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How 4 companies use mobile apps to court customers

Beth Stackpole | Oct. 29, 2013
Via the deployment of strategic apps, mobile presents businesses with a unique opportunity to engage customers with a product or service any time, anywhere, in a manner that is specifically tuned to their individual needs.

The technical details: To keep costs in check, WSSC leveraged existing tools to create the mobile app, including ESRI's Arc-GIS suite for spatial applications, IBM's WebSphere suite for all J2EE applications and Oracle for the RDBMS.

The team also took a hybrid development approach to minimize platform-specific programming, while still delivering a device-specific user experience, Lodhi says. Specifically, they employed an open-source library-wrapper framework, which included JQueryMobile for screen navigation and design; JavaServer Faces MVC framework for business logic process; Dojo for asynchronous calls; and Objective-C to create application wrappers for iPhone, Android and BlackBerry devices.

The greatest pain point: Integrating the app with the GIS system and getting the user experience right was IT's biggest technical challenge, Lodhi says. Initially, when IT presented a prototype of the app to the business, they weren't impressed and sent the team back to the drawing board to optimize the look and feel for a truly mobile experience. "We wanted to give customers an excellent experience so they'd use it," he says. "We paid attention to the feedback, took it seriously and went back and fixed it."

The payoff: All in all, Lodhi estimates the project cost a couple of hundred thousand dollars. It delivered value by reducing call volume, call handling times and paper expenses since more customers are seeking out information online. The team has steadily added new features to WSSC Mobile with a fresh release about every three months. To date, about 10,000 customers have downloaded the mobile app, and WSSC's goal is to get to 150,000 user downloads in the next three to five years.

First Trade Union Bank: Tapping mobile to attract Gen Y
Location: Boston
Line of business: Community bank with assets of $650 million
IT staff: 6 internal employees

The mobile opportunity: When you're a small bank trying to differentiate yourself in the market by targeting the Gen Y crowd, adding another branch or another high-yield savings product just isn't going to cut it. Not only was First Trade Union Bank's target audience comfortable with the idea of mobile banking, they expected nothing less than being able to take care of all of their banking needs via mobile without ever having to step foot inside a physical branch.

With that in mind, the bank made a decision three years ago to move away from a branch strategy and pursue mobile with vengeance. The goal: To offer its customers a mobile experience that was on par with what the big banks and online-only upstarts like Ally and Simple could deliver.

"If you can engage a Gen Y customer through their phone, you have the ability to create habits and make the relationship more sticky," says Pete Chapman, the bank's senior vice president of emerging technologies. "We need to get to the point where our customers are logging into their mobile bank app multiple times every day."


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