Mobile UX/UI

The Basics of Creator Economy and the Role of Digital Experience

Since time immemorial, there have been a small class of people who were creators and a larger group who ‘consumed’ such content. Books, plays, music, paintings, movies and much more were created and performed to an audience. As new platforms and technologies emerged such content took several shapes and forms.

In the pre-digital world, those who offered and controlled a platform or medium decided which content was to be promoted. A newspaper could decide to promote a news item prominently or push it away to the back pages. A studio could offer a platform for worldwide release or a niche audience. Radio stations played a major role in the popularity of a song. Higher the reach of such a medium or platform, better the impact.

In the digital era, while the content format became different, several old media rules were still at play. Online portals, social media platforms with huge reach either decided or controlled which content went viral. Sure, there was no scientific or empirical way which guaranteed which content bubbled up to the top but user-generated content came into its own. This trend owes a lot to YouTube – its ease of use and popularity. Of course, affordable high-speed data plans and mobile handsets played a role too.

The term ‘YouTuber’ became common and one heard of a select few earning millions of dollars through advertising on their YouTube channels. Ryan Kaji, a 9-year old boy earned nearly $30 million from his channel which features reviews of toys and home science experiments. Marques Brownlee or MKBHD, a popular tech & gadget reviewer has 14.9 million subscribers at the time of writing and earns through advertisements, affiliate income and more. Undoubtedly the content created by such YouTubers benefits from the platform’s popularity and reach. Google, in turn, earns from advertisers who place ads in such videos. In 2020, YouTube earned $19.77 billion – approximately 10.9 percent of Google’s total revenue, from advertising. Monetization through advertising was pretty much the only business model up until a few years ago for creators.

What is the creator economy?

The creator economy refers to 50 million+ independent content creators, curators, and community builders involved in free & paid content creation and distribution on software platforms/apps to their “followers”.

A combination of factors has resulted in a change in the ecosystem leading to what is now called the creator economy. Over the years, a small group of creators (writers, photographers) published content and acquired a small base (mostly) of readers and followers. WordPress, Flickr and such apps enabled such distribution of content.

According to Stripe, ‘the earliest creators uploaded Flash animations to DeviantArt or scanned manga illustrations to Xanga. But they didn’t have the tools to sell their content to earn a living as a creator online.’ The hallmark of such a trend was that most such content was free to consume. Popular YouTubers and bloggers who baked in Google AdSense into their sites earned money through ads, but this wasn’t an option for smaller players. The ‘creator’ mostly never got paid through a regular, predictable business model. The rise of social media and acquisition of a large number of followers, even for non-celebrities changed the equation.

The creator economy and its landscape

While there are many definitions and expressions of creator economy, a simple way of understanding it is to see it as:

“An ecosystem which enables any creator to monetize their output.”

The key difference between the digital era of just a few years ago is that the creator economy has widened the base of ‘creators’ and practically enabled everyone to be a creator and monetize their work. It is no longer only about the famous writer or established filmmakers – regular everyday folks can express their skills and passion – be it in cooking, singing, dancing or teaching. Also, the tools which enable this economy are diverse and easy to acquire and use.

The monetization model too changed beyond just advertising – with options such as subscription, sponsorship deals with brands, one-off purchases and donations. Also, the ability to reach and influence a small group of like-minded people or groups with similar interests is higher in the creator economy. Someone with deep knowledge in say, investing can create a loyal following through a podcast or video series. A writer can acquire several thousands of subscribers through newsletters. In 2017, nearly 17 million Americans earned income posting their personal creations on nine platforms.

Read: Driving Growth by Designing Experience-Based Subscription Models

“A creator, such as an artist, musician, photographer, craftsperson, performer, animator, designer, video maker, or author – in other words, anyone producing works of art – needs to acquire only 1,000 true fans to make a living”

Kevin Kelly, 1,000 True Fans

The creator economy is also referred to as the Passion Economy as it is different from the concept of being paid for gigs such as driving or food delivery. As Ji Lin says, ‘New digital platforms enable people to earn a livelihood in a way that highlights their individuality’.

Creator economy and the common content types

Below are some of the content types, platforms and tools which have gained popularity enabling the creator economy:

#1 Text: This could include short essays, long form content and newsletters: ‘The home for great writing’ is the simple premise of Substack, which started off as a tool for starting paid email newsletters. While a majority of its newsletters are free, there are more than 500,000 paying subscribers. According to The Guardian, ‘Substack takes 10% of subscription earnings and payment company Stripe takes a further 3% with writers taking the rest. Writers charge around $5 a month (£3.66) or $50 a year for access to their newsletters, although the platform’s many free newsletters also have a big following.’ The Top 10 publishers on Substack earn $7mn per year between them.

Substack creators hub

Source: Substack 

There are several stand-alone portals and newsletters which offer both free and gated content. Niche subjects such as business journalism, especially the investigative kind, find takers who are willing to pay for such content driven by the belief that it’s worth it. The USP of such business models is offering opinions, trends and analysis.

#2 Video content: Short form videos sit well with those seeking casual entertainment on the smartphone. After the success of TikTok several clones emerged in various countries.

Instagram Reels

Source: Instagram 

Instagram’s Reels and YouTube’s Shorts have made video creation easy for many. Google even set up a fund of $100mn as a means to payout to video creators. The biggest advantage of such platforms is they don’t need expensive shooting gear, just a good smartphone and an app.

#3 Audio content: Even prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, podcasts had a huge fan following (remember the buzz around Serial, the podcast from 2014?). The long stretch of staying at home boosted consumption of both audio and video streaming content. Aside from the pioneer Apple Podcasts, the rise of Spotify and other regional platforms augurs well for content creators. Tools such as Anchor, Podbean and more make it easy for content creators to only record but distribute their content on popular platforms.

Podbean creators economy

Source: Podbean

There are also stand-alone tools like Canva which allow for easy creation of a wide variety of content – from slides to infographics. Even niche interests such as app development, teaching and fitness instruction can now be monetized through relevant app platforms and supporting ecosystems.

Here are a few startups which cater to niche segments:

Pietra: helps influencers connect with designers and manufacturers in product creation.

Trading.TV: is a streaming platform for the financial community.

Stir: is a money management platform for creators.

The role of UX in the creator ecosystem

If all of this sounds as if one simply has to sign up on a platform and be ready to count the money, that is far from the truth. When designing a platform or tool meant to aid the creator economy the following needs to be kept in mind:

Information overload: all of us are facing information load from both traditional and new media. Many in the digital world are opting for a break if not going offline completely. In that context, the content out there has to be truly compelling, slick and convey that it adds value for the intended audience.

Subscription fatigue: consumers have a limit to what they can consume. And when it comes to subscriptions, even more so. So be it an OTT service or a paid newsletter a consumer will face a moment of trade-off before committing to a payment.

Need for educating and guidance: the entrants to the creator economy are not just the digital natives. Many who have established careers may try their hand at monetizing their expertise. The platform they choose to adopt with this intent should be able to guide them on the steps that need to be taken to complete the desired action. It takes a combination of copywriting and design as exemplified by Substack which has a Resource Center with inside tips and expert advice for writers.

The role of technology in the creator ecosystem

Technologies such as Non-Fungible Tokens powered by Blockchain are enabling the creator economy. NFTs are units of data which prove digital ownership. The use cases may include any asset such as a movie, song, photograph or collectibles. Celebrities from the entertainment industry and sports professionals have taken to NFTs in a big way. After all, a winning moment in a sports arena is something a professional would cherish and should be able to monetize. NFTs are also a boon for sports fans looking to own collectibles. NBA Top Shot is a marketplace for the fans to purchase and sell video clips of basketball games.

NBA NFT Tokens

McLaren Racing, the popular F1 racing team, has launched a platform where its fans can purchase McLaren Racing branded digital collectibles or NFTs. The platform, named the ‘McLaren Racing Collective,’ will serve as a destination for future opportunities to own a piece of exclusive McLaren Racing collectables.

Boonji Project, the debut NFT project by world-renowned artist Brendan Murphy has surpassed $15.5 million in its Dutch Auction Primary Sale, anointing the project as the largest NFT primary sale in history.

In India, cricketing legend Sunil Gavaskar and others have taken to NFTs to launch collectibles. Reports indicate that the Indian film industry too has shown interest in this trend – autographed posters, clips and more are eminently suited for use of this blockchain technology.

Crafting a digital experience in the creator economy will need to follow the basics of any process to create products which consumers love. First off, scanning the market for need gaps and consumer pain-points to identify the opportunities. Next, defining the intent of the app, the feature set and a road map. The feature set will depend on the domain – such as education, video creation or any other. Profile creation, chat systems, shooting and uploading of documents, ability to complete frictionless payments could be some common features. Intuitive design, the right technology stack are other elements of the process.

