In this guest post, NGINX Consumers’ country manager for Australia and New Zealand, Anthony Leverington (pictured below), argues that consumers’ increasing demand for faster services requires a fresh approach to web and app development.
Businesses across a wide variety of industry sectors are recognising the need to adapt to changing customer expectations. In the modern, hyper-connected world we inhabit, customers expect fast, seamless interaction with a company across a variety of touch points including web, social, and applications. It is critical that services are delivered quickly, and that organisations are flexible enough to respond to customer demand.
The adoption of micro-services is rapidly evolving into an essential business practice for delivering marketing and services, with Australia a comparatively early adopter. Lightweight protocols are fast to deploy, which means that the company can upgrade services quickly in response to market and customer expectations.
Customer expectations have evolved considerably in recent times, much of which relates to the ever-present mobile experience. Statistics from analytics vendor App Annie indicate that Australians are spending nearly two hours per day using mobile applications, with banking and travel apps among the most frequently used. Our use of fintech apps has risen by 25 per cent over the past two years and, as a nation, we are spending 80 per cent more time in retail apps than we did two years ago.
This all points to the fact that in order to engage with customers and meet their demand for a fast, seamless, and ever-present mobile experience, web and application services need to be delivered in a way that gets them to market faster, makes website delivery faster, and allows a company to respond to new market forces and customer expectations faster.
‘Bringing the infrastructure closer to the app’ is a phrase that seems to be taking hold among those responsible for developing apps and other online services, and is a critical strategy for meeting these new customer demands. Essentially, it refers to a subtle power shift in an organisation that has implemented a DevOps approach, whereby the development of services and control of the engine that sits behind them is under the direct influence of developers, rather than the broader IT department and networking teams.
For a marketing team, DevOps essentially sits at the intersection of infrastructure/operations and martech development, and exists to better support the integration of media and messaging, as well as the mechanisms for customer experience and outreach such as applications, social, and web services.
A more agile approach to marketing requires a company to respond more quickly to changes and expectations, but this is often a tricky process. Typically, a company’s application servers are still monolithic in nature, and iterating upon or updating applications is a process fraught with risk, as it often requires these legacy components to be taken offline during the process. We’ve all experienced or witnessed situations where a company’s customer-facing assets and marketing tools have been temporarily taken down during ‘system maintenance’.
The ability to now treat infrastructure as software allows the use of containerised applications, which in turn leads to new ways of building applications, such as micro-services. Breaking an application into individual components or micro-services – which typically align with business functions – now enables a DevOps team to make changes to their particular aspect of the business within the application itself, with a much lower risk of breaking other components within the application. This drastically reduces the time it takes to get new or modified services to market, dropping from weeks down to a matter of hours in the case of an organisation that has a mature, continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD) process. For a marketing team, this means that new ideas and services can be realised in a fraction of the time.
This agility can be a critical asset for marketing development, as it makes the marketing organisation better able to analyse and respond to the ever-changing nexus of influencers and customers. Tweaking a message or going to market with a new message has never been more targeted, and has never had so much power – if an organisation has the right development tools and mindset to capitalise on it.
In the age of big data analytics, where real-time reporting provides deep insights into consumer behaviour, it is essential to respond much faster than before. Taking six weeks to make changes to an application or bring a new customer touch point online just doesn’t cut it. There is simply no point investing money into analytical reports if the organisation lacks the functionality to respond to customer demand quickly, safely, and efficiently. Stone-age tools and big data do not mix.
Moving to a DevOps mindset has changed the way marketing tools are delivered to the public, and reflects a changing set of priorities. Recognising that an organisation must give more power to those who create and maintain web services is a clear sign that digital tools have taken hold as a fundamental part of the marketing structure. Public-facing assets are the portal through which a company presents itself across web, mobile, and social platforms, so addressing the need for better response times and more efficient go-to-market strategies is a fundamental part of future success.
Bringing the infrastructure closer to the app is critical to helping marketers achieve their goals and stay on top of the rapidly evolving marketing landscape.