In the old days, having an appealing website was essential for companies. Those days are long gone: today, mobile apps are the new must-haves. MOBGEN's Ron Vrijmoet sheds light on today’s digital necessities. ‘For consumers, their smartphones have become the primary digital interface.’

This article was originally published on fd.nl (in Dutch)

Imagine being on the road and noticing your car is low on gas. How convenient would it be if you were automatically notified when you were close to a gas station? Or, even better: if you were able to pre-order a sandwich from your car, so you don’t have to queue once you arrive at the gas station? And, as the cherry on top, what if you could pay for your gas and lunch without leaving your vehicle? This is exactly what Ron Vrijmoet, Managing Partner at Dutch app development company MOBGEN, part of Accenture Digital, envisions when he speaks about ‘connected cars’. According to him, connected cars could very well be the future of mobility. Mobility refers to connecting software in such a way that optimal customer experience is guaranteed. ‘The self-driving car is only a logical result,’ says Vrijmoet.

Why mobile is a must

Just like connected homes and virtual reality, connected cars are still in their infancy. The connected future is the core focus at the innovative MOBGEN Lab, while other departments within MOBGEN deal with everyday challenges that consumers face presently. Because clearly, the customer experience around latter-mentioned issues also needs to be perfect or 'seamless', if we were to use the correct jargon. ‘The development of the smartphone has been the number one revolution of the past few years,’ states Vrijmoet. ‘Within a short period of time, smartphones have become the primary digital interface. We no longer use traditional web portals or websites, but rather turn to smartphones, mobile sites and apps to order products or gather information. Companies have realized that ‘mobile’ is an essential channel to interact with customers. Organizations, regardless whether they are hotels or airlines, are all faced with the same challenge: how to utilize often outdated back-end systems to deliver an optimal customer journey through a mobile app.’

"Organizations, regardless whether they are hotels or airlines, are all faced with the same challenge."

Service design: the magic words

However, just having a mobile app is not enough; it needs to be one of outstanding quality. Service design, in this case, is where the magic lies: you need to have a keen sense of what your customer wants and use that information as the basis to design your application. For instance, an app that consists of steps for the customer to take, which are intuitively designed. Oil and gas company Shell is one of the bigger clients that MOBGEN helped design a mobile app for. ‘Other than an oil company, Shell is a large international retailer that has more worldwide outlets than McDonald’s,’ explains Vrijmoet. Shell realized it really needed a mobile channel to provide excellent service to its clients, mostly for motorists who are on the road a lot. ‘We designed an international mobile app that, on the back-end, comprises various systems, while at the front-end appears the same for all users.’

Free coffee, anyone?

The Shell app offers users benefits like collecting loyalty points and personalized client promotions, for instance. When users grant Shell permission, the company can analyze the user’s routes and offer him/her customized deals based on the data via the app. For example, a client who makes use of a certain highway often could be offered free coffee or discounted gas at a Shell station close to that particular route,’ explains Vrijmoet.

‘How to pay via an app’ is the interesting next step. Vrijmoet explains how, in the new era, ‘plastic’ client relations are replaced by app client relations. The days of bank cards and loyalty cards are gone; apps have taken over and have become the ultimate CRM tool. This shift from cards to apps has emerged a new trend that has already been successfully implemented in Great Britain, for instance. As soon as you enter a Shell station in the UK, all you need to do is insert the number of the pump on your app, and payment is done via a service like PayPal. Once approved, the pump is released, you can fill up your tank and be on your way. Gone are the days of hassling with cards or queuing: welcome to the optimal customer journey, all thanks to an app.

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