Investing in a mobile app isn’t an easy decision for many businesses. There has to be a certain level of research done and understanding reached before coming to the conclusion such a commitment is right for your brand.
Now, let’s say you’ve done all the pondering you can internally and you’re ready to take the next step in pushing out a mobile app. Where do you start the discussion of how exactly to get that done? You most certainly could start with Prolific Interactive. The mobile product agency has helped brands from Sephora to SoulCycle to Scott’s Miracle-Gro optimize their mobile commerce experience.
Dan Healy has been with Prolific Interactive for seven years serving as Cheif Operating Officer. Prior to Prolific, Dan gained experience at startups in the financial technology, B2B, and services industries. Engine recently conducted an interview with Dan for our podcast. The full episode will be released shortly and can be found on our Facebook page. For now, we’re going to provide some of the highlights below from our Q&A session with the Prolific Interactive COO.
Q: When Prolific dove into mobile optimization in 2011, what was the main focus?
Dan: Where we decided to plant our flag and build our expertise was building products for companies that push some sort of transaction. A lot of times that would be retail companies. In those early days, we had the opportunity to work with companies like ModCloth, Rent the Runway, and Lululemon to help them build their mobile products. Over the years, we’ve evolved to work with companies in the health and wellness space, in finance, in the airline industry, and kind of just across the board. We’re working with companies to help design and develop incredible mobile experiences for their most loyal users.
Q: What does a company need to weigh when deciding whether to make a move on having an app?
Dan: There is no clear answer. It honestly comes down to what the business objectives are. Yes, there are certain things that make it very clear that you should build a mobile app. One of those things is if the product you offer is something that has a customer service element where your product is better because people have direct access to either content or to an individual on the customer service side. Basically, there’s some element of it that makes it a living product. It doesn’t just end at the point of transaction. Then there’s a utility element. When you can identify a utility, there’s a very clear need to build a mobile app.
And for the brands that want to build an app primarily for the shopping experience, you need to think about how often your customers are going to come back. If you sell shoes — and I’m not talking about amazing collectibles folks come back for on a regular basis … I’m just saying a basic pair of shoes — how often are people buying those? Is your customer purchasing one or two pairs of shoes a year? If so, I think you have to think long and hard about the investment you’re going to make with mobile.
If your average user is coming back on a regular basis, purchasing multiple products, and if there is a need for them to engage with your brand more often than a few times a year, then you can make a clear case for investing in an app. But that has to be a business decision. It has to drive enough revenue that you’re going to make an investment in a product that represents the quality of your brand.
Q: How do the companies you work with think of their app? Is it just as much about content as it is transactions?
Dan: The companies that are doing this very well are the companies that are thinking about the entire experience. The way that they think about product is very different than the way that traditional retailers think about product. They think about product as an extension of their brand image. Thinking about product in that way starts to incorporate everything. It’s not just the mobile presence, it’s not just the website, it’s not just the products they’re selling, and it’s not just the in-store experience. It’s the combination of those things.
When we go in and have a first engagement with a retailer and start to talk to them about what we could potentially build from a mobile perspective, we need to take a step back and we need to ask who their users are and why they’re trying to do this. Is it to add real value, is it to bring content into play to help spin a story around making your customers lives better, or is it simply to push the transaction? And if it’s simply to push the transaction and not about bringing your brand to life, then maybe it’s not the best investment. Maybe then you should build it on a platform to see if it’s generating enough revenue to eventually invest in a more custom fashion.
Q: Soul Cycle seemed to quickly go from just this idea to this mammoth in the health and fitness space. You all worked with them, what was that experience like and what specifically did you do?
Dan: We worked with them to build the first version of their app and there was a very clear ask from us. First and foremost, I think this is what has made that company successful: they’ve got an incredibly loyal user base that truly believes in and loves their product. The studio experience and everything they have to offer is very premium. It’s always satisfying, it’s always evolving, it’s always innovating, and it’s making their user experience best in class.
So when we first started working with them, what they knew that they needed was a product that allowed you to book a bike. It very simply created an experience where you could open up the app and select the bike that you wanted to be on, the instructor you wanted to ride with, and the studio where you wanted to ride. That was mission No. 1. As a product team, we had to sit down and figure that problem out and if we could do that in the highest quality way then we would provide a product that added incremental value to their user base.
Adding that incremental value to their digital products is so important when you’re working with a premium brand. We’ve been fortunate since then that we’ve been able to maintain this partnership for over four years now, helping them continue to evolve this product and adding incremental services without sacrificing the core component of booking a bike.
What are the things companies need to think about before they interact with Prolific? And what sort of things have you helped the companies you’ve worked with realize?
Dan: We’ve been doing this for long enough that we can see the difference in the mobile space today versus where it was [in 2011]. Where I see the largest impact is the mobile initiative now coming from the top of the organization. Whereas before the mobile initiative in some companies would be headed by the social media team, or the marketing team, or the product team. But what we’re seeing today is the top of organization buying into mobile as a valuable, revenue-generating part of their business. And when that happens, we see a different level of focus and resources available.
If you’re interested in partaking in the conversation around what Prolific Interactive is about, check out their LinkedIn page. There’s also plenty of great blog content from across the company over at their website.