Summing it up

The creator economy is still in the development stage but has the power to make a huge societal influence consisting of a diverse set of creators. It provides equal opportunity to all its creators despite large differences in their net worth and fan following. The creators can be celebrities, content producers, and influencers. The advent of the creator economy has stretched the meaning of influencers too as it can further be classified to – key opinion leaders (KOL), brand ambassadors, affiliates, and customer advocates.

This microcosm of creators has led a resurgence in how brands are now finding new innovative ways to reach their customers. The subsequent effects are seen in these creator platforms innovating within their app/platform to attract more creators and brands.

In conclusion, the creator economy is an exciting opportunity for content creators, users and enabling platforms, powered by the engines of intuitive design and technologies.

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Mobile Opinion


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Mobile Opinion

Webinar overview – Mart to cart: role of digital experiences in online delivery

Changing consumer behavior in the ‘new normal’ is not just the talk of the town, but the world. In the last few months, some of the major shifts that we have seen happening in the way consumers shop include – less confidence about in-person or in-store shopping, consumers seeking safety and hygiene assurance from the stores and a rise in online deliveries for grocery and pharmacy products.

In fact, according to a report by Apptopia, Walmart Grocery services saw an increase of 55% in average daily visitor numbers during March and April, grocery orders on Instacart were 10 times higher than usual and e-pharmacy portal PharmEasy had a 10% surge in online orders.

In this scenario, services like food & online delivery are seeing great opportunities to gain customer loyalty by re-inventing their digital experiences, as that takes center stage as the key consumer touchpoint. With contactless deliveries, ghost kitchens, drive-thrus, drones, digital payments, and more, delivery services have accelerated their pace of digital shift to meet the evolving customer needs. The changes can be categorized into:

  • Strategic changes
  • Operational changes
  • Engagement/Communication methods

Some such examples are:

  • In India, Swiggy rolled out safety badges for those who comply with the highest standards of hygiene. The badges will be given to restaurants following best practices and that have features like temperature control, masks, sanitation after 4 hours, and safe packaging.
  • Doordash introduced a new program to deliver essentials. They partnered with a broad range of stores in the U.S region such as Casey’s General Store, 7-Eleven, and CircleK, etc.

There are many such online delivery platforms that have reinvented their business and operational processes to address consumer concerns and offer services that they need the most during these times.

In our recent webinar, Mart to cart: role of digital experiences in online delivery, Srinidhi Rao, SVP and Head of our US operations and I discussed the evolving consumer behavior and key factors that can help delivery services in crafting great digital experiences

Discussion points included:

  • Evolving consumer behavior in the ‘next’ normal
  • How delivery services are re-inventing and responding to consumer demands
  • How brands can engage & communicate with end-consumers
  • Adoption of Digital and low touch activities
  • Future outlook

You can watch a recording of the session here.

If you want to know more about how we can help you create digital solutions that can help you simplify workplace management for your enterprise, please drop an email to Srinidhi Rao at [email protected].

I hope you found this webinar overview useful and look forward to joining us in our future webinars on other topics pertaining to creating delightful digital experiences that can simplify lives of your consumers.

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Mobile Opinion

WWDC20 announcements: what it means for enterprises and digital experiences

The annual Worldwide Developer Conference is a great opportunity for the developer community to learn about new possibilities in the Apple ecosystem and to interact with specialists from Apple. The platforms and devices have grown over the years – iPhone, iPad, Mac, Apple Watch and Apple TV with iOS, iPadOS, macOS, watchOS and tvOS. The combined ecosystem provides a great opportunity for developers to create a unified, seamless experience across devices and use-cases. The experience of a news channel custom-created on Apple TV is vastly different from its native app experience on a phone. Similarly, a bank’s digital experience on a phone and the Apple Watch will have to be treated differently both from a design and engineering perspective.

This year, due to the on-going COVID-19 pandemic, the format of the Apple Keynote event to kick off the WWDC week was different – it was entirely shot on video without a live crowd inside a hall. The format came in for much praise for its slick production value. Let’s take a look at some of the announcements and its implications for developers, product owners and enterprises.

Boosting the developer ecosystem on all fronts

In this segment, we will explore how Apple is empowering developers by offering programming flexibility, simplified UI designing, extended support outside the apple framework, interoperability, and much more.  Let’s start with the major updates that were announced across the developer platforms in use:

  1. SwiftUI: Build 100% SwiftUI-Based Apps

Launched last year, SwiftUI came as a beautiful gift from Apple that allowed you to bring your wildest app UI ideas to life in the most hassle-free manner, by leveraging the power of declarative programming. This year, Apple is making things more exciting by offering the ability to design 100% SwiftUI based apps. This means you can now design an entire app interface using the SwitfUI platform, instead of embedding the SwiftUI code in AppKit, UIKit or WatchKit.

With the all-new Lazy Stack, developers get to implement more efficient scrolling in their designs. This allows you to integrate beautiful toolbars, lists, grids, and shapes, along with cool new visual effects, as the Lazy API ensures efficient handling of enormous data sets to offer great performance. The code built-in SwitfUI can be easily shared across all Apple platforms.

  1. Xcode 12: Redesigned for a cutting-edge app building experience

Apple has launched Xcode 12 (BETA), which comes bearing a slew of awesome features, making it one of the top highlights of WWDC 2020.

A great feature in Xcode 12 is the StoreKit tool. This takes designing paid subscriptions and in-app purchase experiences to the next level.  It allows you to manipulate in-app payments in the iOS simulator with a new menu available in Debug > StoreKit.  This way, you can simulate subscription setup, in-app purchases, and even refunds, all locally on your Mac. There’s also a new StoreKit testing framework that allows you to automate testing of purchase workflows.

Along with that, the new Xcode version comes with a fresh new look to match the macOS Big Sur update. New document tabs make the opening of multiple files super-fast and lightweight. It allows you to open interface files, logs, and project files in their own tab. Navigator fonts can now be matched with the system size or can be set to small, medium, or large. The best part is that Xcode 12 builds macOS Universal apps by default to support new Macs with Apple silicon

  1. Web Development: Make web experiences more powerful and flexible

This year’s WWDC event has witnessed quite a lot of announcements on the web development front, allowing you to build great experiences for your users when they use your website, home screen web apps, or embedded WebKit views.

Apple has made it very easy for developers to build new extensions for Safari, as extensions from other browsers (developed in Java or HTML) can now be imported into Safari using its all-new Web-based API. There is only one thing you need to do, that is, to package the extension using Xcode and distribute it through the AppStore.

Along with that, Apple announced major improvements in performance, media features, and Web APIs.

1. Inter-operability: Apple has pushed the envelope for cross-browsing experience as Safari has passed over 14,000 interoperability tests.

2. Browsing performance: Your web-apps will get a major performance boost as Safari, yet again, sets new standards such as

  • 3x lower CPU usage while scrolling
  • 10x faster IndexedDB operations
  • 2x faster JavaScript Promises
  • 5x faster for-of loops
  • 12x faster JavaScript delete operations

3. Media features:

  • Support for WebP image format
  • Default image aspect ratio and orientation
  • Mac HDR display support
  • Remote Playback and Picture-in-Picture APIs

4. CSS: A new line of system font families were announced; system-ui, ui-sans-serif, ui-serif, ui-monospace, and ui-rounded

5. Integrations: Apple has enabled various useful integrations for a more seamless web experience:

  • Face ID & Touch ID: your websites or web apps can make use of Apple’s authentication system in a secure manner using Web Authentication API. It uses the secure enclave of the iPhone or iPad to provide the private keys, and guarantees they cannot leave the device.
  • AR Quick Look: You can customize the AR Quick Look feature for your web experience using the ARKit.
  • Payment: New Apple Pay updates with new button types and redacted billing information.
  • Web Animations API:  Play around with animations in web platforms with Web Animations API.

Unifying app development experience across Operating Systems

 Now let’s get down to the specific OS announcements.

1. iOS

Widgets: As the new iOS 14 was announced, the first thing that must have caught your attention must be the all-new widgets. Apple has indeed revamped its Springboard platform for a fresh new Home Screen experience. Widgets can now be a part of the Home Screen and can be completely customized as per one’s taste.  And as you guessed it, Widgets are built completely using the SwiftUI platform, allowing you to build, customize and share widget codes across all iOS devices.

App Clips: With App Clips, Apple has transformed discoverability for Apps. It allows users to experience small portions, or rather, a clip of an App and interact with it. This way, it allows them to avoid downloading full apps to just try them out and have more ephemeral experiences with apps. With over 2 million apps in the App Store, this is the perfect time for developers to leverage this feature. App Clips use “ephemeral” permissions to push notifications within 8 hours of the Clip launch and are built using a subset of the full project’s code (up to a 10 MB limit). A StoreKit view can be used to prompt the user to upgrade to the full version. Initially, Apple will allow users to launch clips by way of a QR code, but a new “App Clip Code” arriving later this year will allow users to find App Clip suggestions from the real-world using location tagging.

