Helping Service Finance Take Customer Service on The Road

service-finance-success-story

Without companies like Service Finance Company, major home improvements and repairs could be out of reach for many homeowners.

The FHA-approved Title 1 Lender provides financing for over 500 different products and services.

Their affiliated contractors are often in the field helping clients find the best way to get their project started.

Field Problems

During the loan process contractors generally have to visit their clients’ homes to gather information.

The contractor has to assess the project’s scope, estimate the cost, get the customer on board, then gain Service Finance’s approval.

That means either a trip back to the office or a lengthy phone conversation. It’s a highly inefficient process.

More importantly, when clients fall out at every stage of the sales process these extra steps create a barrier to sales.

Human error also results in a high number of mistakes.

Agents rush to get the information entered at the office and transpose digits, or an overwhelmed client misses typos in their paperwork. Small mistakes can cause an application to be erroneously denied.

Taking Approvals on The Road

Concepta partnered with Service Finance to build a field app that puts more power in the hands of their contractors.

Contractors can populate the application form by scanning a driver’s license or State ID.

Once sent, they can gain approval from the app in as little as 5 minutes. There’s even a way for clients to set up autopay through the app.

The backend offers Service Finance a healthy suite of business intelligence features.

They can track thousands of their affiliated contractors and authorized dealers and segment them by performance metrics: high performers, best or worst regions, and types of work done in certain areas.

When they need more direct contact, Service Finance can send push notifications to their partners with business reminders, storm alerts, and promotional interest rates.

Measurable Gains

Now, Service Finance has access to their full company data and metrics through an easy-to-read dashboard.

Their affiliated contractors are more productive with fewer mid-day trips to the office. 27% of new applications come through the field app (as opposed to online or traditional phone applications).

Most tellingly, mobile applications close the loan 90% of the time as opposed to 57% with other methods.

Numbers like this prove that having the right tool in the right place cuts out the human error and inefficiency that was derailing sales under the old system.

Is there an artificial barrier keeping your company from reaching its full potential? Schedule a complimentary appointment with Concepta’s team to explore technology-based solutions for your most pressing business problems.

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Mobile Enterprise Series: Progressive Web Apps

pwas-enterprise-app

For some businesses, progressive web apps (PWAs) are the way to go. They offer a good balance between ROI and customer experience – as long as the project is a good fit.

Establishing a mobile presence isn’t an option anymore.

It’s a requirement for companies that want to stay competitive in an increasingly connected world.

Even small businesses benefit from the increase in traffic that comes from making a good mobile impression. The question of “if” has now shifted to “how”.

A New Take on Mobile

The push for mobile solutions has inspired several different approaches.

Mobile websites are the easiest to set up. A company’s existing web page is simply made responsive to adjust to a more mobile-friendly format which user access through the browser.

This involves rearranging navigation, increasing text size, loading smaller or fewer images, and more.

It’s easier and cheaper than other options, but that simplicity comes at the cost of customer experience.

Native apps provide the best customer experience from a usage angle. They’re downloadable programs independent of the browser.

Because native apps are specific to each device, they can provide the exact use conventions customers expect.

Building for every device can be expensive, though, and customers aren’t always willing to download another app.

Hybrid apps and PWAs exist in the middle ground between these extremes. Hybrid apps are essentially a native “wrapper’ with a web app inside.

The same web app can then be used for different devices.

Progressive web apps take the opposite approach: they’re apps that are hosted on a sponsoring website and accessed through the browser.

There’s nothing to download, but the app can still access some device features to offer a better user experience.

PWA Benefits

PWAs can very nearly match native apps when it comes to user experience. They operate on multiple platforms; any browser that supports PWAs will run them.

As of April 2018 Microsoft is also supporting them, so the list of holdouts is shrinking.

Developing progressive web apps is faster since one app can serve multiple platforms.

Companies have the option to use web developers instead of pricier and more in-demand mobile specialists, so the cost is lower as well.

Maintenance is low relative to other mobile options (besides responsive sites, but those can’t even come close to offering the same level of UX).

Updates can be made centrally and pushed to customers. There’s no need to download updates.

