State of Mobile November 23, 2016

Atomic services

Frederik De Bosschere

Lead Strategist

In our annual report 'The State of Mobile' we have identified five very concrete evolutions you should understand to stay on top of the digital game in 2017. The fourth is the atomisation of services.

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Your app is dead. Long live your apps. 

More devices and channels means adapting your services to these new interfaces. Or integrating other services into your own platform’s interface. Whether it’s finding your place in this new ecosystem, or becoming the ecosystem yourself, you have some thinking to do.

There is no 1 experience.

Managing your digital touch points used to be (relatively) easy: start with web, include mobile flavor, add an app, finish off with some social sauce, and you’d be done. You could think in terms of (a few) interfaces, and even screens.


But: how can you as a brand or service cope with a world that is explosively becoming multi-device and multi-channel? Where operating systems are becoming virtual private assistants and messengers? And messaging tools becoming operating systems themselves? With people gesturing with their watch or talking to their living room? The additional challenge?
Customers demand a best-in-class experience on all of these extra touch points. But: there is no longer 1 experience. Or interface. There are just moments. Many moments.

Unbundle. Rebundle. X10. 

Bundling all of your value propositions into an app made perfect sense from your brand’s perspective. All of your offerings combined. But as apps became bloated, they fell apart. Product designers were acutely made aware of the underlying problem. But still there was no light at the end of the tunnel, as a lot of these unbundled, single-focus apps weren’t able to turn the tide. Users had quite simply grown sick and tired of accessing different interfaces to fulfill their different needs. Rather, they prefer an access point that aggregates all of these services and possibilities into one single point of contact. Powerful yet seamless.

Users prefer an access point that aggregates all services and features into a single point of contact.

Even though many single-focus apps didn’t work out that well, there was a positive pay-off to the story. The Great Unbundling made companies do some serious thinking: what flows or processes does my service or offering consist of? Furthermore, actually unbundling those services provided valuable insights into what worked, and what didn’t.

Now, given the rapid pace of changing user behavior, those atomic services are rebundling into new interfaces:

  • Platforms like iMessage and Messenger, or Apple and Google Maps, that already boast huge engagement, are starting to integrate third party services like ride-sharing, table booking, money transfer, etc.
  • Within those messaging tools, bots like Allo’s Google Assistant or Facebook’s M are always-on and ready to provide you with the informative or actionable content card you need. Or take Facebook’s DeepText AI program, which understands the conversation you’re having and tries to offer relevant assistance or services. For example: it will propose an Uber when you’re discussing transportation.
  • In general, we’re now entering the age of the virtual private assistant. There are differences in where these VPA’s live: on a screen like Yahoo Aviate; behind a screen, like Google Now on Tap; or by calling out the magic word, like Amazon Alexa, Google Home or Siri (from your in-ear pods). Different incarnations of the same concept: aggregating huge amounts of information or services into 1 natural access point.
  • Relatively new product categories, like smart watches or cars, are bringing new interfaces and new challenges to how you should translate your service or appliance to these new operating systems.
  • Smarthomes: as your home becomes a cloud-connected intelligent HUB, the potential for clever integrations and automatization becomes huge. Take a look at fan-favorite IFTTT: how would your service or product fit into a ‘recipe’?
  • The list goes on, really.

Google Table Manager

Simply put: platforms (in all of their diversity) are rebundled with lightweight, contextually relevant, micro-services from third parties, like yours. Adding items to your grocery list from a group chat with your family. Or ordering festival tickets from a Facebook Messenger chat with your festival buddies. At first, we will see a lot of chat bots and widgets that are little more than crappy experiments. But we can expect some use cases that work delightfully well too, because they are highly focused. It’s not about cramping everything in there. It’s about selecting the right use cases.

Become the bundle

The other strategy, albeit one more bold, more ambitious and requiring deep pockets, is to become a platform yourself. If your business is a primary destination for users and consumers, you can allow other parties to join your ecosystem. But: you will have to evolve beyond simply offering the storefront (e.g. banner space). This means improving conversion (whatever the nature) for those third parties. Facilitating the customer journey by removing friction. For example: offering easy payments, CRM enrichment, simple user authentication or identification, etc.

Take a look at how Facebook is now rivaling with traditional publishers. In addition to having the ‘eyeballs’, their advertising options have expanded from simple ad banners to rich content cards to sell products, drive visitors to your events, etc. Or closer to home: Medialaan’s Stievie. In addition to being a necessary move to compete with new video platforms and viewing habits, inviting other TV networks to join their offering is clever: they keep control and their customers get more bang for the buck.


Come out and play

One thing is certain: today’s app or channel strategy will soon prove dated. So: rather than letting your app gather dust on some OS homescreen (or worse: some app store), it’s time to come out and play, and offer your services to consumers when, where and how THEY prefer it.

Don’t mourn though. Your app, which you alone own, might become less important as a touch point. But you will win many more. Agreed, you might concede some degree of control. But you will win scale and distribution. (Because let’s face it: you’ve never used just use one channel to service or communicate with existing or prospective customers, now have you?).

Value is, once again, created by pulling disparate things, together in one place. Just not in your interface. Imagine your key service or offering. Now imagine you don’t access it from an app or web screen. How does that feel? Does it work? Don’t worry if it doesn’t: user experience has been overly focused on user interfaces rather than user moments. Learn how your service can be adapted to all of these moments, and look for parallels. But be fast about it: first one to get it right, gets all the spoils.

Download The State of Mobile

Get insights into today’s mobile behaviour and technologies to watch in the years to come.

Download the report
Download the report