ARKit 4: The new ARKit introduces new a new Depth API to combine sensor data to map GPS data to points in a virtual world; Integrating Location Anchors to connect virtual objects with a real-world longitude, latitude, and altitude.

Picture-in-picture: Apple has finally brought Picture-in-Picture (PiP) to its devices. You can add PiP playback to your custom player by using the AVKit framework’s AV PictureInPictureController class.

2. macOS

The macOS Big Sur and the ARM-based Macs have been the highlights all along. But there are quite a few important updates that you might have missed. Let’s take a look at all of them:

  • Smooth Transition: The MacOS Big Sur has been optimized for a smooth transition from Intel-based Macs to ARM-based Macs, as ARM-optimized code is generated by Rosetta 2 without any changes or I/O slowdowns.
  • Apple’s hypervisor: It has been updated for ARM Macs to discourage the kernel extension requirement by VM tools.
  • Unmodified iOS Apps on Mac: This feature will be available on Macs with ARM processors, and be exclusive to those devices.
  • Custom content: Custom content extensions for Notification Centre are available to both Catalyst and AppKit developers.
  • Mac Idiom: The Mac Idiom allows iOS apps built using the Catalyst Project to be run on Macs in a full-blown native Mac resolution.

Improving user-experience across devices

 Now let’s get down to the device-specific announcements

1. iPadOS

  • Virtual Object Placement: With the all-new ARKit 4, Li-DAR enabled iPads now have instantaneous object placement that allows for entirely new types of apps, such as on-site architecture, design, landscaping, and manufacturing.
  • PencilKit stroke API: This API gives apps access to location, angle, and pressure data. Multi-tap and drag-to-select selects handwritten words and lines for manipulation in PencilKit apps.
  • Sidebars: 2-column to 3-column sidebars made from SwiftUI List are now available in both landscape and portrait orientation.
  • Scribble: PencilKit now features Scribble, which makes it easy to create apps with text entry fields that users can write in with Apple Pencil.

2. WatchOS

WatchOS 7 gets a makeover with new personalization features, health and fitness configurations for Apple Watch

  • Multiple Complications: Apps can create and offer multiple SwiftUI complications for each complication family, powered by the new CLKComplicationDescriptor object.
  • Edit Previews: Xcode 12’s live-updating complication previews feature lets you define example complications.

3. tvOS

Apple has released a slew of new features in the tvOS SDK, allowing you to enhance a user’s movie-watching or gaming experience even further.

  • Multiuser support: Using the new multiuser support for gaming, users can now switch dynamically between users and use both the Game Centre and iCloud to keep track of multiple players’ information. Use the new GKAccessPoint class to let users view and manage their Game Centre information from within your game.
  • Controller inputs: Allow users to play your game using their favourite controllers, by accepting inputs from additional types of devices, like a touchpad, a keyboard, or a mouse.
  • Picture-in-Picture (PiP): tvOS now supports AVPictureInPictureController, allowing you to implement a custom video player that offers PiP playback.
  • Custom Player Controls: A new SwiftUI VideoPlayer structure lets you add system-supplied playback controls to your custom player.

Bringing together the global developer community

Apart from all the software and hardware updates, there were some other announcements that also delighted developers across the world.

  • Virtual Lab: In-view of the on-going pandemic, Apple is creating an online version of the App Store lab to further support the Apple developer community across all of its platforms. Developers are encouraged to share their feedback at the virtual lab.
  • More accessibility: To integrate your apps into core platform features and deliver powerful functionality, Apple is launching a new Find My network accessory program. This program lets third-party device makers take advantage of a network with hundreds of millions of devices while continuing to offer end-to-end encryption so that only the user can see the location of their item.
  • AppStore guidelines: Developers will be able to appeal decisions if an app violates a given guideline, and also challenge the guideline itself. For apps that are already on the App Store, bug fixes not be delayed due to guideline violations (except for legal issues).

With this year’s WWDC event, it is clear that Apple is aiming to revolutionize app development across all devices and foster an ecosystem that allows developers to create applications for the future. With its continuous efforts, Apple is attracting more developers to build for its devices and leverage the latest tech innovations using its open-source tools.

More importantly, it allows both enterprises and developers to provide even more seamless experiences across devices and screens. Enterprises which have native apps on say iOS can now explore possibilities of bringing alive the app experience on other devices within the ecosystem, if there is a strong use case. This will further lock in customers making user retention easier.

At Robosoft, our experience on the Mac platform spans two decades. We were among the first to offer mobile app development as a service. Today, we are well poised to offer end-to-end digital experiences across platforms, devices and emerging technologies such as voice, chat, blockchain and more. The possibilities are even more exciting after the announcements at WWDC 2020.

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Mobile Opinion

Webinar Overview: Art and Science of managing workplace and employee skill management

Enterprises are grappling with challenges of a rapidly evolving business environment, due to the impact of COVID-19. We are also witnessing major and unanticipated shifts in workplace models.

In this scenario, business leaders are looking for digital solutions that can help them address the challenges of managing teams, up-skilling and re-skilling employees, streamlining employee communication, and ensure business continuity. Further, the current remote-working scenario has only highlighted the need for ensuring workplace agility as an imperative for enterprises.

Both business leaders and employees have a lot of questions regarding how the current situation will unfold and the kind of transformations we will see in the context of workplace and employee management.

In our recent webinar, ‘Art and science of managing workplace and employee skill management’ our Srinidhi Rao along with Daniel Masata, CEO and founder Volonte, a workplace agility platform, discussed and answered critical questions around workplace management.

Daniel Masata has extensive experience in the HR domain as a senior executive at the $25bn Adecco Group, leading Global Strategy & Transformation. He has also served in leadership roles in 4 different countries (US, Germany, France, Switzerland) and with full P&L responsibility for up to $550m in revenue & 600 employees.

During the course of the discussion, Daniel helped participants understand how a combination of technology, people, and behavioral science can make workplace and employee management a proactive, positive, and data-driven experience, thus creating a win-win situation for both the talent and the enterprise.

Some of the questions that were answered during the course of the webinar include:

  • Key challenges of enterprises today in a remote-working world
  • Role and need for empathy in today’s workplace
  • The need for up-skilling & re-skilling – and the difference between them
  • Role of technology in creating positive digital experiences
  • The process to achieve workplace agility
  • Key success factors for product development in workplace management

You can watch a recording of the session here.

If you want to know more about how we can help you create digital solutions that can help you simplify workplace management for your enterprise, please drop me an email at [email protected].

I hope you found this webinar overview useful and look forward to joining us in our future webinars on other topics pertaining to creating delightful digital experiences for the internal and external stakeholders of your business.

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Mobile Opinion UX/UI

The role of User Experience, Data Science and a Recommender System in improving Customer Lifetime Value

Metrics are an integral part of business success. As the management guru Peter Drucker said, ‘you can’t manage what you can’t measure’. Across B2C and B2B, enterprises and functions within them, chase their own metrics. They may see varying value in Net Promoter Score, Customer Acquisition Cost, CSAT (Customer Satisfaction), and various user engagement metrics such as MAU (Monthly Active Users) and Retention Curve. However, they are all likely to agree that Customer Lifetime Value is a meaningful and relevant KPI to indicate the long-term health of a business.

Customer lifetime value, or CLV, is a predictive performance indicator that allows you to quantify the total value of a customer if they were to form a long-term relationship with your company or brand. In simple terms, it is ‘revenue earned from a customer (annual revenue multiplied by the average customer lifespan) minus the initial cost of acquiring them’. So the incentive for enterprises is to invest in long term relationships with customers. In establishing such relationships, the quality of digital experiences is critical more than ever before in today’s world.

The 5 levers of digital innovation

Increasingly, customers tend to base their perceptions of credibility, trust, and overall value of a brand through its digital experiences. In financial services, self-service dashboards, humanized banking, investment advisory, frictionless lending are common features which are digitally enabled. Personalized infotainment with natural language support and curated recommendations are seen in entertainment services. Similarly, across domains, enterprises can acquire segmented customers and offer a wide range of services by leveraging 5 levers of digital innovation:

Lifestyle Enrichment: With a combination of data and digital experiences, enterprises are in a position to know more about consumer needs and fulfill them at every stage in life. For example, in financial services brands can offer seamless client onboarding, personalized recommendations based on goals, advisory via a panel of experts, aggregate spend analysis, and provide tips on savings.

Recommendations to improve lifestyle such as goal planning, tracking performance of investments, providing a consolidated view of assets and liabilities, need-based promotional marketing, just-in-time recommendation, and so on are already in vogue.

