A technological exploration to master today’s complexity in digital content distribution. (1 of 5)

This is the first blog in a series of 5 that explore the new world of digital delivery strategy.

Introduction

The landscape for content distribution has changed dramatically over the past few years. Mobile, Chat, Voice, TV, Desktop are all channels where customers are nowadays and, consequently, where businesses should have a meaningful presence.

The average smartphone user in the US downloads zero new apps a month and spends most of their time in less than just five apps [source].

While the App market is far from dead (197 billion app downloads in 2017 alone), what are the chances that your App will actually get noticed by your target audience?

65% of smartphone owners are using phones with a storage capacity of 16GB or less and 52% reach the level of insufficient storage ever week [source].

How useful should an App be to deserve space in a user’s devices?

Predictions from eMarketer state that 40% of Millennials will have a smart assistant in their home by 2019. [source]

By 2020, 50% of all searches will be done by voice (more conservative estimates from Gartner predict this will be 30%). [source]

Is your business ready or at least planning to have a meaningful presence on Chat and Voice channels?

And what about other alternative channels with their own stores, rules and ecosystems?

WeChat has 1 billion MAUs and captures 83% of all smartphone users in China. [source]

Let’s quickly look at the use case of the travel industry to illustrate just how multi-channel today’s consumers are. Travellers at the airport are usually quite interested in knowing the status of their flight and information about their departing gate. Some are frequent travellers so are likely to have the Airline App installed; others fly once per year and a mobile web experience is more than fine for them, but still would like to receive push notifications and not get a ‘downasaur’ if they are on a cellular network blind spot. Finally, there are others who, for example, have previously engaged with the Airline via Facebook Messenger to ask about their baggage allowance and now they’d love to get updates on that channel.
Same information, different users, different channels.

Businesses should be where their (potential) customers are. 

Can today’s businesses afford to address all those channels directly without a form of cross platform development strategy? Yes of course, but doing so would be inefficient, timely and most importantly, costly.

Just a few years ago cross platform development mostly referred to tools and programming languages that could deliver exclusively to iOS and Android platforms with (almost) a single source. Today this idea of cross platform seems out of date.

The Leverage

Like with any cross-platform approaches there is the need to identify a leverage point. For some products the leverage is a low level programming language capable of running in multiple platforms, or a clever transpiler capable of producing the right binary for the target platform.

In this technological exploration the Web Channel will be used as the leverage channel, with the belief that the technologies behind it are a great candidate for the omni-channel vision. Here are few reasons:

  1. Mobile Browsers are installed and available in any Desktop and Mobile device out there (and to some extent also TVs);
  2. The rise of Progressive Web Apps (PWA) makes the case for the Mobile Web much more compelling compared to the past;
  3. ReactNative and NativeScript for Mobile Apps and Electron for Desktop Apps are great examples of how Web technologies can produce native results without compromising on User Experience;
  4. A well crafted Web Channel can be used to extend other channels. Example: Facebook Messenger can display a mobile website to perform a feature rich flow such as making a reservation; WeChat mini-programs are developed with Web technologies;
  5. Any new channel in the block will plausibly support programming with Web technologies as doing otherwise will most likely result in content starvation and channel death;
  6. Web technologies and tools are pervasive, powerful and widely known and adopted.

The Stack

Among many great technologies the followings have been chosen for further exploration in the direction of the omni-channel vision.

React

The ‘learn once, write everywhere’ philosophy seems very aligned to the omni-channel vision. Plus the component oriented design it proposes is considered an advantage compared to other MVC solutions. The wide and active community also plays a strategic role. React also features as the most loved, dreaded and wanted framework on StackOverflow’s 2017 survey with 70% of preferences.

React Native

As obvious companion to React, it allows the creation of Native look&feel Apps for iOS and Android but with a Web (Javascript) heart. In contrast to other solutions such as NativeScript, React Native offers a simpler approach for incremental adoption into existing native iOS and Android Apps. Same extremely active and vibrant community as for React.

GraphQL

Being capable of using graphs to represent and expose domain content, and letting clients query and traverse the data as they need is considered a game changing advantage to fixed APIs and Models in the omni-channel context. This is particularly true for non-GUI based channels such as Voice and Chat channels and it will be explored in future blog posts.

Service Workers

The enabling technology allowing a script to run on a browser independently from the webpage, opening the doors for Offline, Background Synch and Push on Mobile Web. Service Workers are at the heart of what usually goes under the name of Progressive Web Apps.

Conclusion

In order to stay relevant, the digital delivery strategy of businesses over the next 5 years should be very different from what it has been over the past 5.

This series of articles goes through a technological exploration which has the Web Channel and Web technologies at its core.

Next posts will cover the technical setup of the stack as follows:

Blog 2. Proper React Native and TypeScript setup
Blog 3. React, Service workers and React Native cohabit
Blog 4. The introduction of GraphQL
Blog 5. Voice & Chat channels

Stay tuned! … and share your thoughts on comments.


References

  • Maximize mobile sales and ad spend with progressive web apps
  • 83% Smartphone Users in India Delete Apps To Free Up Storage
  • Make Some Noise: The Future of Travel Sounds Like Voice
  • WeChat has hit 1 billion monthly active users

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