That brings up one of the most appealing benefits of PWAs: the low barrier to adoption.

Users only have to click a link and allow the app to use their device’s features. There’s no download or lengthy setup required.

PWA Limitations

Of course, this isn’t a perfect solution for all use cases.

PWAs don’t have full functionality on all browsers. In those cases they revert into a mobile website with no extra features.

They also can’t access all a device’s features like native apps can.

Battery usage can be significantly high and load times are a bit slower than apps in general.

While PWAs outperform many mobile options, they do have lower performance than native apps.

This is most noticeable with feature-rich applications and graphics or animations where there are lots of adjustable controls .

Weighing the Alternatives

Native apps

Native apps and PWAs share a lot of features: offline access, push notifications, full-screen access, desktop icons, and more.

PWAs have some benefits over native. Pages can be shared via link or bookmarked.

They’re easy to find, accessible by everyone regardless of device, and save on data usage.

In the past limited device usage kept companies from developing PWAs, but now they can access most device features: camera, microphone, location, vibration, screen orientation, and more.

There are some device features that they don’t have, though work is being done on accessing them.

Near-Field Communication, light sensors, magnetoscope, some directional tools, shape detection, and similar functions remain out of reach.

Plus, PWAs by nature can’t usually access things like contacts, calendars, SMS, device settings, phone, and more.

Users don’t like allowing those to websites for privacy reasons.

As mentioned earlier, there’s a reduced performance on feature-heavy or highly graphic apps. Those perform better on native.

Hybrid apps

Hybrid apps and PWAs can be said to be taking opposite approaches: one brings the web to an app and the other puts an app in the web.

Hybrid offers slightly better performance and can mimic OS conventions for a more predictable and familiar user experience.

However, PWAs don’t need wrappers. They come closer to the “write once, run everywhere” philosophy, meaning their development costs are lower.

Both have similar offline capabilities.

Mobile web pages

Progressive web apps are the clear winner here. PWAs offer far more functionality and options to users than mobile pages.

Companies have increased load times by as much as 90% by switching to PWAs.

Making the Call

Mobile strategy, like all digital decisions, should be informed by business needs. PWAs can be developed quickly and on a tight budget.

They are the way to go if a company is fighting “app drop” and needs to encourage adoption.

However, if Apple users are the target market PWAs won’t be the right fit since they won’t run well on that OS.

Orlando Mobile App Development Company

Concepta, one of Orlando’s leading mobile development companies, works with clients of all sizes and budgets.

We know the value of a wide toolkit to help our partners overcome business challenges, grow sales, and improve internal processes.

For some businesses, Concepta recommends progressive web apps (PWAs).

We offer a good balance between ROI and customer experience- as long as the project is a good fit.

Is a PWA the right choice for your company? Schedule your free consultation to take advantage of Concepta’s 12 years of experience in powering digital strategies.

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The Best Mobile App Development Trends of 2017

mobile app development trends

One of the most important parts of being an enterprise technology leader- whether CEO, CTO/CIO, or VP of tech- is keeping an eye on emerging trends.

Technology moves fast, and that’s doubly true in an active field like mobile app development.

Knowing what features are gaining traction and which were just a passing fad can save a company hundreds of thousands in failed development projects.

With that in mind, here are 5 of the most promising mobile app development trends of 2017.

Enterprise Apps

Enterprise apps have proven their worth.

Adobe found that the average investment in mobile enterprise apps provides an average ROI of 35%.

Nearly three quarters of companies have built or updated mobile enterprise apps this year, up from 61% in 2016.

Apps are being used internally to collect maintenance data, streamline team projects, and even manage restaurant waitlists.

In fact, the demand for mobile enterprise apps in 2017 is expected to grow at least five times faster than internal IT departments can deliver.

Push Notifications

73% of consumers say that regularly getting useful information from advertisers is the most useful tool when selecting brands.

The key word is “useful”: people want short, timely notes that are relevant to their interests.

Push notifications meet this need, letting companies reach out to their customers without waiting for them to open an app.

The trend is noticeably more popular among Android users.

They’re twice as likely to open a push notification than Apple users (and twice as likely to opt into them in the first place).