Similarly, enterprises in other domains such as media & entertainment and e-commerce can use analytics and digital design to enrich their customers’ lives. The customer and relevant data should move across channels (app, web, wearables, bots, social, kiosk, branch, call center, advisor, distributor) seamlessly and securely. Such services will have to be made available on the most-preferred channel or location. While it can be challenging enterprises must remember that modern applications demonstrate many advanced characteristics that are driven by the user journey and help in addressing user needs.

Customer Experience: Many would know Design Thinking in abstract terms but very few have applied it in practice tied to customer’s “digital body language”. Many of the apps in the market may be superficially attractive – colorful in design, but weak on purpose, interaction style, or blending cutting-edge innovations. Firstly, there must be an emotional connect with users. Next curiosity must be evoked to learn more about the services and the ease of discovery or use. Once the app crosses the chasm, customer delight and adoption happen. Design Thinking principles can help businesses understand consumers better, empathize with them, and uncover valuable insights about their stated and latent needs & pain points. But beyond just principles, Design Thinking is action – helping enterprises understand their user’s pain points, conducting faster experiments, and finally building a product that drives business results.

The process of ‘Design Thinking to Design Doing

Designers and data scientists must converge to deliver a multi-modal, intelligent, and self-learning application to millennial customers. Technologies such as facial recognition, voice, video calling can be used to address customer pain points and enhance the overall experience.

Enterprise Grade Platform: Companies shall decouple Digital from Core via Open API and monetize services usage via open-source technologies. Each business application must be architected as a collection of cloud-ready enterprise-level micro-services inter-connected to digital use-cases that can be discovered, reused, and deployed across the company. Examples include customer onboarding, multi-factor authentication, personalized UI templates, work-flow engine, product catalogue, information overlay via AR, campaign manager, video & chat conversation, virtual assistant, recommender engine, predictive analyzer and blockchain storage.

Automation: Many companies have scratched the surface on operational processes and customer interaction automation. It has been automation of mundane back-end jobs and less of a hybrid approach of humans and robot’s judgment working in tandem. Successful digital transformation must focus on enterprise productivity, contextual interactions, and real-time recommendations.

Robotic Process Automation unifies enterprise-level data to bring context to customers, integrates regulatory compliance into standard operating procedures with exception reporting, delivers always-on services, and enrich human interactions. Convergence of RPA and AI will drive revenue and profitability and cross-sell to customer’s needs. Companies must bring automation to software deployment and rollout to markets via agile practices. Automation of marketing aided by AI, geo-location intelligence, and big-data user-item profiling is a necessity.

Insights: Insights about what motivates customers and their actions can be drawn from every conversation, transaction, relationship, grievance, and social sharing.

Analytics reside at the edge-node, and can provide insights on cross-sell, product holding, customer profitability and lifetime value, attrition and loyalty, customer sentiment, channel search & usage, transactions, service requests, leads, campaigns, churn, product profitability, risk, advisory quality and more.

The real value of dashboards lies in anticipating early and accurately what your customers want and acting on it.

Convergence of UX, platform and data science in a connected enterprise

Recommender system: driving retention and engagement

The role of a Recommender System is at the core in recommending items and driving customer conversion by auto-suggesting the right product to customers based on needs and behavioral data. A robust Recommender System will discover information for customers and “what to recommend” depends on the context i.e. movies, news, shopping, loans, insurance, funds, stocks, grocery, food, etc.

A Recommender System helps the company to increase revenues by providing the most likely items that a customer can purchase or increasing the engagement by showcasing the relevant product or content. It will encompass a context-based virtual assistant capable of mining data, text, audio, video, facial, and generate automatic responses from past experience and context by applying Deep Learning principles.

There are various models and methods to build an intelligent Recommender System:

Collaborative filtering systems are based on large sets of customers who bought similar products and uses ratings or performance to make a suitable recommendation. It works usually on customer-item interactions e.g. item bought, time spent. In case of the sparseness of ratings, auxiliary information such as item-content can be used via collaborative topic regression machine learning algorithms.

Content filtering systems look at customer profile and metadata on items and creates a watch list, and also recommend similar items to customers that this customer has liked in the past. A similarity scores calculated between any two items and recommends to the customer based on profile and interest. It starts with creating item profiles for each of the items. The customer profile is created using item profiles that the customer has liked and recommends items that this customer might like based on earlier preferences.

Unsupervised Learning has no label data and no prediction of any output. It finds interesting patterns and forms groups within the data. Clustering is typically used for customer segmentation and anomaly detection.

Natural Language Processing is an area where machines learn and understand the textual data to perform tasks. NLP collects text documents, divides the sentence into words, removes stopwords, converts the text into a numerical vector, and tracks unique words as vocabulary, counts the word, and normalizes the frequency of word occurrence.

Text Mining using machine learning involves building a text classification model and uses it for predictions on text data and to predict the sentiment of any given product review. Embedding technique can compare two distinct viewer journies on similarity and predict the probability of conversion by analyzing the average time spent on each of the unique pages. This is also used in supervised ML across use cases such as next possible action prediction, converted vs non-converted, product classification.

Deep Learning provides better feature extraction from item characteristics (text, image, video, audio). Deep Learning techniques such as convolutions and recurrent neural networks allow to model the structure and order in the data for performance improvements. Collaborative deep learning allows two-way interactions between rating matrix and content. With Deep Learning, the properties of the content (images, video, text) are incorporated into recommendations. Using Deep Learning, item-to-item relations are based on a much more comprehensive picture of the product and less reliant on manual tagging and interactional histories.

In summary, companies must think of customer and user scenarios first. Be a customer-focused data-driven company and measure critical moments of interaction to cross-sell and upsell with a Wow experience! You also need a reliable long-term partner who can provide advisory on digital, design a human experience, and engineer a scalable and intelligent solution to market.

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Mobile Opinion

The Superpower of Super Apps and How to Create One

2020 has forced enterprises to rethink and re-evaluate their business challenges and opportunities. The role of digital experiences is even more critical for enterprises as consumers interact with mobile apps for everything from ordering groceries to payments to watching video streaming services. Mary Meeker’s recent COVID-19 impact report suggests that businesses doing the best, have products that were always in demand but especially so in uncertain times – and that list now includes entertainment.

In this scenario, apps that can help consumers accomplish a multitude of tasks – also known as Super Apps have gained currency. Such apps were popular even prior to the COVID-19 outbreak especially in South and Southeast Asia – where consumers took to mobiles as their first entry to the online world as opposed to a gradual shift from desktops, laptops, and mobiles as seen in the western world.

Super Apps was a term introduced in 2010, by BlackBerry founder Mike Lazaridis. He described Super Apps as a closed ecosystem of multiple apps used on a daily basis due to their ease of use. In today’s world, Super Apps are a combination of functions like social, financial, utility services, and entertainment integrated into one app. We have seen food delivery apps extending to grocery deliveries and offering video recipes, cab aggregator apps evolving into food delivery, and payment apps encompassing everything from e-commerce to news. This phenomenon will only rise rapidly in the near future.

Why Super Apps are popular – the consumer’s perspective

A recent KPMG report suggests one of the major driving forces for the rise of Super Apps at a global level is the shift in consumer behavior and preferences. Specialist apps focused on delivering one service well– which led to a proliferation of apps in a device. After nearly a decade of fragmentation and unbundling of services in their lives — consumers are starting to revert towards re-bundling, says the report.

Of course, consumers are not specifically stating that they need a Super App. However, the shifts in their demands from a digital solution are leading to the rise of such apps. Here are a few such shifts:

Why Super Apps are popular - the consumer’s perspective

  • Convenience and simplicity of digital platforms: ease of use, and convenience play a critical role in the acceptance of any digital solution. Super Apps helps enterprises offer that.
  • Choosing one-stop-shops vs plethora of apps: ‘there’s an app for that’ was a popular saying. There are apps available from banks, bank-like neo banks, telcos, digital wallets, ride-sharing, food delivery, and so on – leading to app fatigue. In fact, a recent Clevertap study suggests that most users haven’t downloaded a single app in a 3-month period. And, it is a known fact that smartphone users spend most of their screen time on just 5 apps. Integrating all those most used 5 apps into one single Super App is definitely a win-win proposition for the user and the business.
  • A unified user experience: in a digital world user experience can be the key driver for retaining and engaging with the user. Super Apps can provide a uniform and individual user experiences across offers.
  • Save phone memory &internet usage: On an average, a smartphone may have about 30 apps with only a handful of apps being used regularly. Adding more specialist apps – thus affecting device storage is a problem for most users. Hence, an ‘app which does it all’ is seen in a positive light. It is also seen as a productivity aid as it reduces the time to complete tasks, as users no more need to download multiple apps for different services. It saves phone memory and mobile data. These are two important factors while serving customers in emerging markets and engaging them.
  • Data from Super Apps helps to offer personalized customer experience: a Super App can be a repository to a wealth of data from various services it offers. Brands can use analytics, track consumer habits, and offer an effective and personalized experience.

