Getting Apps Ready for Cyber Monday

Black Friday is coming. Officially it’s the 29th of November, but unofficially – and far more importantly for big brands – it’s right around the corner. 

Why should that worry you? Because if you’re like most brand managers, you’re going to launch a mobile app this year, whether for a campaign, a promotion, or a major upgrade. Because you’ve realized you can’t afford to miss out on the consumer behaviors created by the mobile channel. And, because there’s a good chance that your mobile campaign efforts may be hamstrung by some Old School rules that should have gone out the window with the not-so-smart phone.

Many big brands don’t understand the most fundamental change that mobile apps have brought about. When it comes to mobile, state-of-the-art is not about reliably delivering cloud services. State-of-the-art is all about connecting with human emotions. If you don’t keep your eyes on that prize, you’ll miss both your deadlines and the benefits that a compelling mobile app can provide.

Here are seven ways that big brands can launch Cyber Monday mobile campaigns, on time, every time:

  1. Create cross-functional marketing and engineering teams The CIO, the CMO, and their teams must collaborate early and often. Yes, there will be a “dance” between UX designers and IT professionals, but the ultimate winner has to be the end user.
  1. Empower the group closest to the user Sorry engineering, but this is a core principle. At Apple, the company that knows the mobile experience better than any other, design drives technology. Engineering has to make the technology do what design has defined. That’s because the real value chain starts with the user and goes back into the company and its supply chain. And which group within the company knows the consumer? Design, not engineering. So, let your designers call the shots.
  1. Have the CEO own the user experience The escalation path for UX issues should go directly from the chief designer to the CEO. Remember the path paved by Sir Jony Ive and Steve Jobs at Apple. It wasn’t for nothing that Steve’s other role was “User-in-Chief.”
  1. Iterate quickly and view failure as progress Take a cue from App Store apps: release every two weeks. Your app isn’t going to be perfect, so make it better next time. It still won’t be perfect, so make it better again. The beauty of the mobile app channel is that you can update as often as you need to.
  1. Remove emotions To engage the emotions of users, you need to keep the emotions on your team from getting in the way. The engineers will shout that the designers are crazy and the designers will shout that the engineers are impossible. They need to get over it and examine the issues dispassionately. Snap judgments need to yield to much deeper cross-cultural understandings.
  1. Establish measurements up front Numbers can help you bypass passions in the highly charged run up to the Black Friday deadline. Measurements, such as end user analytics, can help drive design and engineering in the right direction. At the same time, be judicious in your use of measurements. One designer working at Google, a famously metrics-driven environment, quit to go work at Twitter because he felt that his input was being trumped by Google Analytics, which was driving the design decisions about the color of buttons and more. Metrics cannot substitute for good designers, nor can metrics substitute for good leadership.
  1. Ship it early If you want your app to be ready by Cyber Monday, ship it ahead of time. Even if it’s not perfect. With 1.6 million apps in the App Store alone, the idea of “launching” is no longer relevant. Just release the app – early, even if it’s imperfect – and update it often. If there is content within your app that needs to be tailored for Cyber Monday or Black Friday – coupons, for example – then hold that content until the date. But make the app available beforehand. That’s the only sure-fire way to meet the deadline.

Think of these as the new rules for launching mobile campaigns for Cyber Monday. You can let go of the old ones. They don’t apply any more. And if you follow the new ones, you’ll be in a much better position to make the most of Black Friday when the day finally arrives.

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