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Enabling Mobile-First Engagement

In recent months, many of our media service-provider customers have talked to us about the same challenge: delivering the best digitally driven experience to customers and staff in a world where mobile is driving engagement.

Mobile apps are defining the way that consumers interact with digital products and services. Today, the primary channel is a mobile app, followed by a website and with chat or phone only used if needed. This does not only apply to customers; technicians, installers and dealers need up-to-date information about the customers they serve and to make account updates – and tablets and smartphones are the tool of choice.

For service providers, there are clear benefits to embracing this mobile-first, app-driven approach. Customers can handle many sales and support tasks themselves, without involving expensive call center staff. And where additional support is needed, agents and technicians have up-to-date information at their fingertips, which can improve workflows, reduces errors, increase customer satisfaction and bring down overall costs.

But as with all good things, there is a rub. We’re hearing that in a world where you need to deliver a compelling experience across the web, Android and Apple (iOS) platforms, for smartphones, tablets and even smart TVs, building an app is complicated and maintaining it difficult. For many, it requires skills and resources they just don’t have.

So we decided to look at how to tackle these problems for our customers, and the answer comes in the form of cross-platform frameworks. These are used by developers to create apps that are compatible with multiple operating systems, such as Android and iOS. One code base serves all those operating systems with relatively minor tweaks for each system.

The benefits of those frameworks are easy to see:

  • Cost-effectiveness – It enables investing just once and in a single team.
  • Single technology stack – Developers can use a single technology stack for a broad variety of engineering tasks. Up to 100 per cent of a codebase can be reused from one platform to the other, instead of designing the same functionality in another language.
  • UX Consistency – The single code base ensures uniform UI and usability.
  • Maintainability – It’s easier to maintain and deploy changes because there is no need to maintain applications on each platform separately.
  • Shorter Time-to-Market – Roll changes out over the various platforms with a single code change to reduce TTM.

The Cross-Platform Framework Battle
The cross-platform battle is heating up. Big Tech companies are backing open-source initiatives and several frameworks have risen to the surface:

Flutter – Flutter is Google’s open-source toolkit for building natively compiled applications for mobile, web, and desktop from a single codebase.

React Native – React Native is an evolution of Facebook’s JavaScript front-end framework that allows developers to build apps like they would a website. Uses a JavaScript bridge to communicate with native OS modules, which results in less than ideal performance. Despite this, widespread adoption of React for web development has made this a very popular framework.

Xamarin is a Microsoft-supported framework for cross-platform mobile app development that uses C# and native libraries wrapped in a .NET layer. The native interfaces can give apps performance that is like native apps.

Kotlin, a joint development of JetBrains and Google, is already very widely used for Android development. Kotlin cross-platform is still experimental. Its approach is very similar to Xamarin, where business logic can be shared across native UIs, but this means development teams do need to be familiar with native tech stacks, which translates into higher development costs. Kotlin can be used to build a full-stack solution though – from backend to UI.

For Hansen CCB – ICX, we created a Proof of Concept for a dealer app using Flutter, which we selected for a number of reasons: its support for a single codebase for many platforms, native code performance, excellent tooling, documentation and community support, and ability to deliver quickly.

To find out more, read the second part of my blog here.

Coen van Baar
Senior Product Director,
Hansen CCB – ICX