A view from Brian Cooper

The death of the app and why brands must serve as personal assistants

The app as we know it today could soon be a thing of the past. Customers are tired of brands that just sell to them,...

The app as we know it today could soon be a thing of the past, driven by the fact that the way we interface with technology is transforming at a heady speed.

Facebook has revamped its bot network to make it more intuitive and WeChat’s innovative service continues to go from strength to strength.

With Google’s announcement of Android Instant Apps, enabling applications to run instantly without installation, the game is set to change entirely. This technological shift once again raises that hoary old question for brands: how to stand out?

It’s one thing to have a presence on the right platforms, but customers are tired of brands that just sell to them. The neatest answer is that brands will have to serve in some part as personal assistants.

A brand that can offer assistance, even in a very small way, won’t be forgotten. When it comes to choosing between two brands that offer the same service, we’ll go for the one that has improved our lives.

The next iteration of what we call the dashboard or homescreen is crucial here. It’s the first port of call on every device we use so it’s invaluable for brands that want to reach us where it counts. Right now we only use seven apps on our phones so a new, more condensed approach is overdue.

When it comes to choosing between two brands that offer the same service, we’ll go for the one that has improved our lives.

Facebook, Apple and Google are battling it out to own the next homescreen, but the various services offered within WeChat hint at what’s to come. They present plenty of opportunities for brands to be of assistance. Brands won’t deliver their service through their own dedicated app, they’ll be woven into other platforms like WeChat.

Forget Twitter, you’ll be ordering your pizzas through messaging services in no time.

WeChat’s own payment service, WeChatPay shows just how platforms are set to change. Its 700 million users needn’t leave the app to pay, which doesn’t just mean big business, it also demonstrates how easy it is to integrate other services into one parent app.

Google’s Android Instant Apps follow a similar principle. Like the frame window that pops up for WeChat users to complete their transactional journey, Google’s teaser for Instant Apps shows how seamless things are when you cut out what it calls "install friction".

It means you can instantly watch a Buzzfeed video, for instance, in a dedicated application that doesn’t require download, simply by tapping a link shared in a message. It’s simple and quick, just how we like it.

Speed and convenience are exactly what more intuitive services should offer. It’s about bringing the service to us, not the other way round. Combined with AI, voice recognition and natural language processing, these personal assistants will start to feel like real life PAs.

In a recent experiment Viv, the successor to Siri, was able to order and have delivered four pepperoni pizzas for hungry, overworked engineers. All they had to do was ask. Viv did everything else. These sorts of technological advances, together with messaging like interfaces, will help brands start to become real personal assistants.

They’ll look at our behaviour and use that data in a clever way – comfortable in the knowledge that consumers make no bones about giving our data away it if it genuinely benefits us.

Advances in computer interfacing are perfectly suited to service brands. I expect to see no shortage of creative solutions, from the banking sector to hospitality. Logging in, form filling and checking out are needlessly time-consuming procedures and they’ve remained unchanged for an absurdly long period of time. It’s astonishing more brands aren’t trying something new.

There’s so much scope to transform these outmoded tasks.

It’s no secret that brands that simplify a service using technology grow exponentially – we’ve seen plenty of disrupters in recent years – but there’s a whole load more to come. It’s going to be about creating utility that is actually inside users’ lives.

The coming homescreen revolution and the attendant technological shift will change the role of the marketer completely. It’s already making dents in the traditional set up, not just in the choice of platform and the sorts of stories brands tell, but also how they tell them – and how they work with agencies to create them.

We’re finally understanding that we can’t just project ideas at people. We have to earn their admiration by helping them get things done, when and where it counts.