Editorial November 2017 : Are B2C apps driving B2B apps?

As part of a trip, whether it’s a journey at the weekend or a holiday break, all of us have used consumer (or B2C – Business to Consumer) mobile apps to book a taxi, hire a bicycle, book a hotel room or holiday home, buy a plane or train ticket. The smartphone has now become our travel companion of choice, thanks to the magic of geolocation!  Whether for Android or iOS, B2C mobile apps are thriving and experiencing a rapid innovation, to the point where it’s becoming increasingly difficult to keep up! GAFA (Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon) platforms and other consumer service platforms have been able to create indispensable tools that make everyday life easier thanks to their intuitive, simple and quick interfaces.

The companies, committed to global digital transformation programmes, have on their side undertaken the digitization of their processes. It’s now popular for organisations to appoint a “CDO”, or Chief Digital Officer, tasked with moving the company into the digital age. Management of business trips and expense reports has not bypassed this underlying trend. Today, in the realm of Travel & Expenses, and generally speaking in all Business to Business (B2B) sectors, we are seeing a very strong increase in demand for bringing web apps to mobile.

However, it’s clear that companies want these B2B mobile apps to be as easy to use and as simple as B2C apps. This phenomenon is called the “B2C to B2B user experience convergence syndrome”, a trend that has been made more prominent by the arrival of millennials in the workforce. Born with a smartphone in their hand, this generation expects to find the familiarity of the apps they use day-in, day-out, in their professional lives.

But there’s one difference: B2B apps include the restrictions inherent in any company. Indeed, if I use a mobile app in my personal life to hire a bicycle or book a hotel, I’m making my own choices and I’m the only decision maker. In contrast, when organising a business trip, an employee will only be able to access the content that the company makes available to comply with travel policy and the internal validation process.

Faced with these new challenges, companies expect functional solutions adapted for their users to be quickly bought to market by service and technology providers. Virtually all calls for tender now have a “mobile” section. Even though responsive web design – technology that allows generic mobile apps to be created that automatically adapt to the device used (PC, smartphone, tablet etc.) – is popular at the moment, there is a downside. Responsive languages are much slower and more complicated than the classic programming languages, and therefore sometimes ill-suited to user expectations. Performance, response time and intuitiveness are the criteria that make or break an app. This is an important factor to consider, particularly when trying to win over and retain the generation of “digital natives” who have little patience for poorly designed apps.

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