How Brands Are Using Micro Apps to Stay Relevant

They're more efficient for consumers

four different hands holding four different phones; each phone is receiving a different notification
Micro apps are changing the in-store experience for everyone involved. Getty Images
Headshot of Praveen Kanyadi

Brand and user experiences are one and the same. This is accepted among young tech companies but often forgotten by older enterprise organizations that rely upon face-to-face interactions for most of their business. Specialized micro apps are transforming the in-person experience for both customers and employees. These streamlined tools allow staff members to execute tasks faster and more effectively, keeping pace with the brand expectations built by the digital realm.

People-driven brand perceptions

Over the past 15 years, corporate giants have scrambled to build consumer-facing platforms, trying to stay relevant against the startups encroaching on their target markets. The resulting apps and websites are only one side of the equation, though. Until recently, big companies have neglected the ways tech can advance the in-person experience of a brand.

When a brand includes many human interactions, such as hospitality and retail, the user experience must be considered beyond the digital sphere. And it is not just about the customer. In these industries, it is about empowering employees to represent the brand in the best possible light.

Enterprises are starting to provide team members with specialized micro apps that optimize each role’s function. These applications assist with the everyday problems employees face, making it easier to provide excellent service.

The need for speed

The pace of technology has driven the expectation of extreme efficiency among consumers. For online platforms, this has proven hugely beneficial. But for the 2.7 billion global workers with deskless jobs, adaptation has been trickier.

When a customer enters a store, they anticipate the same agility and responsiveness that tech affords them in other areas of life. Any brand failing to meet this standard risks losing business to newer, faster-moving competition. With micro apps, companies can leverage the power of mobile devices to amplify efficiency.

Now that 77 percent of employees in America have smartphones, it’s getting easier to implement apps in a deskless environment. Brands are finally extending the benefits of tech to workers on the shop floor that consumers have enjoyed for years.

A retail dilemma

Let’s say you walk into a shoe store looking for a specific pair of sneakers. You ask the sales clerk if your size is in stock. At this point, one of two things may happen. Either the clerk runs to the stock room and digs around for 10 minutes while you wait for him to find a pair, or the clerk pulls out a smartphone and checks an inventory micro app for the store, providing an answer within seconds.

Option one seems archaic in this day and age, but it’s still happening in retail centers all over the world. The alternative saves valuable time for both customers and employees, increasing brand loyalty across the board.

Employees as key users

Walmart recently announced the rollout of a suite of micro apps to assist employees with day-to-day responsibilities. These apps provide real-time inventory data, such as the arrival of new products, price changes and where to find items in the store.

They are not alone. A recent study reports that 89 percent of retailers plan to “put mobile solutions in the hands of their store associates” within three years.

Other industries aim to benefit from micro apps as well. Hospitality companies are providing handheld devices to housekeeping staff so they can look up cleaning schedules and update the status of a room. Insurance providers are investing in chatbots to help field agents manage queries in real-time. Similarly, learning and development departments are using apps to train and enhance employee skills.

Going micro

So, why micro apps over full-fledged applications?

Enterprise applications have historically been built as feature-heavy monoliths meant to address complex HR needs, such as vacation, staffing and payroll. This model doesn’t translate well to roles with a defined set of specialized functions. The resulting apps tend to be slow, difficult to navigate and very expensive to develop. Micro apps, on the other hand, are fine-tuned around a specific task. They offer focused functionality that’s easy to understand, in addition to being cheaper and dramatically faster to build.

When crafting a brand experience, the tools provided to workers are as important as the consumer-facing platform. Any industry with deskless employees can unlock efficiencies by considering their staff to be a key audience. By introducing new tech like micro apps, enterprises have the opportunity to optimize the in-person UX like never before.

@pravinkanyadi Praveen Kanyadi is co-founder vp products at SpotCues.