Studies Confirm the Rush to Mobile, but Also the Need for Companies to Get It Right

If there is still any doubt about the need for companies to get in gear with regard to mobile apps – and quickly – a pair of recent studies should slam the door on any conversation. Consumers are dumping PCs in droves for mobile devices, and they have precious little patience for apps that don’t work well.

According to International Data Corporation (IDC) figures released this week, the first quarter of 2013 marked the steepest decline in personal computer shipments since IDC has tracked sales.

PCs Quickly Giving Way

The IDC’s Worldwide Quarterly PC Tracker said shipments in the quarter totaled 76.3 million units, down 13.9 percent from the same quarter a year ago and nearly double the forecasted decline. That’s despite a mildly improved world economy, slick new models and the debut of Windows 8. In the United States, contraction was 12.7 percent, year over year, with a drop of 18.3 percent from the fourth quarter of 2012.

In a press release, IDC said the PC industry is at “a critical crossroads.”

“Although the reduction in shipments was not a surprise, the magnitude of the contraction is both surprising and worrisome,” said David Daoud, IDC Research Director, Personal Computing.  “Vendors will have to revisit their organizational structures and go to market strategies, as well as their supply chain, distribution and product portfolios in the face of shrinking demand and looming consolidation.”

You Get Just One Chance Before Customers Press ‘Delete’

Against that gloomy forecast, consider other survey figures issued by Compuware and summarized by TechCrunch recently. The bottom line: You generally get just one chance to catch consumers with your mobile app.

The Compuware survey of 3,534 people found that 85 percent of smartphone users prefer mobile apps to mobile websites, largely because they’re faster, easier and more convenient. However, the study found:

  • 56 percent said they had experienced problems with a mobile app in the past six months. Of those, 62 percent complained that an app crashed or froze, and 47 percent said an app was slow to launch.
  • 80 percent of respondents expect mobile apps to launch in 3 seconds or less.
  • 79 percent of respondents said they would retry an app only once or twice before abandoning it.

As TechCrunch points out, a customer’s abandonment is one thing. But what about the damage from complaints on Facebook or Twitter, not to mention your rating in the app store?

Lessons from the Studies

There are two lessons to be drawn here, of course. The first is obvious: Companies that don’t have mobile strategies by now run a high risk of being squeezed out. But the second lesson is just as – if not more – vital: You must get it right the first time, or consumers are unlikely to give you a second chance.

That means testing your apps in development early and often, and in an environment as close as possible to the real world (but NOT the real world). You also should be testing load times in all kind of scenarios that are likely to replicate users’ actual experience.