Now that you manage a mobile team, you’re hearing that the mobile landscape is completely different from web. You’re realizing the ecosystem is different too: the tools are different, and the ways your users engage with and experience your app is different. Everything is different. But what does that actually mean, and how can you take the necessary steps to prepare for these differences?

Some of our partners are now seeing over 50% of their revenue from their mobile apps, and that percentage keeps growing. You can’t afford to approach mobile and web the same way. So, consider this first step: Be mobile-first.

This post will help you understand what mobile-first means for your tooling, for your application, and how it helps you future proof so you can stay competitive and scale easily.

Massive shifts to mobile

The shift to mobile is inevitable. Your customers are doing many of the same things they used to do on desktop and mobile browsers, but they’re doing them more frequently in mobile apps. Comscore estimates that people now spend 89% of their mobile time in apps instead of on the web.

Focusing on apps can mean opportunities for new or enhanced business models for some industries. Because you know an incredible amount about your app users, you can reach your customers in a far more targeted way on your app than you can on your web product. Content providers can deliver “addressable advertising,” or completely personalized ads. Since this type of advertising is highly targeted, it offers a better return on the dollar than traditional linear advertising. If you aren’t fully aware of what’s happening in your app and how to maximize your user experience, you could be leaving a lot of users – and money – on the table.

Customer engagement increases massively on mobile

As customers shift more of their time to mobile, their behaviors also change. They spend more time on apps. The average customer spends only 10 minutes each month shopping on browsers, but a whopping 201 minutes each month shopping on apps. And, Tech Crunch estimates that the conversion rates on apps are 100-300% higher in apps than on mobile-optimized websites or desktop browsers.

In mobile there are ways to increase this engagement even further. The always-on and feature-rich nature of mobile devices can prompt further interaction. Almost half of smartphone users agree to app requests for push notifications, for example.

With user engagement comes great expectations

All this shows that you’re in a hot, growing area. And, you’ve probably succeeded on your previous web endeavors. You’re good at what you do. So why do we want you to be aware of what could go wrong, and why are we so focused on being “mobile first?”

It’s simple: because mobile is different. As your customers shift to mobile, their expectations are shifting too. The familiar tools that work well for web fall short in mobile. The proliferation of apps is putting demand on user attention, putting more and more pressure on you to provide a great experience. Users are fickle and they expect a consistently positive experience.

This expectation goes far beyond the simple table stakes test of “no crashes.” Your users expect high performance, rapid loading, and consistent and reliable experiences. When they don’t get it, you’re at high risk of churn.

Why a web mindset and toolkit aren’t enough

We’ve seen teams try to stay on top of this by simply pointing web tools at mobile apps. We understand the rationale behind it: these tools have always worked for you, and you’ve already got them up and running. Why not just reuse them for your mobile app?

Mobile is an entirely different beast. Unlike the web, your users aren’t connecting to an always-updated version of your code. If you’re relying on server-side monitoring or adapting web tools to monitor your app, you will miss critical things. Your user experience will suffer, and so will your business.

Here’s an example from one of our partners:

  • The backend team’s web tools showed fast load times for app users.
  • The mobile team was seeing a sudden spike in cold starts.
  • Cold starts can be a sign that users are shutting down the app in frustration and then re-opening it.
  • Closer inspection revealed that the backend was loading rapidly, but too many network calls on the device were causing an unreasonably long app startup time.
  • This was leading users to shut down the app and restart it.

If the mobile team had only been monitoring with backend or web tools, the logs would have shown that performance was fine. If they hadn’t also been monitoring device-side, they would have suddenly lost a large number of customers and the associated revenue. And, they would have had no idea why. The gap in visibility wouldn’t have told the whole story and the business would have paid a heavy price.

Embracing mobile-first

This is what becoming mobile-first means: understanding that mobile is completely different from web. It’s understanding that you need visibility into what’s actually happening on the device at a user and session level. You need mobile-specific tooling, measurement, and monitoring so you can identify and resolve issues before they impact your users.

How Embrace can help

Embrace is a data driven toolset to help mobile engineers build better experiences. If you’d like to learn more about Embrace, you can check out our website or request a demo.

Or, you can dive right into how we can help your mobile teams: