Mini Apps Are the Future

Native apps are staples for most smart phone users these days and will continue to be for the foreseeable future. They serve as utilities, communication, and entertainment in our daily lives. Performance, fidelity, and ingenuity in the native app arena have increased tremendously as smart phones become more and more capable. Generally speaking, they’re great, but there is still room for improvement.

The catch with native apps is that they are high-friction. Before you can even begin to use one, you usually have to download and install it, create an account, learn how to use it, etc. Also, depending on the app, they can be quite large and we’re not all using the latest and greatest smart phone with a gazillion gigs of storage. Most of us have had to delete apps just to be able to download new ones. Last, sharing data between different native apps can be difficult. This is starting to be addressed, certain apps that play nice with one another will allow sharing between them but even then it takes several steps just to copy and paste text, send a photo, share a post, etc.

All of these problems are typically avoided on the web, PWAs attempt to solve them and can do so pretty well. But, again, they’re far from perfect and can definitely be improved.

Enter MiniApps. They’re a fairly new type of mobile app. They integrate with native apps but also rely on web tech like Javascript and CSS. They’re small in size, perform well, and you don’t have to install them. They can also be distributed across many different platforms: the web, within native apps, SMS, QR codes, etc. MiniApps will never replace native apps, or the web, or PWAs, but rather bridge the gap between native and web.

Google unveiled their “Instant Apps” in 2017 and they’re becoming widely adopted. Apple followed suit this year with their “App Clips” and Snapchat just unveiled their in-app “Minis” this year as well. This is a trend all business owners should be paying attention to at the very least, if not considering building their own MiniApp.

So, what would you even use a MiniApp for? Scooter sharing is a great example. Let’s say you’re visiting an area that has Lime Scooters, even though in your home town Bird Scooters are more prevalent. These days you’d have to download the Lime App, sign up, add your payment info, etc. And after that you’d return home and probably forget you even had the Lime App on your phone. It’s a cumbersome process just to ride a scooter and the app is a waste of space once you’re done.

With a MiniApp, like Apple’s App Clips for example, you could just scan the QR on the scooter and the App Clip would load almost instantaneously. You could pay for the scooter ride with Apple Pay and be on your way. No more waiting for the full app to download, no more sign up, no more wasted space on your phone.

Rewards programs are another good use case. Do you really need a coffee shop’s whole app on your phone just to keep track of your next free cup of coffee? No way, it’s a glorified punch card. Scanning a QR at the register and firing up a MiniApp is a much better solution.

QR codes aren’t the only way to access MiniApps though. They can be launched via search engines, smart assistants (like Siri), SMS, web browsers, calendar items, and more.

MiniApps aren’t going anywhere, this is a trend you’ll want to get out ahead of. As more and more companies unveil their versions of MiniApps, users will only become more accustomed to using them. It’s only a matter of time before they’re the standard and users expect your business to have them.

Check out some of our other resources in the meantime, you can learn a bit more about Apple’s App Clips here and Snap’s Minis for Snapchat here. If you’re interested in designing and building a MiniApp for your business, we can help. Drop us a line here.

There’s a chatbot for that.

Chatbots are becoming more widely adopted and entering the mainstream. Even if they’re just now making your radar, you’ve probably already interacted with several of them. Either way, you might have several questions about them. What are they? What can they do? Are they right for your business.

We’ll unpack all of those but what’s most important to know out of the gate is that Chatbots aren’t going anywhere. There are limits to what they can offer but as your customers interact with them more and more, their expectations will be raised. Furthermore, a well designed Chatbot can make your life easier and possibly save you money along the way.

So, what’s a Chatbot?

Chatbots use conditions, triggers, and/or events to interact with users automatically. When done right, they’re consistent, prompt, and versatile. They can be deployed via several avenues like Slack, SMS, live chat, etc. You can design them to either be proactive or reactive in order to collect important information from the user interacting with them. When it comes to communicating with your business, employing a Chatbot gives your customers more options and can help grow your business.

The Future of Chatbots

A recent Facebook survey uncovered that over 50% of users are more likely to shop online somewhere if they can engage with the business via chat. Almost 60% of Generation X and Millennials report having knowingly interacted with chatbots. Some estimates indicate that 85% of customers’ interactions with businesses will be via chatbots and other self-service solutions. Sure, email and telephone are the most common channels at the moment but the The writing is on the wall, Chatbots will only continue to become more popular.

These days, if your customers cannot find what they’re looking for quickly, there’s a good chance you’ll lose the sale or maybe even lose the customer forever. The second most common online frustration users’ report is not being able to get answers to simple questions. Third is that basic business details are hard to find. Chatbots can easily prevent churn as a result of these issues when they’re designed and built well.

Unfortunately, they are not a one-size-fits-all solution. The type of bot you build and the features it has will need to be tailored to your users. When we build Chatbots at T R I M, we do a deep dive on our Product Owners’ industry as a whole, their business in particular, and their target demographic.

Chatbots for Customer Service

Chatbots work great for customer service for several reasons. First, they’re affordable. Sure, there’s some up-front cost associated, we need to do some conversation mapping and write the code. But compared to a solution with a visual interface, like a web application, the cost of a Chatbot is a drop in the bucket.

Second, Chatbots can easily leverage conversation APIs and AI so that they’re easy to communicate with and incredibly helpful. APIs and AI are both constantly advancing and those updates are reflected in your Chatbot very quickly. With AI, your Chatbot could predict your users’ needs or even up-sell them by leveraging data like their order history for example. Meanwhile, thanks to conversation APIs, the Chatbot will communicate so well it might even be mistaken for a human.

Last, text-based communication applications might be the most popular on the internet. Virtually every popular social media app has a robust chat feature set built into their platform. Businesses are already leveraging this and meeting their users where they are by handling customer service via apps like Facebook Messenger.

But Wait, There’s More!

Chatbots can handle way more than just customer service! They can handle standardized conversational marketing that would typically be done by a human, lowering your operating cost as a result. Leads can be generated with Chatbots by implementing them on your website to handle initial engagement. Your converted customers can be onboarded with the help of Chatbots. The list goes on but the point is that customer service is just the tip of the iceberg. Think about how many standardized procedures there are in your business right now, many of them could probably be done with Chatbots.

Your Very Own Chatbot

Think your business would benefit from a Chatbot? You’re probably right but it’s important that they’re designed and built well. There are DIY, off the shelf solutions out there that will let you build your own chatbot without writing any code but you should be wary of them. There are many best-practices to be considered with Chatbots and they’re not exactly a silver bullet.

If you’re going to incorporate Chatbots, it’s important that your customers can still engage with real humans somehow. You’ll need to do proper conversation mapping that accounts for a variety of outcomes. Any deviation from the happy path needs to be carefully considered as to not inconvenience your users, otherwise the Chatbot might do more harm than good.

The avenue you choose is also important to consider. Slack, SMS, Websites, Facebook, Twitter, etc. Chatbots can operate in all of these arenas, which one is right for your business? What metrics is that based on?

All of these questions and considerations are where we come in. If you’re in the market for a Chatbot, let’s build it together the right way the first time. Here’s some examples of bots that we’ve built at T R I M:

Want to get started on your Chatbot? Drop us a line here.