Mobile App Security and Privacy

The Hewlett Packard Enterprise Mobile Application Security Report surveyed over 35,000 apps and found that over 96% failed at least one privacy test in 2016.

That’s changing fast; this year, security technologies like SSL, HTTPS, and advanced encryption are being incorporated into mobile app development as a rule instead of a special feature.

Companies are also becoming more selective with permissions as customers push back against intrusive apps.

If you are looking to tackle the rising challenge of security threats, you may want to read Balancing Speed and Security in Software Development.

Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning Apps

Intelligent apps, or those that use AI/ML to power special features, are one of Gartner’s Top 10 Strategic Technology trends for 2017.

AI is making its way into every corner of the mobile market, from personalizing customer service to detecting fraudulent activity.

Starbucks has even announced an app that will translate verbal orders into an actual order placed at the user’s selected store.

Add that to the growing integration of personal assistant apps like Alexa and it’s easy to see why AI is a trend to watch.

If you want to learn more about AI and how it can affect your business, download our new white paper: How Businesses Can Use Data Science and AI to Gain a Competitive Advantage.

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Augmented Reality (AR)

AR has been quietly improving since it was first used in the 90s to train Air Force pilots.

Back then it required a bulky backpack and goggles, but now smartphones are pushing augmented reality into the public eye.

While most consider it to be a gaming technology, AR is increasingly relevant in e-commerce.

IKEA uses it to allow customers to visualize how furniture will fit in their homes, and apps like FaceCake helps users choose makeup shades online.

Conclusion

Whether it’s an enterprise app or one meant to capture the public’s eye, user engagement is key.

24% of apps are only used once in the first six months, but it takes 30 days to build a habit.

Incorporating one or more of these trends into your app can provide the value needed to make it part of your user’s daily habit.

Want to know more trends happening in this industry? Check out 2017’s list for best software development trends and best web development trends.

Are you having trouble retaining users? Contact Concepta to discuss how these trends can boost your app’s usage rates!


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Native vs Hybrid Apps: Which to Choose and When

native vs hybrid apps

Mobile apps are an inescapable part of how today’s consumers interact with their favorite brands. 90% of phone time is spent within apps, and that time is financially productive. Smartphone conversion rates are up 64% compared with desktop conversion rates, with tablets maintaining the highest add-to-cart ratios on e-commerce websites.

Numbers like this are driven by the superior customer experience mobile apps provide over mobile websites. They’re more intuitive to use, give a higher sense of security, and boost repeat business. Essentially, having a mobile app is a no-brainer- but companies also need to decide what type of app will suit their needs, and that’s where it can get complicated.

The Challenge of Building an App

First, building “an” app is a deceptive term. There’s no single format for downloadable mobile apps that works on every device. Unless the app is intended for a specific group who will all be using the same equipment (like employees on company iPads), developers need to account for the variety of platforms used by their customer base. Building an app involves either building separate native Android and iOS apps or building a hybrid app with a platform specific wrapper.

Native Vs Hybrid Apps

Which is better? As is often the case in software development, the answer depends on the specific project.

The Benefits of Native Apps

A native app is written for a specific platform, like iOS or Android. Because it’s made for that platform alone, it can utilize traditional features of that platform to create a more intuitive interface. Seemingly minor features like drop down menus or button orientations provide a familiar interface and a better user experience.

Being built on a specific platform takes worry over vendor library support out of the picture. Apple will continue to support Swift, for example, so developers won’t have to worry about longevity or code becoming obsolete.

  • More data storage  Native apps can store more data offline than hybrid or web apps. They have a lot of functionality even when the user isn’t connected to the internet, syncing when service becomes available again.
  • Better functioning – Most apps incorporate at least one device function, whether it’s taking pictures for social media posts or using the accelerometer or gyroscope for games. Native apps have a much easier time accessing these functions. Swipe navigation and push notifications are simpler to include, too.
  • Better user experience – UX is so much better with a native app that it’s easy to argue that native is better when budget and time allow- but there’s the catch.

