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Step aside Starbucks and Spotify, it is mobile productivity’s moment to shine with “wow” moments that inspire delight and emotion.

The best business apps and productivity tools elevate and liberate us in much the same way some top consumer apps do – by helping solve unexpected problems in the moment, like having a key piece of information surface at just the right time. Or better yet, when something that in another era was cumbersome and annoying to accomplish becomes drop dead simple to do.

But it’s not easy to take the hassle out of work and life headaches and do it in a way that makes customers devoted and passionate about your product. It takes a keen eye for design, all the technical chops necessary for scale, and a laser-focus on innovation in service to the customer. The best productivity tools don’t even seem like work. Here are four principles that are at the core of some of the top productivity apps in the marketplace today:

1. Start with the basics — and make them even more basic. Many of the best productivity apps are helping with basic tasks like note-taking, but they make them even easier. The “wow” of Evernote landed for me the first time I took a note and saw that it included where and when I was jotting it down, making it even easier to refer back to at any time. Adding to the delight, the digital notebook can collect so much more than my scribblings during a meeting – it can house voice memos, photos, and web clippings. I still love Evernote, but the crowded marketplace for such tools underscores the importance of continually innovating. One way Evernote is focused on innovating right now is by making sure it is available anywhere, anytime, on any device.

2. Know your customer and stay one step ahead of them. Getting information about a flight delay or traffic problem when you’re heading to an important business meeting doesn’t make the problem any less annoying for sure, but wow, how cool is it that Google is thinking ahead so I don’t have to. Google Now, in its current state is already a terrifically intuitive mobile assistant. But keeping it fresh and on the leading edge of innovation in the mobile personal assistant space is hugely important to Google. At its developer conference this spring, executives demo’d upcoming features aimed at making it even more powerfully productive, including “Google Now on tap” – which relies on machine learning to make your phone that much smarter, to get things done quicker, and in fewer steps.

3. Provide instant gratification. For users, expense report apps like Concur or Expensify are magical: I can snap a picture of a receipt while I’m traveling and file an expense report in just a few clicks. The emotional payoff comes in not having a pile of receipts to go through upon returning from a business trip. For companies that adopt such apps for the enterprise, the “wow” has even bigger potential – to streamline processes through digitization, easing the burden on employees, and perhaps even resulting in a bonanza of new data about corporate expenditures.

4. Test, measure, iterate. Great mobile experiences get better through constant testing, measurement, and iteration. While some companies choose to build their own testing and analytics platforms, at DocuSign we leverage third-party tools that make it fast and easy to test and measure, such as Usertesting.com, Optimizely, and Mixpanel.

As the value of our time and productivity becomes even more precious in a highly mobile, digitized, and connected world, it’s clear that developers large and small are chasing the “wow” to win over customers. They have to. In a world filled with choice, the appeal of helping “get things done” is no longer enough for top productivity tools.

[Editor’s note: Robin Joy will be speaking today at VentureBeat’s MobileBeat event in San Francisco.]

Robin Joy is Vice President of Web and Mobile Business at DocuSign.

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