The rise of Super Apps and why they make business sense

The rise of Super Apps started in Southeast Asia and is now becoming a worldwide phenomenon. The success of the Cplatfor like WeChat and Alipay is encouraging the rest of the world to tap into this opportunity. Recently, Yahoo Japan’s parent Z Corp. merged with LINE, a popular chat app in Japan, Taiwan, and Thailand to develop super-app models for both brands.

In India, our client Paytm rose from being a payments app to becoming a Super App and offer a range of services such as bill payments, movie ticketing, e-commerce and now contactless food ordering [users can scan restaurant menus through the app, place and orders and pay the bill thus maintaining social distancing]. In a recent interview, Vijay Shekhar Sharma, the founder of Paytm said, ‘Customers on our app should complete as much as their day’s tasks’. The merits of this approach is plain to see – make the app a single destination for a multitude of needs and tasks. Recently, we also worked with one of the leading e-commerce players of India to integrate insurance aggregator services on their platform.

In Indonesia, Go-Jekhas emerged from a ride-sharing platform to offering a range of services like food delivery, medical advice, and financial products. According to Go-Jek, ‘the biggest moat Go-Jek built is payments. Once you’re handling money for a user, you can build a castle of services within it.’ Such Super Apps leverage their existing infrastructure in innovative ways like using their ride-share drivers as bank tellers.

In India too, we are seeing such apps gaining investor’s attention – Tencent has the most prolific India portfolio including Ola, Flipkart, Swiggy, etc. Softbank, which backs Paytm and Ola in India, has also invested in Grab.

The much-revered Mary Meeker’s 2019 internet trends report cites how local services are evolving into super apps that fuel usage at scale. One such example is Meituan, an on-demand delivery platform with 412 million annual users, growing at 26% year over year. During the COVID-19 pandemic, a large number of consumers have turned to the platform to order non-food items – understandably spiking the company’s confidence that food delivery service will become the infrastructure service for China’s urban population. In India, Meituan-Dianping has also invested in the local food delivery service – Swiggy. Another such example is Alibaba’s Alipay which has become a Super App with services that support payments for more than 1 billion users.

Mary Meeker Internet Trends Report

Image source

Besides the shifts in consumer behavior, another factor that has led to the growth of Super Apps is the blurring of boundaries between industries. A digital wallet platform has emerged as a competitor for e-commerce players, a ride-sharing platform can be a competitor for delivery apps, and so on.

The growth of the platform economy has also led to the flourishing of Super Apps. Super Apps like Grab, WeChat, Alipay, Go-Jek, Paytm, Kakao, Line in Japan, or Rappi in South America, are examples of the platform business model.

In fact, the most valuable companies in the world – Facebook, Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Apple, Tencent, and Alibaba incorporated the platform business model years ago. The acceleration of this trend has led to enterprises shifting away from a single-purpose to multipurpose apps, resulting in the rise of the Super Apps.

Some organizations are also integrating their offers to break away from dependencies on third-party platforms. For instance – Ikea is breaking away from Amazon and is working on building its own platform. While some enterprises are partnering with existing payers to build Super Apps for e.g. Berkshire Hathaway and JP Morgan have together launched a healthcare venture with Amazon.

It is evident that Super Apps make sense in the current world and the world to be, especially for enterprises that already have the infrastructure to evolve into one, with minimal resource and cost implications. And, we have seen that happening with the likes of platforms like Zomato, Swiggy, etc which quickly adapted to essential services delivery platforms from being food platforms.

Recently, our client, one of the leading online marketplaces of Middle East, launched Noon Daily, a next-day fresh grocery delivery service in Dubai, via the noon App. The launch of the app was accelerated in the current situation with pre-payment and contact-less silent delivery features. We have also partnered with the client to launch their mobile wallet app – ‘Noon Pay’ which will make payments easier for their customers, hence closing the entire loop from ordering to payments.

Here’s how Super Apps can help enterprises in business growth

Here’s how Super Apps can help enterprises in business growth

  1. Revenue earned through transactions on the apps’ marketplaces and platforms.
  2. Scope of partnership with various merchants to provide their services on the app;  introduce and monetize credit to consumers, agents, and merchants.
  3. Revenue growth by allowing advertising capabilities on the platform.
  4. Super Apps can help enter new markets/geographies: the only prerequisite being identifying user’s pain points, provide great customer service, provide add-on offers and services on the same app, and do all of this seamlessly across geographies and industries.
  5. Lower product ownership and development costs: Most of the ‘mini-apps’ on WeChat were not developed in-house, but created through integration by companies who wanted to conduct business with WeChat’s immense user base. Most ‘super apps’ follow the platform-based approach to scale their products. In fact, WeChat opened its ecosystem in 2017 for developers to create mini-programs that work within the WeChat ecosystem. LINE has done something similar with mini-apps

As rightly pointed by Cristian Citu, the World Economic Forum’s Digital Transformation Lead:

“Today if you smartly combine established and emerging technologies with a data-driven and customer-centric approach organizations have a major opportunity for exponential growth”.

The same stands true for enterprises entering into the arena of Super Apps.

Key points to consider while building Super Apps

  • Start with a core product with high engagement and then build more use cases – Most Super Apps started as single-purpose apps and extended their services after acquiring a substantial user base. WeChat, after accumulating a large customer base with its instant messaging service, introduced new features to its users, such as its own payment method, house rental, and ride-hailing services. Subsequently, the platform gained new users beyond the initial ones.
  • Have a supply-side economy of scale-like Uber, GoJek, Grab, Lyft, Swiggy – Go-Jek leveraged their success as a transport service and later offered more services to their existing clients. Similarly, the likes of Grab and Uber used their stronghold in supply-side services in transportation to later offer additional services to their clients.
  • Understand the needs of the users, the market, and the economy before extending services – The success of apps in the Asian markets have been also largely driven due to the large number of the unbanked population in these geos. According to the World Bank, only 27% of the population in Asia has a bank account.  With their integrated wallet feature, super-apps have been welcomed by this huge unbanked population in emerging countries. This might not be the case in the western markets, like the United States, where credit cards provide a great ease in making payments.
  • Build strong partnerships and ecosystems – Cross-industry partnerships can also be a determining factor for the success of Super Apps. For instance, Grab, the ride-hailing company headquartered in Singapore and with heavy market presence across the SEA region acquired the local sub-division of Uber and UberEats. At the same time, Grab also started paving its way towards payments and invested in OVO, a popular payment platform in Indonesia.

Super Apps – yay or nay for your enterprise?

While building a Super App might seem like a promising idea, however, it might not be the right strategy for every business. Some factors that companies should consider before making this leap:

  • Cost, time, and resource consideration: the cost, resources, and time involved in building a Super Apps is relatively higher when compared to creating a single-purpose app. Business leaders should consider and ensure their business priorities align with the need for a Super App.
  • User experience: a single-purpose app can sometimes offer a great experience that might get diluted with the integration of multiple services, if not done well. If your business is ready to create and offer a similar or better experience through a Super App, it might hamper your core business and brand.
  • Specificity of the services: many businesses offer multiple services under one brand.For instance under Facebook – there’s a social media app, a messaging app, Instagram and WhatsApp. However, every app is a separate entity because they serve very distinct purposes. If your services are too specific and distinct in might not make sense to integrate them into one platform. Alipay made several unsuccessful forays into social networking/chat. WeChat too faltered in its attempt at direct e-commerce.

In conclusion

The Southeast Asian markets have seen tremendous growth and the rise of Super Apps. With the rise in the number of internet and smartphone users, this trend will only see further growth. However, enterprises have a long way to go when it comes to capturing western markets which are digitally mature, and regulatory norms are way more stringent. Enterprises like Uber have already led the way to Super Apps in these markets and initiated offering services like food delivery, ticketing with Uber Transit, and payment services with Uber Money. Irrespective of the market and geographies it will be critical for enterprises to consider the why, what, and how of their Super App strategy before taking the leap.

India is uniquely placed – both as a consumer market and as a hub for crafting Super Apps for the world. Our experience in crafting digital solutions that simplify lives for millions around the globe will help enterprises realize the superpower of Super Apps.  

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Mobile Opinion

Simplifying User Stories for Agile product development

Are User Stories mandatory for product development? The short answer is ‘No’.

User Stories are not a ‘must-have’ in product development. The Waterfall methodology of software development does not include the concept of User Stories. But owing to its sequential approach it also offers no scope of considering customer feedback and iterating the requirements. Hence, it often fails to deliver a product that customers actually want. Exactly why, 97% of companies have now shifted to iterative and customer-centric Agile development methods, where User Stories are considered as ‘primary development artifacts’. Along with the popularity of XP and Scrum, User Stories has become a common approach to Agile requirements definition.

