On-demand service apps: 7 features you need to succeed
U-Haul. Wag. Instacart. Zeel. What do all these seemingly unrelated brands have in common? They’re all part of the on-demand economy, an industry expected to gross $335 billion by 2025. We’ve learned through the increasing use of technology to expect results immediately. Now, with over 22.4 million mobile users purchasing goods and services on-demand, it’s clear that we’re transitioning that expectation to the real world.
The “uberification” of services has disrupted the industry over the past decade. Who knew that using technology to standardize and simplify a service already in high demand would introduce such massive change all over the world?
Plenty of on-demand mobile apps exist in practically every business sector. But that doesn’t mean the market is saturated beyond entry.
But how do you build a successful on-demand app that holds its own against the competition?
What is an on-demand app?
First things first. An on-demand service app is a platform that:
- Connects users to service providers
- Facilitates the booking of services
- Creates a predictable experience
These services are frequently time-sensitive and booked on an as-needed basis. At the end of the day, it’s all about providing customers with what they want when they want it.
The instant gratification component of on-demand services explains why these products are overwhelmingly created for mobile use. People organize their entire lives on their smartphones—and the closer a digital product can get to a user’s daily lifestyle, the greater retention they can expect.
7 Must-have on-demand app features
The unique positioning of on-demand applications means there is a very specific set of basic features they need to have. Real-time messaging and payment functionalities are non-negotiable, while features like tracking might add value to your product.
Mobile app development teams building on-demand service apps should always start by delivering baseline functionality, then offering case-specific capabilities from there.
1. Easy-to-use interface
On-demand apps exist to deliver services as conveniently as possible. A poorly designed interface can easily send your target audience running in the other direction. Easy access is possible with a logical navigation flow and user-friendly design.
From the moment of download, your app should make it easy to:
- Search for services
- Choose a provider
- Place an order
- Complete payment
Product teams should aim to reduce friction at every point of the customer journey. A seamless experience maximizes the chances of completing a sale and earning a return customer.
2. Secure payment gateway
Booking services require the exchange of money. There are two things to emphasize when integrating payment functionalities: security and diversity.
Security: App users expect to have their payment information handled carefully. Failing to do so could be detrimental to your brand. Most mobile apps choose to integrate payment functionalities using APIs from PayPal, Stripe, Visa, and the like. This places the responsibility of protecting user data onto the payment gateway’s shoulders, rather than your own.
Diversity: People purchase online services using cash, credit/credit cards, and digital wallets of all types. Providing multiple payment options improves the experience and encourages users to complete payment as soon as possible.
3. Live tracking
Delivery apps that offer transportation services of some sort—ride-hailing, grocery and food delivery, or package delivery—should have live tracking functionalities that show the exact location of the rider. Similar to a loading bar on a webpage, this reassures users that something is happening behind the scenes.
Live tracking is also helpful to provide a clear cutoff time for cancellations or changes. Combining a clear cancellation or change policy with GPS tracking reduces wastage on your end and increases the chances of successful service completion.
4. Customer support system
Improve the satisfaction of your user base by giving them an easy way to request support and communicate grievances, whether by phone, live chat, or email. Since most on-demand apps partner with third-party service providers, a good feedback system also helps to control quality and create a consistent experience.
It’s best to design a customer support system that has several ways a user can get in touch. Consider the following:
- Agent live chat support
- Chatbot support
Providing options can turn a bad experience into a good one, increasing customer satisfaction.
5. Push notifications
Push notifications keep customers updated on relevant information. You can use them to:
- Deliver chat updates
- Provide tracking information
- Offer promotional deals
When used in moderation, important and time-sensitive messages delivered via push notifications drive engagement and increase app usage. On-demand apps need this feature to provide reassurance to users while they book a service and wait for fulfillment.
Practically every mobile app has messaging capabilities, and that’s because there are so many opportunities for connection throughout usage. Chat can drive engagement and act as an avenue for customers to ask questions and send feedback.
Your on-demand app will need two key types of user-to-service provider chat functionalities:
- Time-based chat: To discuss specific transactions, purchases, and deliveries with individual service providers until they are completed.
- Non-time-based chat: To discuss and exchange relevant information unrelated to specific transactions, purchases, and deliveries.
Most of the time, non-time-based chat is utilized for user-platform communication, while time-based chat is preferred for user-service provider communication. You can integrate bots in both types of chat to reduce dependence on live agents.
Peer-to-peer messaging is less of a priority in on-demand service apps, but you may also develop this feature if relevant to your use case.
Allowing customers to set their profiles up with personal information, wishlists, and other details allows them to conveniently book services. It also increases retention because users would rather use apps that they’ve already set up according to their preferences.
Here are a few profile features your on-demand app should include:
- Personal info (name, address, phone number, email, etc.)
- Frequently ordered
- Recent search activity
You can also use profile features to incentivize app usage, such as with special badges and loyalty points.
On-demand service apps examples
People are attracted by the convenience of on-demand platforms. And judging by the impressive user adoption rate of the industry, it’s clear that brands have been able to increase accessibility without sacrificing the quality of service.
Let’s take a shallow dive into two on-demand service apps that have been taking the industry by storm.
Uber: From ride-hailing specialist to on-demand travel super app
With over 93 million customers and a CAGR (compound annual growth rate) of 48.74% from 2016 to 2020, Uber is one of the biggest names in on-demand services.
The mobility giant was founded in 2009 as a ride-hailing service that revolutionized travel for people in big cities. Today, it has expanded to provide other on-demand services including food delivery, micro-mobility (scooters, bikes), and peer-to-peer rides.
Uber primarily operates as a mobile app containing all the features mentioned in this article. They streamline service delivery with the exceptional ability to accept cashless digital payment, provide real-time tracking, and quickly match customers to their massive individual service provider base.
Despite the emergence of competitors like Lyft (for ride-hailing) and DoorDash (for food delivery), Uber has maintained a strong position in the market. As they add more and more services to their repertoire, we expect to see their growth remain in the green.
BetterHelp: Increasing accessibility to mental health services
BetterHelp is one of the biggest names in telehealth, with almost 2 million clients served by 14,000 licensed therapists. They are known for their affordable pricing and diversity in communication methods.
Mental health treatment remains in high demand, but some people are unable to pursue traditional options due to expensive prices, waitlists, geographical limitations, and communication methods. BetterHelp reduces barriers to entry by:
- Charing affordable subscription rates
- Offering multiple communication methods (text, phone, video)
- Allowing asynchronous communication
These platform advantages are possible thanks to key features like messaging and video.
Many new online therapy platforms have entered the market in recent years. Even so, BetterHelp remains the name to beat.
The platform of least resistance wins
When we look at the services provided by on-demand apps, it’s clear that there’s nothing new and novel about the end result. Customers want to order lunch, get a ride home, and take care of their health. The only thing that has changed is the way these services are ordered.
Mobile app features like a seamless interface, secure payment options, and messaging capabilities don’t have a direct impact on the service itself. But they do reduce friction at every other point along the way.
Your on-demand app should have one goal: to provide a service in the easiest way possible. If users know that your platform gets the job done more conveniently than anything else, they will continue using it over and over again.