What makes a great mobile app: Inside the mobile-only, on-demand market (and gig economy)

 In Blog

If you’ve followed me through the first two parts of this series, you’ve learned a little bit about how mobile apps, such as Postmates, work from both a consumer and an employee perspective.

The journey, in a way, has been an opportunity to see how the sausage gets made.

In this final part I provide readers insight into how my experience with Postmates ties together with payments, marketing and the overall mobile experience.

Let me start this insight with a statement I believe many industry folks can agree with: Mobile payments are boring.

Mobile payments are boring because the process, by now, is straightforward — whether it’s a proximity mobile payment or an in-app purchase. And you know what? It’s ok for mobile payments to be boring.

Instead of payments, the focus for banks and retailers today should be the overall mobile experience.

Let me take you back to when Wal-Mart first introduced Walmart Pay into its consumer mobile app.

The retailer’s decision to add Walmart Pay to the Wal-Mart app wasn’t about payments, but rounding out the overall mobile experience on that app.

“It’s not mobile payments for payments’ sake,” Daniel Eckert, the senior VP of Wal-Mart Services, said last year during Networld Media Group’s annual CONNECT Mobile Innovation Summit. (This year’s conference is taking place in August in Philadelphia).

Wal-Mart’s mobile app already was one of the most popular retailer apps with consumers before the company added a payments feature. Consumers were spending a lot of time in the app, so why not put a bow around the experience with a payment options for purchases at the physical point of sale.

“We didn’t do this for payment,” Eckert said. “We did it for improving the checkout. The feedback we’re getting is that it works for our customers. They know intuitively how it can help them.”

That approach goes back to the idea of keeping consumers within “the four walls” of your brand, whether that’s a bank or retailer.

When I spent time with Postmates’ mobile app, I had a sense of what companies such as Wal-Mart, Amazon and Uber think about when it comes to providing the best mobile experience.

When you look at Postmates, there isn’t anything left to do to improve the functionality of its mobile app for consumers. That’s not to say the company should sit back and be content with itself. But Postmates’ app is one that’s simple to use. And consumers adore simple.

Every company that strives for a great mobile experience should take note of what companies such as Lyft, Postmates and Uber do with their apps. When you’re forced to be a mobile-only service, you better believe they must provide the best app experience.

The mobile experience is an area banks and retailers will emphasize more as we move deeper into 2017. What matters most to consumers today happens before and after the payment.

Let’s revisit the Postmates app for an example.

You open the app and nearby food options immediately greet you on the first screen. If you don’t like what you see, you can use the search function to find just about anything.

And when you do find something, it’s easy to add items to your cart, pay (especially if you’re using something like Apple Pay) and track your delivery. The app will notify you when Postmates finds the nearest courier, when a courier is at the pickup location, when the courier is on their way to you and when the courier arrives.

If you’re bored as you wait for your food to arrive, the app enables you to track exactly where your courier is at any given moment. This feature actually comes in handy when you live in an apartment complex. I usually wait for the courier at the front gate to save them the hassle of finding the appropriate doorbell to ring.

When your delivery is completed, you can go back into the app, rate the courier’s service and if you’re inclined, add a tip.

Again, the payment is a minor part of the entire experience. It’s an afterthought. I don’t have to think much about it.

And therein lies the beauty of the modern mobile experience. The great ones are intuitive and smooth. That’s something every bank and retailer with a mobile app should strive for.

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