Product leaders who have set an example in creating the best user experiences, give a great deal of importance to creating User Stories. For instance, Netflix ensures that they understand every User Story with advanced personalization. As a result,  75% of Netflix views are a result of their recommendation engine.

What are User Stories and why are they critical to the product development process?

With highly valued ‘User Experience’ for products, comes the highly appreciated responsibility for product teams – to narrate a story of users’ needs/desires to all the investors, internal stakeholders and all the departments.

Understanding users and users’ needs is important and aligning the product development strategy to the expectations of business stakeholders and investors plays a critical role in the successful implementation of the project. Since it helps in (a) developing trust with the product strategy and (b) creating a common, shared understanding of user’s needs throughout the stakeholders and teams.

This strategy now must reach to every team member involved in developing the product.  In this process, multiple documentations are created to gather detailed insights like Product Requirement Document, Competitive Research documents, Product strategy reports, Development timelines, and budgets, Expected revenue growth stats, User research documents, Feature Requirement Document, Functional Requirement Document, Business Requirement Document and more.

There is a hierarchy of high-level requirements, starting with initiative, themes, epics, features, etc.

User Story is the last mile but found at the very core of the development process and holds a position called primary development artifact.

A User Story is a very high-level definition of a requirement, that can help the developers and product stakeholders arrive at an estimate of the effort and time needed to implement it.

Unlike other documents created around high-level requirements, User Stories can be used directly while development is in progress. User Story is the crux of all the information collated during user research, finding the user’s pain point, competitive analysis, and creating exact prototypes for the product.  User Stories keep the user’s perspective or the user’s viewpoint at the center of the product development process and are directly derived from the user’s needs.

Let’s take a deep dive into what User Stories are and the best approaches to write them

Much like in literature and films, epic is an integration of related or interdependent stories.

In Agile development also, a User Story is the next level to the epic in the hierarchy of high-level requirements gathered.

An epic is the larger piece of product functionality, which usually is difficult to complete in one sprint, hence it is further split up into smaller units. For instance, an epic may be registration & authorization, authentification, user profile, etc.  User Stories are smaller units of functionalities that are derived from epic.

In simple terms, User Stories are units of functionality narrated from a stakeholder’s perspective. A story summary should narrate the user’s need from the product as a piece of work or functionality. This functionality can then be directly taken for development.

Let’s have a look at the structure

User Stories

‘’An epic is a large User Story that cannot be delivered as defined within a single iteration or is large enough that it can be split into smaller User Stories.’’ –  Agile Alliance.

Let’s see two different views of ‘epics and stories’ in diagrammatic form to understand the connection between epics and stories.

(Note: We have considered the same epics and stories in both views to relate them better.)

a. Product Requirement view of epics and stories

Product Requirement view of epics and stories

b. Product Backlog view of epics and stories

A product backlog is a collection of all User Stories which are identified as an ‘independent unit of work’ of an entire epic.

Product Backlog view of epics and stories

User Story is more than a ‘scope of work’. User Story is narrating a user’s desired experience and the ‘scope of work is the takeaway. Dividing stories into smaller tasks/ subtasks/ spikes is then the next step to creating that detailed scope of work.

User Stories help in ensuring that the desired experience remains unchanged irrespective of the methods the scope of work is achieved.

According to Interaction Design Foundation – ‘’Thanks to the accessibility and flexibility of User Stories, you can use them to build a common language and a common mental model of what the project is about. Thus, you can have all stakeholders – client, management, the team members – talking the same language and focusing on the user and what the project is trying to achieve.’’

Here are a few most widely used User Story formats:

  1. As a <role> I can <capability>, so that <receive benefit> by Mike Cohn
  2. In order to <receive benefit> as a <role>, I can <goal/desire> by Chris Matts
  3. Based on 5 W’s - As <who> <when> <where>, I <want> because <why>

A final User Story might look like these:

As an online buyer of the app, I can use the discount code while purchasing, so that I receive a discount on my total purchase amount.

Guidelines for writing good User Stories

a. Breaking up the stories

What are the benefits of ‘a perfectly cut multi-layered cake’? Easy-to-serve, easy-to-eat and gives the taste of all the layers even with a small piece. Similarly, a User Story can be as big as an epic, but we must know how to cut it short but simultaneously keep it an independent piece of work. We must cover all the layers of User Story from

  • User Interaction with the Interface
  • Backend support, CMS driven entities
  • All technical aspects, assumptions & considerations
  • Clear requirements that can lead to good test cases.

b. Easy to estimate

Breaking up the stories in shorter and simpler formats makes the estimation task easy. Stories should be kept small for the purpose of an accurate analysis of the efforts needed to complete it. Correct estimations can help in on-time deliveries. Here’s how:

Guidelines for writing good User Stories

c. Avoiding redundancies of scenarios in stories

It is important to keep the stories as independent as possible. This can be achieved by:

  • Avoiding writing the same scenarios in two different but related stories.
  • Avoiding writing the same kind of stories in two different epics. This can solve the problem of redundancies.

For example:

The home page of any application is a collective UI representation of all the features available in the application. So avoid redundancy of writing about those features in ‘Home screen’ story and again writing them under separate features.

d. Adding more than a UI description of designs

User Stories are not just a UI description. As mentioned earlier, it’s a combination of all UI components, Backend support, CMS driven entities, test environments conditions, etc.

e. Using active voice vs passive voice

The most effective way of writing a User Story as well as acceptance criteria is using an active voice. Here’s an example:

Passive: The user should be able to search a book by its metadata to get the expected results.

Active: User searches for a book by typing any word that matches its metadata and gets the expected results.

An active User Story clearly outlines

  • The interactions/tasks the user is able to do.
  • Invites more questions from devs as easy to understand and reduces gaps.
  • Keep stories separated from independent technical tasks

For initial code set-up and pure technical tasks, we can create spikes/tasks/subtasks. User Stories have a user’s viewpoint which these technical tasks don’t. Technical tasks complement the original User Stories from which they are derived.

f. Always prioritize the stories

Prioritization gives the top level view of all important, quick fix stories which can be taken early vs low priorities can be taken when all high priority tasks are done.

g. Ensure the stories are well-refined before initiating development

A story needs not only the product perspective but design and technical perspective too before it is actually taken for development. One or more level filters to the story involving cross functional teams strengthen the acceptance criteria of the story and reduce the gaps.

Different stakeholders <Roles> in a User Story

As mentioned earlier, User Story is a unit of functionality narrated from a stakeholder’s perspective, most often from End user’s perspective.

However, other stakeholders in a Digital product development project can be a Developer, Quality analyst, Product owners, etc. and User Stories can be defined from their perspectives too. Here are a few examples:

a. User Story from the product owner’s perspective

Splash screen or launch screen of a Mobile application – End users don’t care much about being shown a splash/ launch screen to them. But when the user starts the application, the application takes around 2-3 seconds to load and till then the user must be shown with some kind of loading indicator and given a hint that the application is getting ready to launch. So splash covers the intent of being displayed till application loads and being a screen to establish and promote the brand of the product.

Therefore: as a product owner I want to show the splash screen to the user when user starts the application

b. User Story from the developer’s perspective

Increasing the performance of ‘search’ functionality leveraging the programming techniques like dynamic row loading or debouncing/ throttling.

Therefore: as a developer, I want to increase the search autocomplete timing with debounce programming technique, so that the overall search functionality performance will improve

c. User Story from Quality analyst/Tester’s perspective

A verification story that explains the user’s capability to search a product using different metadata. Users should be able to search a product using its brand name, parent type of the product, the industry it belongs to, using any word from the descriptions of the product.

Therefore: as a tester, I want to verify that the user is able to search a product with its metadata i.e. brand name, parent type of the product, the industry it belongs to, using any word from the descriptions of the product so that user will be able to find expected results

d. User Story from the End-User’s perspective

The most often used stakeholder in User Story is the ‘user of the product’. Users can have different personas (based on demographic, psychographic, etc.), state (Subscribed/ not subscribed, authenticated/ unauthenticated, etc.). It’s recommended to use the specifics of user role while writing a User Story.

Therefore: as a subscribed user of the app,  I want an access to the premium content of the app, so that I will be able to watch and enjoy

Acceptance criteria – an integral part of User Story

It is critical that the product team works as an enabler to the development team in understanding user needs by defining the scope of work in a way that is easy to understand by them. This is where the ‘Acceptance Criteria’ plays an important role.

Mike Cohn, one of the founders of the Scrum Alliance Cohn, defines acceptance criteria as, “notes about what the story must do in order for the product owner to accept it as complete.”