The Challenges of Native Apps

Native apps are more labor-intensive and expensive than hybrid apps to develop. Companies have to build and maintain a separate codebase for each platform. They’ll also need a larger development team, since programmers tend to specialize in platforms.

Building on different platforms slows down the development cycle as well. Developers can sometimes get around this by releasing an app on one platform with the other to follow as it’s done, but that method runs the risk of alienating users of the platform they release later.

Read this post for more info on building native apps.

The Benefits of Hybrid Apps

Hybrid apps were created to combine the performance of native apps with the faster development cycle of a web app. Essentially, developers create a web app with custom wrappers for each device. This method is multi-platform friendly; scaling it to another platform is as simple as creating a new wrapper.

  • Faster development – A faster development cycle means a lower initial investment before an MVP can get to market There’s a shorter turnaround for upgrades or fixes when user feedback reveals a problem. The app won’t need to be resubmitted to mobile marketplaces when it’s updated, either.
  • More flexibility – While web apps have been criticized for difficulty in accessing device functions, hybrid apps have more flexibility. Third party tools allow developers to enrich hybrid apps with a healthy proportion of device features.
  • Budget-friendly – Hybrid can be a good choice for companies without complex needs. Cost is king, and hybrid apps are unarguably more budget-friendly in the hands of a good developer. Being able to get an app to market and respond to feedback quickly is a huge advantage.
  • Competitive  – More importantly, they’re fast enough to provide a good experience for simple UI-based applications. Hybrid frameworks are maturing to the point where they can almost match a native app for the majority of common functions. Throw in a few device functions for added utility and the average user won’t be able to tell it’s a hybrid.

The Challenges of Hybrid Apps

Hybrid apps come close to the performance of native apps, but it’s true that they can’t quite match it. While they’re fast enough that users won’t notice much difference in average apps, it will be obvious the more complex an app becomes. Hybrid apps generally have lower storage limits and don’t perform as well offline.

UX takes a hit from platform-specific wrappers. The webview is platform agnostic, meaning users won’t have the familiar “feel” they’re used to and can’t navigate the app in an intuitive way. Wrappers can cause problems during development, too, driving up development times to near native levels.

Want to go under the hood? Check out the post: The Technology Behind the Best Hybrid Apps.

Hybrid App Example: Evernote

A good example is Evernote, a freemium hybrid app used for productivity and organization. It’s cross-platform in a major way, supporting most popular platforms (macOS, iOS, Chrome OS, Android, Microsoft Windows, webOS, etc). Evernote is praised for its intuitive design and responsiveness. It’s a good case study of playing to the strengths of hybrid apps to create a native experience at a hybrid cost.

There are times when a native app is the only sensible path. If UX is a key requirement, any app that leans heavily on device features needs to be native. Trying to skate by with a hybrid app will only frustrate users. That’s dangerous in a world where 52% of consumers decrease brand engagement after a bad mobile experience.

Native App Example: Pokémon GO

One well-known example is the popular mobile game Pokémon GO. The game uses the accelerometer, gyroscope, and compass to power in-app features like catching virtual Pokémon and hatching eggs. Swiping is used for play and navigation. The game needs to be fast enough to keep play smooth enough to satisfy players in all coverage conditions. There’s no feasible way to meet those requirements with a hybrid app.

Conclusion

The choice between hybrid and native can make or break an app. Creating an experience that doesn’t meet consumers’ needs is worse than not having an app at all. On the other hand, there’s no point in blowing through the development budget for a native app when a hybrid app would work. Being frank about your project’s needs when meeting with the developer will position your app for success.

Need another option? Check out what the difference is between mobile web, native, and hybrid apps.

Wondering if a hybrid app could save your company money? Or is optimal performance from a native app a non-negotiable? A free consultation with Concepta will help you decide what kind of app you need!
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The Technology Behind the Best Hybrid Apps

best hybrid apps

Gartner has predicted that by 2016 more than 50 percent of mobile apps deployed will be hybrid. Hybrid apps are cheaper to build, have shorter development turnaround, and are fast enough to meet the majority of companies’ needs. Native still offers a better experience, but a growing market of tools are helping hybrid apps near- or even match!- native performance.

