Smartphone Apps & Your Business
In April of 2016 estimates placed the number of smartphone users worldwide at over 2.6 billion. Estimated projections place that number at a potential 6.1 billion by the year 2020.
You know what that means? Well, really, it means a lot of things to a lot of different people; but, for the purposes of this specific blog, it means we’re going to talk about smartphone apps for your business.
When I wrote a recent post for this site about the importance and benefit of email for your business, I felt like a blogger in the late ‘90s or early ‘00s. Email is nothing new. At this point, apps aren’t all that new either; but, developing an app for your business, especially for if you have a brick-and-mortar business, is still uncharted territory for some.
In 2016, approximately 25% of small businesses had a mobile app, although about 50% reported that they planned to have a mobile app by the end of 2017.
Everyone Else Is Doing It
So, let’s take it from those who’ve done it already. 55% of those reporting to have an app for their small business had developed that app primarily to elevate their sales numbers. If you shop at Starbucks, you’ll know that they’ve gone from pre-loaded Starbucks cards to utilizing their mobile app for quicker transactions. You can order your coffee, pastries, whatever from your app, pay, and jump the line of people paying with old fashioned debit cards and paper money. Giving your customers a quicker, more efficient experience is a strong motivator for sales and has led to sales increases in many businesses that utilize such features. Convenience is also a motivating factor; if your customers can browse your offerings from wherever they are, whenever they have the chance to, and if they can make purchases in the same way, they’re going to be more motivated to make those purchases more often than if they had to wait until it was convenient for them to go to a physical location. With Starbucks, you can order your midday latte while still sitting at your office and it’ll be ready by the time you slip out the door for your “bathroom break.” Plus, if you have retail, you can sell it even when your store isn’t open and manned by human people.
Perpetuation of Branding
Another excellent feature of a business app is the perpetuation of branding. You put your logo into those little Ones and Zeroes, and you’ve coded it into those mobile computers that many people never leave home without and check dozens if not hundreds of times per day. Your customers can bypass the search engine middle-man, and even the Internet middle-man if they’ve got a good data plan, and go into your mobile space whenever and wherever they are with one finger tap. An app provides quick and easy access to your business information, interactive features that expand the experience of your brand and give more of an impression that your brand is there for your customers whenever they need it to be. Apps are also one of the best ways to provide rewards to customers. You can communicate readily with those who have the app, receiving feedback and communicating in what feels like a super direct way, you can provide receipts and personalized customer data that can make them feel like they’ve got a personal shopper on hand.
A mobile app can remind a customer what they ordered last time that they loved (or hated) and can even recommend products to try based on their history. Repeat purchases can result in rewards such like discounts or freebies, and they don’t have to wade through their emails or text messages to know exactly where to find that magical code that means a free latte. A mobile app is also a strong way to compete with online and mobile businesses that are, lets be honest, the future of almost every industry. With a mobile app, your brick-and-mortar business can compete with other brick-and-mortars and it can also compete with online only businesses as well, giving you a corner on both types of markets.
Social Networking – Connecting Customer Interaction With Your Business Model
You can provide social networking on your app or through it, connecting your customers to each other as well as easily connecting your customers to your business’ social media, and more. Plus, push notifications let your customers know instantaneously when you announce a new event, a new deal or special, or they’ve earned enough rewards for one of those freebies or discounts. It maximizes customer engagement and branding with one tool, in one place.
Beyond all of that, apps can also be a source of revenue and marketing in and of themselves. You can utilize in-app advertising, allowing other businesses to promote their brands within your app and receiving a percentage from clicks they receive and so-forth. You could go in a rarer direction and create an app that involves gaming of some sort, whether as a section of your app or as the app itself. Games provide revenue through ads as well, but also through in-game purchases that can boost a user’s chances of winning and advancing in the game, or looking cool with accessories and so forth. You can also provide rewards for app users who promote your app to their contacts, offering options for promoting it to their Facebook, Twitter, email contacts, phone contacts, et cetera. Every connection, for example, could get them a discount, in-app money, or a freebie of some sort.
Developing Your App
As far as developing your app, make sure you really think about your brand and the needs of your customer base. When developing your app, pay attention to its intuitiveness; people should be able to open your app for the first time, perhaps knowing nothing about your business, and understand quickly what it’s for and how to use it. Be as unique and specific as possible when it comes to features in your app. There are fashion companies that have apps that will let you take a picture of a piece of clothing and then will connect you to similar or complementary styles. Just like your brand, your app should be unique, standing out from your competitors. Studying your competitors, especially if they have apps, can help you firstly learn what they’ve done and secondly figure out what they could’ve done better. That gives you what you can do better.
Finally, when you develop your app, make sure there’s a system in place to update it regularly and readily; this will combat boredom in your customers as well as ensuring that any glitches or badly designed elements don’t just sit on your app for months, annoying and turning away customers and ruining the app before it’s even begun to work for you and your business.