Trend towards the Mass Customization of Apps from Banking to Government to Entertainment

When we launched Trigger.io we were expecting two types of customer – those that were building apps for themselves or their organizations, and contract developers or studios building on behalf of 3rd parties. We’ve got plenty of examples of both types and recently launched our Projects feature to cater to teams of developers working on multiple apps for different end customers.

But in the past couple of months we’ve noticed another category of customers, and that group is growing fast.

I call the trend the “mass customization” of apps, to borrow the manufacturing term. This group creates app templates designed for a particular industry and then customize those templates for each end customer. The customization could be as simple as different branding but more often includes adding differentiating features also.

We think this trend is really valuable for the companies who buy the apps in this way. The use case is super interesting for us to support and we’ve starting building specific features to enable it on our platform – I’ll go into that further, but let’s start with some examples.

Government and Banking

Comcate offer a SaaS CRM solution for local and federal government to engage their “citizens” – because public agencies care about their customers’ satisfaction too!

They started by offering a web product which they customize for each customer. But now, as mobile has become omnipresent, so to has the demand for a mobile product.

The value-add of their mobile app is simple – empower citizens to engage their government via requests from their mobile phones. Pot hole in the road? Graffiti in your neighborhood? Street light out on your block? Snap a photo on your smartphone, send the request tagged with your location, receive updates, and watch your government at work for you.

Jwaala have taken a similar “mass customization” approach but for online banking applications.

They’ve enabled many credit unions to offer awesome mobile banking much faster than those organizations building an app from scratch in house. Because they serve multiple customers in the same industry and have productized the common features into a template, they give their customers a head start.

Why this trend is great

In the early days of the web, every new site needed to be hand crafted from scratch. Over time, as well as technical standards emerging, standard ways of doing things by industry and by use case emerged which made life easier for everyone.

For example, publishing written content in the form of a blog became well understood both from the consumers’ and producers’ points of view –  you didn’t have to build a blog from scratch each time, you just customized WordPress. You may think that online storefronts look very different, but the basic components are the same, pioneered by Amazon and “mass customized” by Viaweb (now Yahoo! Store).

We’re still in the very early days of mobile – I think people are still underestimating how big the shift is. Forget the 1M apps developed so far, we’re going to see another 5M built in the next three years. This sort of hyper-growth is enabled by decreasing mobile development costs: the trend towards “mass customization” makes me confident we’re on the right track and mobile development is starting to mature.

To spell it out: mass customization is great for companies because they can get a mobile experience in front of their customers faster, cheaper and with higher quality than creating everything from scratch. They also know they’re not going to be missing basic features for their industry since they’re taking advantage of the learnings of others.

Trigger.io features supporting mass customization of apps

If you’re going to mass-customize apps then HTML5 is a great starting point – we’ve found that our customers usually have existing web solutions (and web skills) which they want to extend to mobile web and then add native mobile features.

The challenges you need to solve to offer mass customization are:

  • How can I build and test a large number of apps fast?
  • How can I enable my customers to customize their app by adding unique content and branding, and in a self-serve manner
  • How do I avoid spiraling maintenance costs when my customers keep wanting to push updates?

Trigger.io can already help you in a number of ways.

Underpinning all the benefits of Trigger.io is our core ability to wrap your existing HTML5 code in a native container, and give you a JavaScript API into native features – here’s how that works.

That ability to reuse web code and skills is a big win for all our customers, but for those interested in mass customization specifically, we also have:

  1. A fast standalone build API which allows you to integrate your back-end with ours to automatically trigger (pun intended) builds. This is different from manually kicking off builds from our locally-installed Toolkit: using this, you could automate to the point where your end users could create an app and kick off a native app build right from your site. You’re effectively white-labeling our service.
  2. Reload allows you to push new content to your apps. So you can enable your customers to automatically make updates without needing to manually resubmitting a new app build to the App Store.

What’s next

We have ideas on making mass customization apps even better with Trigger.io, but ultimately we’re going to be guided by what you need.

Please get in touch with us at support@trigger.io if you’re working on mass customization of apps. We’ll work fast in our 2 week sprints to add what you need - you can see from our past release log how quickly we iterate.

We have customers doing mass customization of apps on Trigger.io right now. If you sign-up for a trial, you may be surprised by how much just works for you right now.