Power Mobile App Innovation Everywhere with Airship Feature Flags

Alex Dal Canto Sr Director Product Mktg

In the fast-paced world of mobile app experience, innovations are key. New ways to provide utility and ease of use. New ways to welcome and learn about your customers. New ways to personalize experiences and communications — inside and outside the app™.

Brands know they can’t just launch a new app feature and hope for the best. Introducing new features — such as curbside pick-up or a loyalty program — is a complex endeavor with many moving parts, from perfecting the features themselves to ensuring your teams are prepared to support them and your customers will adopt them. Innovations must be validated and refined — perhaps several times over — prior to full rollout. Getting it wrong often means not getting a second chance. 

The same goes for the first experiences new users have on an app, commonly called onboarding. Most consumers (57%) only use an app once or twice before deciding whether to delete it, which means first impressions are critical. Yet nearly 50% of enterprise companies optimize onboarding experiences quarterly or less. 

Why, in 2023, is it still too common to receive a barrage of app permission requests on opening an app for the first time? 
It’s because virtually all app marketers and mobile product owners are reliant on developers to improve app user experiences. Marketers stick to what they know — A/B testing messages to improve open and click-through rates, rather than optimizing the end-to-end app customer experience against goals and high-value actions. Solutions like Airship’s no-code App Experience Editor are starting to change this dynamic, enabling business users to design, deploy and iterate native app experiences without developer support, and get work done in minutes instead of months. 

That’s where Feature Flags come in. Features Flags is a powerful tool that can ensure the smooth delivery of new in-app experiences to control groups ahead of full release, giving both marketers and developers greater capability to mitigate risk. 

Today we’re opening up a special access program for Airship Feature Flags. This is the first of many new Airship developments to advance intelligent optimization across the entire customer app lifecycle.

What are Feature Flags?
Feature flags are a software development technique that enables teams to turn functionality on and off, run tests with control groups and make iterative enhancements prior to rolling experiences out to the full audience — all without the need for new code deployment or app store updates. 

Because feature flags allow you to stage feature rollouts to specific sets of users, they are a powerful way for you to constantly improve experiences and accelerate innovation through data-driven testing and informed decision-making. Not every feature or experience that you develop will be a success. Getting it in front of a live audience is critical for knowing when to double down on a winner or go back to the drawing board.

Here are five ways you can use feature flags to accelerate mobile app experience innovation with peace of mind:

1. Mitigate Risk of Development Error
Mobile teams often get caught in a dilemma: shipping new features quickly to get feedback faster runs the risk of potentially crashing the app. And when your app crashes, you risk losing your valuable customers.

This is where feature flags come in by giving you an on-and-off switch for every feature of your mobile app. Take a new real-time commenting feature for your mobile app as an example. Your team thoroughly tested it, however, a bug slipped past your QA process. On launch day, the live version of your app crashes. In this situation, most mobile teams have to work day and night to patch the buggy code. With feature flags, you can just switch the broken feature off.

Building safeguards around human error through feature flags allows you to take risks with your mobile app, without risking the customer experience.

2. Gain Feedback to Validate Your Roadmap
Because feature flags allow you to stage feature rollouts to specific sets of users, they are a powerful way for you to constantly improve your product through data-driven testing and informed decision-making.

They allow you to gather zero-party user data and test new experiences by securely getting your new feature in front of a live audience to quickly determine if a new feature is a winner or not. This feedback is critical to determine when to pull the plug on development and when you should double down on a winner.

With feature flags, you can test things like the optimal number of screens in your welcome tutorial, user engagement to new features and different versions of your checkout experience. 

3. Exercise Granular Control Over Feature Rollouts
If you have ever wondered why a friend’s version of an app looks different from yours, the answer is feature flags. Rather than launching new features to the entire user base, companies can target a segment of users to see the new feature and reduce risk during rollout. Feature flags provide mobile teams granular control over every aspect of launching a new feature. They let you deploy a new feature to any percentage of users or defined segments. 

By staging controlled feature rollouts, you can test your new feature internally within your team and select users, without having to risk crashing your app for the entire user base.

4. Target Specific Users
To truly engage with a global audience on mobile, you have to personalize the customer experience. Mobile users in Tokyo want and expect different things than your users in Kansas City. By deploying specific features to different users, you can deliver a tailor-made experience at global scale.

Here are a few sample groups you might consider launching specific features to:

  • VIPs: If you’ve built up a community around your mobile app, you can treat dedicated users with exclusive access to special features.
  • Device Properties: With an e-commerce app, you can offer a tailored shopping experience depending on the user’s operating system or app version.
  • Location: Target a specific group of users from your location platform to see how it performs before launching regionally or globally.
  • Internal Employees: By launching new features of your app to employees, you can test your app internally before scaling changes globally.
  • Reporters: Launch new features early for the press.

5. Run Timely Marketing Campaigns When You Want
Holidays and special events present perfect opportunities for marketing campaigns and massive ROI. The problem with traditional mobile release cycles is that you have to lean on your mobile team to develop and deploy an update to run a one-week marketing campaign. Furthermore, if some users have not updated their apps, you miss them completely.

Feature flags allow marketers to run relevant and timely campaigns and in-app promotions. They let you coordinate your mobile marketing with television and web advertising, integrating various touchpoints into an omnichannel outreach strategy.

Feature Flags have emerged as an indispensable tool for mobile app experiences, offering a range of use cases and benefits that accelerate innovation, enhance customer experiences and improve workflows. Whether you want to mitigate risk, obtain and utilize feedback quickly, gain more control of your campaigns — or all of the above — Airship Feature Flags can help you get the most out of your mobile app experiences. Join the Special Access Program today to start using Airship Feature Flags!