The challenges facing hybrid apps revolve around performance and user experience. Consumers tend to be loyal to their favorite platform, as demonstrated by the popularity of “Android versus iOS” jokes. Hybrid apps in their basic form can’t provide the intuitive navigation users have come to expect from their apps.

Performance is a major concern. Users expect an app to open fully within two seconds, and 80% will stop using an app after three failures. Experts cite poor performance as the leading motivation behind the more than 26% of installed apps which are abandoned after the first use.

Fortunately, modern hybrid frameworks are working to compensate for these structural problems. No single framework has solved all of them (yet), but several have come very close. Here’s a rundown of the best frameworks around for building fast, functional hybrid apps.

Xamarin

Xamarin uses C+ to build cross-platform mobile apps. It creates a platform-specific user interface layer, giving apps the familiar look and feel of their preferred platform.

The unique approach to coding also allows apps built with Xamarin to access specific-device features. Need to use the compass on an iPhone? No problem. Want the accelerometer to track movement on an Android phone? Done. Combine that with the fact that Xamarin is natively compiled and it’s easy to see how it simulates the power of a native app.

Maintenance and development is relatively simple. Developers can share as much as 75% of the code across platforms, which shortens the development cycle.

The downside is that Xamarin isn’t suitable for graphics-intense applications. It also demands a much higher skill level, has limited access to OS libraries, and is slow to support new platform updates. Finding a developer with the experience needed to build good apps with Xamarin may be difficult.

Appcelerator Titanium

Appcelerator Titanium uses common programming languages (JavaScript, HTML5, jQuery, CSS3). Its main selling point is that it dramatically shortens app development timelines. Developers can push out prototypes, get feedback, and adjust more quickly than with other frameworks. It also allows access to device features like camera, accelerometer, compass, microphone, touchscreen, and GPS.

However, the tradeoff for that speed is flexibility and performance. Though it bills itself as a freemium solution the free version is too unstable to use. Developers need to buy upgrades for it to work. Some developers have criticized .

PhoneGap (Cordova)

Companies that prefer a more traditional approach turn to PhoneGap. PhoneGap is an open-source cross-platform framework that lets developers build mobile apps using HTML, CSS and JavaScript.

There are two main advantages to PhoneGap. First, many organizations already have the in-house HTML/ JavaScript experience necessary for PhoneGap apps. Toolkits like JavaScript toolkits like jQuery Mobile, Sencha Touch or Dojox mobile help use those existing skills to develop apps for different mobile devices.

Second, PhoneGap has powerful APIs for accessing device functions. It can access features other basic hybrid frameworks can’t, such as the address book, camera, accelerometer, and more. The enthusiastic PhoneGap community continues to offer support in the form of tutorials, enhancements, and shared case studies for fine-tuning its use.

PhoneGap doesn’t handle background threads well, though. Applications that rely on background threads, particularly those that are analyzing user input as it’s entered, won’t run smoothly. In general the performance surpasses most hybrid frameworks, but performance can still be a little lacking as the app’s complexity grows.

While PhoneGap can approximate a native feel many developers have complained about it taking longer to fine-tune. There’s less code-sharing than solutions like Xamarin, which makes for slightly slower development cycles.

Ionic

Ionic is an HTML5 hybrid mobile framework with AngularJS components. It allows development in HTML, CSS and JavaScript. Ionic is a solid framework with lots of community support. It’s easy to maintain and offers some native features like push notifications. There’s also a huge library of plugins to access native APIs.

On the other hand, Ionic can be slow compared to PhoneGap or Xamarin. In-app execution can lag. Structuring navigation is generally considered unnecessarily complex; the UI router can be hard to maneuver.

Users note that the UI has a distinctly iOS feel. This can be off-putting to those who dislike the iOS format (namely, everyone except iOS users).

Conclusion

Different frameworks work for different solutions. Xamarin best approximates the look and feel of a native app but has high technical expertise requirements. PhoneGap is open source and offers a near-native experience, but has some situational performance limitations. Ionic has a large library of plugins and lots of support, but leans towards one UI style. Appcelerator Titanium has lots of performance flaws but is perfect for rapid prototyping.

