Is There an App for That? What You Should Know About Mobile Apps for Your Business
Is There an app for that? What you should know about mobile apps for your business
Yes, there’s probably a mobile app for that ... whatever “that” might happen to be ... and many business owners are wondering if they should get in on the mobile app action. The number of people using smartphones has grown exponentially over the last few years alone, as has the amount of time people spend on those phones each day. Any space where there’s a ready audience can present powerful marketing opportunities, and engaging that growing audience who run their lives via mobile phone is the stuff that makes marketers drool.
While large companies have seemingly unlimited financial resources to devote to marketing efforts involving new technologies, many small business owners find themselves in one of two categories:
- Adopting every new technology tool and chasing every marketing avenue without proper knowledge, research, or planning or
- Shying away from new technologies and marketing opportunities they don’t understand or believe they can’t afford.
Neither of those stances offers the best perspective for making a business decision about a mobile application or any other marketing initiative. The right mobile app may, in fact, be the perfect way for a small business to interact with customers, and a mobile app can be affordable. If you’re a small business owner and you wonder what an app can (or can’t) do for you, read on.
App or Mobile friendly?
If you’re confused at all about what a mobile app is, take a look at your smartphone. See all those icons? Those are apps. If you’re using social media on your smartphone, you’ve downloaded an app. If you’re traveling, you probably downloaded apps for your airline boarding passes and hotel booking information. If you’re playing a game on your smartphone, you’re using an app. If you’re getting driving directions on your smartphone, you’re using an app. Looking at weather on your phone? Yep, that’s an app.
Mobile access doesn’t always mean using an app, though. Smartphone users interact routinely with web-based information and services without downloading apps. The best websites are designed with mobile users in mind and make it easy for users to view and interact with the site whether they’re using a smartphone or a desktop computer. That’s being mobile-friendly, and any website should be mobile-friendly. A mobile app is a totally different tactic to engage users.
Fundamentally, a mobile app should allow users to accomplish something they can’t do on a company’s website. If you aren’t adding value to the customer experience with a mobile app and users can accomplish the same tasks on your website, odds are, they won’t take time to download and use the app. If your mobile app offers users an innovative and convenient method to take care of business, then they’ll do their business with your company using your app.
Seek first to understand
Proponents of mobile apps often recommend that every business have one because of the marketing benefits businesses can reap. For instance, in her ”7 Reasons Why Your Business Needs a Mobile App,” author Melanie Haselmayr outlines how mobile apps advance business growth by increasing visibility, creating a direct marketing channel, providing value to customers, building brand and recognition, improving customer engagement, differentiating a business or brand, and cultivating customer loyalty. In Haselmayr’s opinion, these benefits should prompt business owners to make the move toward developing a mobile app “sooner rather than later.”
Instead of focusing first on the bottom-line benefits of a mobile app such as the seven listed above, think first and foremost about your customers and their experience with your business. As a business owner, you work diligently every day to earn new and repeat business from happy customers. After all, happy customers are the secret to a successful business. With that in mind, how will a mobile app improve your customer’s experience? If there isn’t a compelling answer to that question, your business may not need a mobile app. On the other hand, maybe there are possibilities for improved customer interactions that you simply haven’t considered yet.
Let’s look at two very different examples. Vik Patel’s article “Does Your Business Really Need a Mobile App?” talks about his tech company’s interaction with clients; he says, “clients come to us via the web. . . . The web is how our clients find us, and the web is where they want to do business with us.” Patel goes on to explain that asking customers to download an app that doesn’t benefit them in some way is simply not good business, and, in his case, a mobile app didn’t add any value for his customers. RayBan is a totally different story. Digital marketing expert Gabriel Shaoolian uses RayBan as a prime example of a company that gets it when it comes to using an innovative mobile app to grow business. Shaoolian’s article “Successful Mobile App Design: What Can We Learn From Ray-Ban, Urban Outfitters, and Zeel” explains how RayBan transformed “the idea of offline and in-store shopping, to the world of mobile app shopping” through their mobile app that allows users to access their smartphone photographs and “try on” different styles of sunglasses before making a purchase. That’s added value for the customer experience that ultimately adds value to the company’s bottom line.
Discovering what your customers want, then, is the best place to start when considering how a mobile app can benefit your business. As a customer, what type of mobile app would you use? What features would it have? Ask your customers to give you feedback. Mobile tech guru and advisor Andrew Chen has shared some eye-opening data regarding the longevity of mobile app usage: about 77% of those who download an app stop using it within 3 days. To be successful, a mobile app must be useful to your customer base. Understanding what brings value to your customers as they interact with your business is crucial.
Apps that work
Once you have a good understanding of the value a mobile app should provide and have done some research with your customer base, start brainstorming! Really . . . the sky’s the limit when it comes to mobile apps that work for both your customers and your business model. Here are some scenarios to jump start your brainstorming session.
- Food trucks and restaurants can use mobile apps to let customers order in advance and have their items ready for pick up when they arrive.
- A personal trainer can motivate clients and add value outside the gym sessions with a mobile app that offers additional workout routines and tracks client progress.
- Got a barber shop? Let your customers use a mobile app to put themselves on your waiting list for the next available haircut.
- Motivational and executive coaches, help your clients keep their focus each day by using a mobile app to remind them of important principles and goals.
- Home health care companies with therapists who see patients once or twice a week can use a mobile app to encourage clients to do their therapy exercises and track their progress in between therapist visits.
- Event planners and project managers across industries can connect with clients and colleagues through mobile apps that manage projects and keep everyone up to speed.
- Physician practices that help patients manage chronic diseases such as diabetes and high blood pressure might offer mobile apps to assist patients in monitoring blood sugar or blood pressure readings and developing healthier lifestyles.