It can be used as a ‘definition of done’ for the scope of work. Acceptance criteria help the Quality analyst team to define their test cases.

Two commonly used acceptance criteria formats are:

  1. Checklist format
  2. Given When Then Format

We will also uncover the way of writing acceptance criteria using the User Story mentioned earlier in the article [Discount code functionality]. This is to understand the basic difference between the acceptance criteria formats mentioned-above.

1. Checklist format

As the name specifies its a checklist of criteria to be taken into consideration. This format is used for small, simple User Stories which are not complex to understand from a user flow perspective.


List of criterias

  • <criteria 1>
  • <criteria 2>...

User Story – As an online buyer of the app, I can use the discount code while purchasing, so that I can receive a discount on my total purchase amount.

Acceptance criteria

  1. A call to action on ‘Apply code’ should show a list of discount codes that can be applied on the purchase for a user.
  2. Only a single code can be applied on a total purchase at a time.
  3. On a click of code, the code should be applied and shown next to the ‘coupon’ text label.
  4. The applied coupon code discount should be shown next to the Coupon code with ‘-’ prefix.
  5. The number of coupon discounts should be deducted from the total purchase amount.
  6. Only authenticated users can apply code

2. ‘Given When Then’ format

‘Given When Then’ format is very popular and widely used in product-based companies for their A-list digital products. Great user experience, high security, and a huge potential customer base can involve much more complexity to the digital product. And everything mentioned starts with capturing all the minute details correctly.

This format covers all the happy paths, unhappy paths, error scenarios that the user experiences. It also explains the logical order of user flow/ sequence of tasks the user is encountering with.


  • <Given> context/ user role/ user state
  • And (Optional)
  • <When> interaction with system
  • <Then> expected result
  • And (Optional)

User Story – As an online buyer of the app, I can use the code while purchasing, so that I can receive a discount on my total purchase amount.

Acceptance criteria

Scenario 1: Happy Path – applying discount code 

Given I’m an authenticated user on order screen
When I click on ‘Apply code’
Then I see a list of codes that can be applied

Scenario 2: Happy Path – Click to action on codes 

Given I’m an authenticated user on screen of list of codes
When I click on any code
Then I see a the codes printed next to ‘coupon’ on order screen
And I see the discount amount shown with the prefix ‘-’
And I see the discount amount deducted from the total amount of purchase

Scenario 3: Unhappy path – selecting multiple codes

Given I have selected one code from the list
When I click on any other code
Then I see the earlier code gets deselected and new code gets selected

Scenario 4: Unhappy path – No coupons available

Given I’m an authenticated user on the order screen
When I click on ‘Apply code’
Then I see an empty screen with the text label ‘Sorry! No coupons available’

Scenario 5: Unauthenticated user – Apply code

Given I’m an unauthenticated user on the order screen
When I click on ‘Apply code’
Then I see an error message ‘Please Register with us to apply the code. Already a member? – Sign In’ with two buttons of ‘Register’ and ‘Sign In’

The ‘Given When Then’ format is much more detailed and also explains the user flow with different scenarios. Further, it also covers the error states and unhappy paths as seen in the above example. Rather than just saying ‘Unauthenticated users can not apply code’ we explained how an unauthenticated user’s journey would look like if they tried. – (See scenario 5).

The reason behind the popularity of ‘Given When Then’ Format –

  1. Clearer user flows: As in the above example, it helps in understanding a scenario with the specific user flow. If an authenticated user tries to apply code vs an unauthenticated user tries.
  2. 360-degree coverage for all user paths: It covers all the happy and unhappy paths. Also the error cases.
  3. Covering unhappy paths with a workaround: Even if unauthenticated users can’t apply code, it can outline the path they directed to i.e. to Register/ Sign In
  4. Ability to cover more than one user state: It helps in covering both authenticated and unauthenticated user states.
  5. Connecting more to the user’s emotions: As mentioned in the above scenarios, If there are no codes available for users, it could be disappointing. In such cases creating the best text message or workaround for this scenario.
  6. Active voice of a user: This format defines the scenarios in an active voice. This way, developers can relate to it more and ask many questions around the scenarios on possible gaps.

With the formats explained above, there can be other details that can be added to this format, such as System requirements, business requirements, Assumptions/ pre-conditions, Remarks, necessary UI links, Other notes to Dev team/ to QA, Backend components, etc.

Who writes User Stories?

In the Agile team creation of User Stories should be a collaborative effort. It is a simple process and hence anybody can write User Stories. However, in most cases, Product owners or Business Analysts take the lead in writing them as they are considered to know the ‘user’s perspective’ better.

Agile methodology gives the flexibility to strengthen User Stories along with developers through various sprint planning meetings. Sprint planning meetings in agile, which are generally led by Product Owners, are very important for dev teams to understand the scope of work, find loopholes, get in more details into the acceptance criteria and get them ready to take into the next sprint. That’s how agile projects are known for a collaborative team effort.

In summary, as defined by Interaction Design Foundation – ‘’User Stories promote a shift in the way a project is discussed. We do not focus anymore on solutions and features. We focus on goals that “real” users will be able to work towards for a specific purpose. We do not have a list of abstract functionalities whose origin is dubious. We focus the end goals on concrete and tangible things that the project will let the user do.’’

User Stories bridge the gap between technology and human needs. It is believed that ‘well begun is half done’ and creating well-defined User Stories can help in defining the success of a product at an early stage. The reason: it takes the most important aspect into consideration:  the end-users, their needs, and pain points.

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Mobile Opinion

Choosing the right digital partner for the Experience Economy: actionable tips

Crafting digital experiences that delight your consumers and drive business growth is an on-going journey that keeps evolving with the changing customer expectations, ever-transforming business environment, technological innovations, and much more.

What is considered as an innovation at a point in time, becomes a norm sooner than we realize.

For instance, in 2011 Google Wallet was introduced and today almost every smartphone owner uses a payments app. In less than a decade Instagram has changed the norms of social sharing. Uber, launched in 2010, has become a necessity for most of urban dwellers today. Slack, a messaging app for enterprises launched in 2013, has become an essential component of how employees communicate. Such examples are plenty.

In a post COVID world, the pace in which the business landscape and consumers’ needs & expectations have changed has accelerated by leaps and bounds. It has changed the basic fabric of human behavior at a speed and at a scale that has never been witnessed before.

According to a recent report from Accenture, in this new post COVID world, the need for tools and techniques that can help understand the science of behavior and enable enterprises to monitor, collect data and analyze the changing consumer behavior will become foundational to experience creation. Most importantly, the speed at which companies respond to these changes will become a critical factor for competitive advantage.

Furthermore, businesses will have to progress from creating omnichannel experiences to delivering multi-experiences i.e. going beyond being merely present in various platforms to creating a consistent and seamless experience across all devices and platforms.

In fact, according to Gartner, by 2023, more than 25% of mobile apps, progressive web apps, and conversational apps at large enterprises will be built and/or run through a multi-experience platform.

Delivering such experiences will need continuously inventing and re-inventing the existing digital solutions. It will require people, processes, and technologies across an organization, working in complete harmony with each other. Many organizations understand this and have progressed towards making digital transformation a priority. According to a study, 84% of enterprises believe that digital transformation is crucial. However, just 3% of these have a company-wide digital transformation plan ready. But this scenario will have to rapidly change as COVID -19 has dramatically accelerated the pace of evolution of customer needs. Businesses understand that ‘now’ is the time for them to speed-up and accelerate digital transformation not just for customer engagement but also for internal processes.

The kind of digital experiences that an organization creates also depends on their digital maturity. Every organization is at a different stage of digital maturity depending on its priorities and customer needs. An e-commerce enterprise is bound to be more digitally matured than a brick and mortar retail store.

While most digitally matured organizations have a well defined digital strategy, enterprises that are just starting their journey might lack that prudence.

It is critical for enterprises to know where they lie in terms of digital maturity to create a digital roadmap for the future. It can be difficult for enterprises to embark on this journey on their own, this is where the right digital partner who can understand, complement, and augment an organization’s digital maturity level becomes important.

There are various challenges that organizations might face while developing innovative digital solutions, and a digital partner can help them address these:

  • Cost considerations: reduce resource and operational costs – 59% of all businesses collaborate with a digital partner to optimize costs
  • Ability to meet elastic demand – scale up or down – 16% of of all businesses work with a digital partner to raise flexibility
  • Time and effort required to acquire talent with specific skillsets or developing them within the organization – 18% of all businesses augment their teams with a digital partner to increase expertise
  • Accelerating time-to-market – 24% of businesses work with a digital partner to improve efficiency and speed

Visualize, mobilize, and realize your digital transformation strategy with the right digital partner

Choosing the right digital partner can help organizations visualize, mobilize, and realize their digital transformation strategy and hence enable them in delivering sophisticated digital experiences. To elaborate, the right digital partner can enable enterprises to:

  • Visualize Digital Future – enable your business to think ahead and  create digital solutions for the future
  • Mobilize Enterprise Disruption – define the strategic change agenda for your business that will deliver measurable outcomes
  • Realize Smart Results – build rigor in the system to ensure that strategy delivers results

A well thought-through digital partnership can help businesses in:

  1. Revenue growth and build newer revenue streams – increase the top line
  2. Optimizing costs – increasing the bottom line by reducing resource costs, infrastructure costs, admin costs, operational costs, and so on.
  3. Ensuring compliance with all relevant governance, risk and compliance norms
  4. Digital Innovation – creating new products and services or augmenting existing products for competitive advantage.
  5. Acquiring, retaining, and engaging with customers with delightful digital experiences.