For more info on this subject, check out our blog post, Should You Choose Titanium, Xamarin, or Native for Your Next Mobile Application.

If you’re looking for other ways to build a mobile app and going the hybrid route is not one of them, you might want to consider creating a mobile web or native app instead.


Unsure which framework to use for your next app? Contact Concepta for a free consultation!

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NativeScript: Choosing a Mobile App Framework

NativeScript-review

NativeScript is a modern mobile open source framework for building native apps.

NativeScript is a Mobile Framework, or a customizable “skeleton” that contains a common selection of features necessary for building mobile apps.

What problem does NativeScript solve?

Developers can use JS, Angular, XML, and CSS-like languages to develop apps while employing native APIs for each platform instead of using web views to render each UI.

Benefits of NativeScript

  • Open source
  • Extensible
  • Platform-agnostic
  • Native API Reflection
  • Uses native UI components from the native OS (fully native apps, not packaged via browser)
  • Standards-compliant ECMAScript Javascript code
  • CSS standard-compliant declaration
  • Hot reload functionality

Strengths of NativeScript

Although it’s a relatively new tool NativeScript is backed by Telerik, a subsidiary of Progress. Progress has a reputation for backing dependable developer tools for enterprise.

It has an enthusiastic community who appreciate how easy it is for Angular fans to learn NativeScript.

Users can actually build native applications in Angular 2 as well as use CSS animations.

Cross platform functionality is essential, and NativeScript is well poised to ensure it.

The framework offers native performance on both iOS and Android. The whole stack is available for both platforms.

NativeScript espouses a “write once, adapt everywhere” philosophy: developers can adapt code between web and mobile. It also provides 0-day support for new OS releases.

Intellectual Property headaches can be bypassed with an open source program like NativeScript.

Its core is licensed under Apache 2.0 which allows users to use, modify, license, and distribute their software without having to classify their use as personal or commercial.

There are only very minimal requirements to leave a disclaimer and copyright notice in place.

NativeScript includes great tooling for productivity and developer consistency.

Implementation is noticeably faster compared to mobile.

Also, developers can integrate CSS animations into their NativeScript projects.

Weaknesses of NativeScript

Most of NativeScript’s weaknesses arise from being relatively new.

For example, there aren’t as yet many official plug-ins.

NativeScript has vocally loyal and active users, but it’s not as big as ReactNative’s community.

Developers can’t use React with NativeScript yet. Only their “Core”, an MVVM style of building applications, is available.

However, Angular 2 is also has first class support and there are strongly indications that Vue will be implemented as well.

Performance has historically not been as seamless on Android as on iOS.

A recent update ironed out many of the problems, but some issues remain.

Comparison

Xamarin

Xamarin is very similar to NativeScript in terms of underlying technology.

Though NativeScript doesn’t have as many available plug-ins as Xamarin, it has an edge in code recompilation. Changing code in Xamarin means recompiling and restarting the computer.

NativeScript is positioned for automatic instant recompiling, which is part of how it drives faster development.

ReactNative

Both ReactNative and NativeScript are cross-platform JavaScript frameworks for mobile development.

The key difference is in their ultimate goals: ReactNative is working towards being able to learn one tool and write for every platform while NativeScript wants to achieve shared code.

Ionic

Ionic tends to emphasize performance over cross-platform compatibility.

The concern with this is that ReactNative can match it in performance (at least for iOS, and nearly for Android) with a much gentler learning curve after updates.

Real-life application

NativeScript is used by well-known companies such as Verizon, Deliotte Digital, Bitpoints Wallet, and Daily Nanny.

One notably complex application is ShoutOutPlay: This app lets users record personal messages and embed them within tracks in a Spotify playlist.

NativeScript was used when developing for different platforms as it let the developers write both iOS and Android UIs with one concise XML language.

Conclusion

NativeScript has two core strengths: speed of development and cross-platform optimization.

If those are the core priorities for your project, it will be a powerful tool to aid in mobile app development.

If you need highly experienced mobile app developers, share with us your challenges and we’ll help come up with the right solution tailored to fit your needs.

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