Welcome to the world of disappearing apps

Michael Buckley introduces the concept of app atomisation and third-party integration, looking ahead to a time when apps as we know them may disappear entirely.

The way users interact with apps is constantly changing with the evolution of technology. While apps were once the domain of smartphones, they are now seeping into users’ work lives, cars, and connected home devices. Even the concept of downloading an app is quickly changing: Google recently announced the advent of ‘Instant Apps’ where users can quickly use some of an app’s functionality for a specific purpose without actually downloading the app itself.

People have become app administrators – downloading, opening, closing, deleting and toggling.

In this environment of changing customer interactions, brands are moving away from the standard app and towards a more fluid approach to offering their products and services. With the ubiquitous nature of computers and technology, the leading services will offer themselves intuitively to customers depending on the users’ time, place and situation.

Related: Mary Meeker’s 2016 Internet Trends report discussed app use, and many other trends and shifts in consumption which will continue to change the marketplace »

Take the music streaming app Spotify as an example. Spotify now delivers a service that enhances the listening experience across multiple environments, from the living room to vehicles and workspaces. Through branded partnerships with companies such as Uber and Shazam, music can be delivered beyond the standard Spotify app.

This is the ‘atomisation’ of apps. Through atomisation, brands are distributing their products and services across various platforms and third-parties. For example, WeChat, a Chinese messaging app that is known as the ‘everything app,’ functions beyond the traditional definition of an app with 10 million third-party apps hosted inside. One feature controls the lights, temperature and settings of your hotel room.

As services like these continue to grow, and organisations are able to deliver their services through third parties that provide a more meaningful interaction with their consumers, the dominance of standard, single-use apps will ultimately disappear.

It may be a while until individual apps disappear entirely, but the creation of holistic service offerings beyond the single use app is an accelerating trend.

Developers are beginning to take the best services of apps and are implementing them into more natural use cases. Single-use apps are also being interwoven into services with stronger user bases through open KPIs and platforms.

For instance, BMW uses ConnectedDrive as a way to offer their customers a wide range of intelligent services and apps that provide information and entertainment during the journey. Customers can choose the services and service duration, according to their specific needs. Services can be accessed in the vehicle in real-time, allowing drivers to access various apps that help them navigate traffic, find their destination, or search for highly rated restaurants in the area.

Automotive is one of the many areas where brands are atomising their products and services to gain a more personal interaction with their customers. The future of app design will be based on the interaction with the customer, or ‘point of x,’ and making it as smooth as possible.

Organisations should invest in understanding what future ‘points of x’ will be for their user, and design around them. They can partner with other services, like the BMW ConnectedDrive for instance, to ensure their services are available to their customers right when they need them, or potentially build their own ‘point of x’ offerings to win the service moments that matter most to users.

We are moving beyond apps as ‘things’ and into services that may or may not require human interaction to activate. Organisations need to untether themselves from the need to design an app for everything; very often there are better entry points for services than mobile apps.

While it can be a challenge for traditional businesses to relinquish some of their products and services to third-party platforms, service providers and app developers need to invest in understanding future interactions with users and design around them.

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Michael Buckley is managing director at Accenture Interactive Australia and New Zealand.

 

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