Mobile Apps for Small Business
By David Newberger, CEO, Prairie Marketing, Inc.
Do you remember when the first smartphones began to appear? Many small business owners had the same reaction as did my buddy Jack: “Why would you ever need to access the Internet on a phone? No doubt it’s cool, but we’ve just updated our website and we’re getting hits and making sales and, after all, everyone’s got a desktop or laptop computer these days. Smartphones? That’s just a fad.”
Some fad. Did you know that more than 125 million Americans use smartphones? And that number is only rising. Globally at last count, it’s over 1 billion smartphone users. (BusinessInsider) And on those billion plus smartphone users download upwards of 38 billion apps a year, and over 92% of those apps are acquired for free by the user. (International Business Times)
And get this: By 2017—that’s less than 4 years from now—87% of all connected devices will be smartphones and the tablets that are built on smartphone operating systems. (Forbes 9/2013) That means a massive group of folks that encompasses every age group, from seventeen year olds to septuagenarians, representing household income demographics ranging from middle to the highest echelon, is abandoning their PCs and laptops. Any of them your customers? You think?
There is no disagreement that a website is vital to your business success. But if you haven’t developed an App strategy you could be missing out on the fastest-evolving computing trend: As hard as it may be for some of us to fathom, people everywhere are using their smartphones for EVERY conceivable business and personal use: They buy goods, schedule services, do their banking, comparison shop, access coupons, make flight reservations, buy event tickets, catch up on the latest news, watch videos, turn on their home lights remotely and on and on.
The smartphone has become ubiquitous in our society. Look around. Where are people looking? At that tiny screen in the palm of their hands. Mobile apps are now part of every conceivable business, irrespective of their size and number of customers. Mobile is the easiest method to engage your customers while also attracting new ones. Mobile apps offer you a single platform from where you can access a variety of actions in addition to the ones mentioned above, like promoting your product or service, promoting events, speakers and seminars, earning revenue through in-app advertising (and if you don’t think that’s real, mobile advertising accounted for over 40% of Facebook’s revenues this past year—jumping from virtually nothing in the previous year).
Some business owners think that by choosing to deploy a mobile app, they are “just” adding another sales portal to their business. If an app only accomplished that, it would still be a big winner. Especially as it’s been shown that transactions made from mobile apps do not negatively impact their online sales. But mobile apps do so much more as an app serves as a powerful branding tool that is used not only for obtaining new clients but to keep customers aware of your services and products, increasing the level of their loyalty, and bringing them back to you at the earliest chance.
Case in point: Starbucks — world-famous U.S. coffee network. The company launched its own mobile app in 2011. The app included a rewards program called, “My Starbucks Reward”. Every iPhone user got an account, which he or she had to fill up with real money, after downloading the app. By paying via this account in Starbucks, a user got stars that they could later on exchange for the company’s products.
The program proved to be terrifically successful and nowadays every 10th purchase in Starbucks is made via mobile device. On the average, 3 million mobile transactions are made weekly.
From the Starbucks example you can clearly see that a mobile app serves perfectly the purpose of keeping clients and bringing them back to your business. But a business owner should bear in mind the fact that any mobile app works best on a long-term strategy approach for building strong relationships and brand advocates.
The app should not only solve the problems of a business owner (which it does rather well), but it should also be useful for the end user. Otherwise users simply won’t download it. The application should serve two main purposes:
- Solve the client’s problem;
- Solve the client’s problem quickly.
And I would venture to say that the second point is the most important, as users have already become accustomed to the convenience of using mobile technologies. Now, if a user needs to tap some 10 times to buy a ticket and doesn’t get a discount after that, he will go to a competitive supplier, or will be inconveniently forced to make a call. Thus, an app should be the user’s life buoy in any situation to keep him or her involved, engaged and connected with your brand, with your business.
Okay, now these are some fairly big brand names that I’ve just mentioned: Starbucks and Facebook—and let’s even throw in a third, Twitter which has proven (to a market valuation in the billions) the power of one-to-one marketing and communication as a smartphone app. And I’m not suggesting that our own small or medium-sized businesses are anything like these industry giants… or am I? We all have customers who we want to keep happy. We all have prospects we want to convert into clients. And we’re all looking for revenue opportunities. So on second thought we definitely should emulate these leaders. And in doing so, we can—in our own little corner of the world—become as familiar to our customers as… well, as the smartphone they hold in their hands.
And there’s one more thing: Having a mobile app encourages your customers to spread the word about your business. Businesses have always strived for their company’s marketing to go viral. With a built-in “Share this App” button, mobile apps are capable of creating a virtual viral marketing epidemic!
Why Do Mobile Apps Make Good Business Sense?
Having a mobile app encourages your customers to spread the word about your business. Businesses have always strived for their company’s marketing to go viral. With a built-in “Share this App” button, mobile apps are capable of creating a virtual viral marketing epidemic!
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David Newberger is CEO of Prairie Marketing and creator of the QuickApption™ trademarked brand. For 20 years previously he built and then sold to a publicly traded firm a highly successful marketing business. He has particular expertise in the fields of Digital Media, Direct Marketing, Packaging and Promotion. He has worked over his 35-year career with business clients from diverse sectors ranging from top echelon professional practices and B2B service providers to consumer industry giants and educational publishers to start-ups, entrepreneurial ventures and closely held family firms.