Choosing Right Digital Partner

Choosing the right digital partner – key factors that can help you hit the bull’s eye

Crafting end-to-end digital experiences has become critical for enterprises to drive competitive advantage and ensure business growth. In fact, according to this Forbes article, by 2020, CX will be even more important than price or product quality in differentiating one brand from another. Therefore, the need to choose the right digital partner can’t be emphasized enough.

Here are key factors organizations should keep in mind while choosing the right digital partner:

Choosing the right digital partner - key factors that can help you hit the bull’s eye

Experience and Expertise

According to Forrester, to accelerate digital transformation it is important to pick partners that understand transformation. What this means is, it is important to find a partner with the right set of capabilities to compliment your own team and with the kinds of technology tools, you can put to use immediately.

The best scenario will be, having a digital partner who can offer end-to-end digital services including advisory, design, engineering, and analytics. Such a partner will help enterprises realize and deliver digital experiences for the present, but also enable them to be future-ready.

Here are a couple of things that are key indicators to measure the right indicators of expertise of a digital partner:

  1. Experience: The years of experience in the industry, more importantly, their experience in the domain of your business.
  2. Scale and variety of digital projects: The scale and variety of digital projects executed across the globe. While a digital partner might have excellent experience in creating mobile apps, they might lack the expertise in creating digital solutions using emerging technologies or scale your product. Hence, it becomes important to work with partners who can augment your digital solutions and create experiences for the future.
  3. Clientele: The list of their top clients and more importantly the kind of organizations they have worked with, in your respective domain.
  4. Leadership:  Any team is as good as their leader, hence it becomes important that your digital partner has a strong leadership team with an in-depth understanding and experience in creating digital solutions. It is critical that the leadership team is able to leverage their rich experience to guide the teams but also work with you to improvise on your digital solutions and deliver results.

Scale and Flexibility:

There are innumerable digital agencies or enterprises across the globe. But an important factor to consider while making the decision to choose a digital partner is their scale and flexibility. If your digital projects are large scale, you will need a partner who can match and manage that scale, whereas for an SME or a start-up it is important to choose a partner who will have the flexibility to quickly scale up or scale down on the projects depending upon the requirements.

Some of the key factors to consider while measuring the scale and flexibility of a digital partner are:

  1. The scale of digital solutions executed and the size of enterprises that they have partnered with.
  2. The kind of technological capabilities they have across all the services – Advisory, Design, Engineering, and Analytics.
  3. The structure of the organization, the structure of their project team, and its capability to scale-up or scale-down the team size depending on the project requirements.
  4. The kind of expertise and the composition of their team mix – for instance, the skills the team possesses in front-end and back-end digital technologies availability of experts in cloud and software deployment, etc.

Operational and process maturity

Given the pace at which digital technologies and consumer expectations evolve, speed, agility, and adaptability have become highly-prized attributes for any organization. Hence it becomes critical for enterprises to choose a partner that has digitally mature capabilities and processes in place. From requirement analysis to delivery of the project the kind of processes the digital partner brings on the table is a factor to assess while making a decision.

Here are some key points that you should consider to assess your digital partners’ operational/process maturity:

1. The kind of practices and methodologies used across the delivery cycle. Some of the factors in this context can be:

  • Do they offer full-lifecycle digital product development?
  • The level of expertise they demonstrate across CI/CD, DevOps, Automated Testing, etc.
  • The processes and procedures to perform quality assurance.
  • How they can accelerate your go-to-market strategy. For e.g. Do they have microservices compliant digital middleware to fast-track launch?
  • Data Points that can help you analyze their Sprint Velocity.
  • How they can help you drive customer acquisition and retention goals of your organization.
  •  What are the Service Level Agreements (SLAs) to upkeep applications?

2. What are the value-added services that they offer beyond the stated requirements of your project? – digital advisory services, workshops to chart out a product road map, design thinking capabilities can be some examples of such services.

3. Risk mitigation plan – a prudent digital partner knows that any process always has some scope or error, hence they keep their strategies in place to deal with any issues that might occur during the project. Various risk factors can be – control risk, organizational risk, performance risk, and security risk.

Geographical presence

It is important to keep in mind the geographical presence of the digital partner you are working with and how they plan to augment the capabilities of your team beyond the constraints of geographies. An effective digital partner will work with various teams and models and ensure effective communication is in place and deliverables are met irrespective of geography and time zones. A digital partner with a global presence with onsite and offshore teams can help in delivering cost advantage through a hybrid model of working.

Client testimonials

There is no better way to analyze your digital partner’s capability than to hear it ‘straight from the horse’s mouth’. Client reviews and testimonials are an important factor to understand the work, capabilities, and authenticity of the work they showcase in their corporate portfolios.

In conclusion

As we move towards a world where creating multi experiences will become the new reality, crafting digital experiences will require understanding the consumers’ needs and pain points, harnessing the right technologies and platforms to optimize business models, operational efficiency, and more. And, this will be a continuous process where organizations will have to catch-up and deliver according to the pace of change of customer needs and evolving business challenges. The right digital experiences partner can help your organization navigate through this journey by integrating people, processes & technologies to create unified & positive customer experiences.

Download the summary of the checklist to choose the right digital partner here.

To understand how Robosoft can partner with you to create digital solutions for your organization and for information on our capabilities and services, you can write to me at [email protected]

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Mobile Opinion

From Design Thinking to Design Doing – Webinar Overview

As enterprises face the new-order of the world, they are also gearing up for the evolving business challenges that are likely to get more complex in the coming months. Design Thinking principles can help businesses understand consumers better, empathize with them, and uncover valuable insights about their stated and latent needs & pain points.

In this context, in our first webinar of the Design Thinking series – ‘Facilitating Remote Design Thinking’ we discussed how remote working and Design Thinking which are often viewed as two separate entities can be integrated together to drive-in measurable results.

Taking the conversation ahead, the second webinar in this series – From Design Thinking to Design Doing, was aimed at discussing how the rapidly evolving business challenges present an opportunity for enterprises to apply Design Thinking principles to gain insights into customer pain points, understand user behavior and thus solve real-world problems for enterprises.

In this webinar, Pooja Bal, our Head of Digital Advisory Practice and Priyanka Shroff our Associate Director took participants through an in-depth process of how to progress from Design Thinking to Design Doing using product management tools and techniques. During the course of the webinar, they shared insightful examples based on their rich experience in Design Thinking with clients in various domains across the globe.

The discussion helped participants learn:

  • The new mindset – the paradigm shift in the outlook that is required to move from a static to the dynamic transition of Design Thinking and understand how it can be put into action, beyond theory.
  • The process of ‘Design Thinking to Design Doing’ – decoding the how of the Design Thinking process. This process is divided into three phases:

The process of ‘Design Thinking to Design Doing

Phase 1: Immerse: Empathize, Define, Ideate

Empathizing allows in setting aside preconceived assumptions and gain insights into the user’s real needs. In the subsequent steps these insights are analyzed and the core problem is defined. The final step of this phase is ideating; which can open up innumerable possibilities to innovate and build a product.

Phase 2: Imagine and Imbibe: MVP, Prototype, Usability Testing

Creating an MVP (Minimum Viable Product) which is the smallest possible version of the product that can be used to run an experiment and test a hypothesis to understand the feasibility of the product. The Prototyping and Usability testing steps of this phase are often done concurrently and can provide immense opportunities to learn faster about the end-user and apply those insights while developing the final product.

Phase 3: How to iterate and Invest: Analyze, Build, Test

This phase focuses on how to build and scale the product using Agile and DevOps concepts.

  • Business impact – examples of how this process enabled few of our clients meet business goals, increase profitability, and achieve the desired numbers.

In conclusion, the journey from Design Thinking to Design Doing is an iterative process that helps enterprises understand their user pain points, conduct faster experiments, and finally build a product that drives business results.

Here’s the webinar video for detailed insights on the Design Thinking to Design Doing process.

If you’d like to know more about how to drive the remote design thinking process at your enterprise, please feel free to drop me an email at [email protected].

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