In case you haven’t noticed, mobile apps are big. Really big. According to the Pew Research Center’s report U.S. Smartphone Use in 2015, over 60% of Americans have and use a smartphone, and nearly 20% rely in it to keep them connected. Add this to Statista’s projected 82 million tablets in the US, and no one will argue that mobile isn’t an extremely important niche.
It’s A Mobile World Out There
GO-Globe tells us that more than half (52%) of the time that we’re on our mobile devices is spent using an app. For smartphone users, that number soars to 89 percent.
This makes many a small business owner stop and think. What about their business? Are they ready for mobile apps? What are other small businesses doing with mobile apps?
Got Problems? There’s An App For That
To understand why mobile apps for business are so popular, it’s important to view them in the context of the problems they solve. What are some problems that small businesses face?
- Having a lackluster mobile presence
- Decreasing customer engagement
- Blending into the competition
- Sluggish sales performance
- Unsatisfactory or slow customer service
- Failing to educate customers about their product or business
A customized app can help small business overcome these problems with style. Let’s see how.
How Customized Apps Are Helping Small Businesses
Taking each of the points above individually, we can see how small businesses are using apps to meet their challenges.
- A Lackluster (or Nonexistent) Mobile Presence. If a company has a responsive website – one that adapts to tablets and phones automatically – it’s tempting to think they’re all set in the mobile department. Not so, say many consumers, citing the underperforming nature of some mobile sites. An app, on the other hand, can be customized exactly for your audience. It’s not subject to the glitches that scaled-down-to-mobile websites often are. Most importantly, an app provides an immediate and recognizable contact point for your business in a world that’s gone mad for mobile.
- A Disengaged Customer Base. There’s been a shift in how businesses are perceived. Thanks to social media, it’s common for people to interact personally with their favorite brands. If someone has a complaint, they take it to Yelp, TripAdvisor, Google, or Facebook. The same thing goes for rave reviews, as well. If your customers just aren’t that into your business, it could very well be that you’re not giving them a venue to express themselves. An app that connects your customers and your social media is a two-for-one deal: it provides a bridge to your social media pages, and it boosts your mobile profile as well. This can be especially tempting to customers when it’s combined with special deals or convenient perks.
- Too Much Competition. Apps can also be used to set your company apart from its competition. If your competitors don’t have a strong mobile presence, a company app makes your organization look like the cool, up-to-date smartphone in a room full of rotary telephones. Even if mobile competition is strong, the judicious use of push notifications (messages that pop up in devices’ status bars) and SMS messaging can still keep your business in the front of your customers minds.
- Stalling Sales. Shopping within an app is already hitting the mainstream. What’s stopping its wholesale adoption? Poor app design. Pages that take too long to load, transactions that take too long to process, and configurations that are too hard to navigate are slowing things down – unless, of course, the app works smoothly. According to Statista, in-app purchases are expected to grow from an estimated 14 million this year to 36 million in 2017. An app-driven online sales are projected to hit $300 billion worldwide this year as well. So, if your revenue is flagging, clearly there’s an emerging marketing here.
- Customer Service Backlogs. Turning over some of your customer service duties to an app makes sense. Apps can streamline the entire process and serve as an automated help desk for customers who want to have a go at fixing a problem themselves. It’s the feeling of immediate help and connection that really puts a customer service app over the more traditional phone experience.
- Under-Informed Customers. Your customers are far from uneducated – but they might be under-educated about your product or company. Apps solve this problem by providing a resource about your company and industry. More important, your customers can use it anytime, anywhere.
What A Successful App Needs
Before anything else – before the design and development kicks in, before the coding, before the app goes live – a successful app absolutely must have a clear objective. Identify what business problem the app will fix. Will it increase your business’ efficiency by streamlining vital processes? Generate more orders via better mobile sales capabilities? Boost your company’s image or position you as the tech-friendly brand? Make your customers happier and more engaged?
Whichever of these goals you hope to accomplish, build your app around that concept. Other concepts can be added as a secondary theme – for example, a mobile app that promotes customer service can also serve as a knowledge base for your brand. But make sure its real purpose stands out.
After your goals have been clearly identified, you can move on to the actual building process. Good design is key here. Not only must your app be visually pleasing, it also needs to work easily and intuitively. It’s not surprising that UX (User Experience) and UI (User Interface) are some of today’s trending skills; poor design can be the difference between a resounding success and an expensive failure.
Meeting the Challenges of App Development and Adoption
Developing an app, while it can be a great solution for a small business, does come with its own challenges. These include things like the initial expense of building the app; the time it takes to go from concept to full-fledged, app-store-accepted product; and getting employees on board with the use of a new tool. Also, there’s the hurdle of making sure your app is findable in whatever marketplace you’re using.
These challenges aren’t insurmountable. With proper planning, patience, and advance notice, they can be overcome. Then you’ll get into the perks of having your own app: customized push notification to make communication easier. The freedom of connecting with your customers at any time. A better, more targeted approach to marketing. And, when compared to a simple mobile website, a more engaging user experience.
Will your company benefit from a customized app? If your audience is mobile-oriented and you can clearly identify what business problems can be solved with an app, then the answer is probably a great big yes. And the sooner you commit to app development, the better it will be for your employees, customers, and your business.