app presence alone is simply not good enough; phones changes, operating systems change and it’s up to you as a brand to stay abreast of this change and also stay on top of the current trends in order to predict possible future changes. Performance is everything, so you need to be in a process of constant iteration. A number of the brands we have worked with since 2011 have already released over 1300 app iterations.

Lesson 5: Understand how personal the mobile device actually is

Effective mobile design and experience begins with understanding how fiercely personal the mobile device is. It has become more of an appendage rather than a device. With that as starting point, we can then easily understand that mobile is connecting us to our digital worlds but increasingly it is also about our activity in the real world and real connections.   It acts as a bridge between the physical and digital worlds and that is exciting for us as marketers because it provides us with an opportunity for brand the messaging to start on mobile and then extend to the real world, with real results to match.

Lesson 6: Continue surprising and delighting your customer

So, you’ve released an app, now what? Chances are good that in this cut-throat, competitive and break-neck speed world we live in, your competitor will soon release an app with the bare minimum functionality that yours has. Chances are also good that people will become bored since attention is a hard-won commodity these days and customers want to be intrigued, engaged and entertained with the latest and greatest EVERYTHING.  With this in mind, in order to retain your app customers, you do need to continuously release features that will add value to them.

Lesson 7: Push notifications are not a silver bullet

They can, however, be used effectively if not treated as SPAM. Effective ways of using push messages includes:

  • Personalisation – since you are already collecting data from your users, you should have access to insights about their online behaviour, location, preferred usage time etc. This gives you a unique opportunity to be able to fine tune and target your messaging. Make it personal. Ask your users what they’d like to receive or see more of and in return you can give them the valuable information they’d like, based on their needs. That’s a value-add.
  • Carefully consider in-app messages: Keep in mind that every push does not deserve a shove. Some messaging may be better served inside the app itself rather than running the risk of annoying your users by sending an unwarranted home screen notification. Never lose sight of the fact that it is all about your customer and push messaging can come across as invasive, as it takes someone out of what they are doing and distracts them.
  • Make it worth their while: This is the day and age of instant gratification. When users click on a notification, make sure that the messages linked to it provide them with real value and relevance. Strive to deliver value through the message itself, versus always teasing users for app opens which can be counterproductive.
  • Adopt rich, interactive formats: Whether these be from new notification priorities in Android Oreo and iOS11, to including media and buttons within messages themselves, app marketing teams have more tools at their disposal than ever before to spark user intrigue and gain a better understanding of what users care about directly from the message itself. Make use of these. A little creativity can go a long way.

Some of these lessons may come across as ‘obvious’ at first glance, but you might be surprised how more often than not, the fundamentals get overlooked. It’s only the school of hard learning (experience) that teaches us what works versus what doesn’t and that takes us back to the basics that are part of the setup for success. Here’s to yours, maximizing the African App-ortunity.

 

Arts and Entertainment

Deezer to host Hotstix’s Mandela tribute playlist

Deezer is celebrating Nelson Mandela on the centenary of his birthday by hosting a tribute playlist created by music legend Sipho “Hotstix” Mabuse.  

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Mabuse, a legendary figure in African music, first rose to prominence in the 1970s with his band Harari and later developed a name for himself as a solo artist. One of his best known songs was the global hit BurnOut in the 1980s.

The playlist takes the listener on a captivating musical journey through the life of Nelson Mandela.  It was compiled by Mabuse, who consulted with Mandela’s family and friends to ensure that the music would be relevant and accurate. The playlist also features commentary by Mabuse, which was recorded in his Soweto home.  

“I have tried to tell the story of the music that Madiba loved,” says Mabuse. “The Playlist excludes the time in prison obviously, as Madiba would not have had exposure to music in that time.  We have focused on the music we know he loved before and after that period. This recording was really an emotional journey for me, but an incredible opportunity to document these memories.”

The playlist features the music the young Mandela loved, such as The Manhattan Brothers, Solomon Linda, Brenda Fassie and Miriam Makeba.  It includes struggle songs from Chicco, Johnny Clegg, Hugh Masekela and Yvonne Chaka Chaka.  The playlist also includes Mandela by Zahara, one of the younger artists who caught Madiba’s ear.

Mabuse also offers stories of his own songs, such as Shikisha, a song greatly beloved by the former President.

“I was delighted to share my thoughts and hope the listeners enjoyed the musical journey,” says Mabuse. “Madiba did enjoy music immensely and we all have a purpose wherever we are in the world to celebrate culture and to learn from different cultures and music forms and styles.”

This playlist was inspired by the Nelson Mandela 100 campaign, calling on corporates and individuals to act as sources of inspiration and engage in conversation and action.

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Sports streaming takes off

Live streaming of sports is coming of age as a mainstream method of viewing big games, as the latest FIFA World Cup figures from the UK show. Africa isn’t yet at the same level when it comes to the adoption of sports streaming, but usage is clearly moving in the right direction.

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England’s World Cup quarter-final against Sweden was watched by just under 20 million viewers in the UK via BBC One. While this traditional broadcast audience was huge, it was streaming that broke records: the game was the BBC’s most popular online-viewed live programme ever, with 3.8 million views. In Africa, the absolute numbers are lower but the trend towards streaming major sports events on the continent is also well under way.

According to DStv, live streaming of sports dominates the usage figures for its live and recorded TV streaming app, DStv Now. The number of people using the app in June was five times higher than a year ago, with concurrent views peaking during major football and rugby games.

Since the start of the World Cup, average weekday usage of DStv Now is up 60%. The absolute peak in concurrent usage for one event was reached on 26 June, during the Nigeria vs Argentina game. The app’s biggest ever test was on 16 June with both Springbok Rugby and World Cup Football under way at the same time, resulting in concurrent in-app views seven times higher than the peaks seen in June last year.

The World Cup has also been a major reason for new users to download and try out the app. First-time app user volumes have tripled on Android and doubled on iOS since the start of the tournament.

“While we expected live sports streaming to take off, it’s also been pleasing to see that the app is really popular for watching shows on Catch Up,” says MultiChoice South Africa Chief Operating Officer Mark Rayner. “Interestingly, some of the most popular Catch Up shows are local, with Isibaya, Binnelanders, The Queen and The River all getting a significant number of views.”

With respect to app usage, the web and Android apps are the most popular way to watch DStv Now, with Android outpacing iOS by a factor of 2:1.

“We’re continuing to develop DStv Now, with 4k streaming in testing and smart TV and Apple TV apps on their way shortly,” says Rayner. “The other key priority for us is working with the telcos to deliver mobile data propositions that make watching online painless and worry-free for our customers.”

The DStv Now app is free to all 10 million DStv customers in Africa. The app streams DStv live channels as well as supplying an extended Catch Up library. Two separate streams can be watched on different devices simultaneously, and content can also be downloaded to smartphones and tablets. The content available on the app varies according to the DStv package subscribed to.

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