Globally there are 7 billion mobile phones and 1.5 billion of them are smart phones. We rely on them. In fact, we spend nearly 40% of our internet time on mobile devices.
The world is going mobile and we as small business owners need to compete.
I’ve designed, built and published well over 50 mobile apps since December of 2012. During that time, I’ve spoken with a lot of business owners and they all tend to fit in to one of three groups. Group 1 – Those who can hardly wait to have an app. Group 2 – Those who don’t understand the difference between a mobile app and a mobile website, and Group 3. – Those who really don’t see the benefits of owning an app for their business at all.
Why Does Your Business Need a Mobile App?
So if you fit in Group 1, skip to the bottom and give me a call. We’ll have you up and running with a shiny new app for your business in about 3-4 weeks!
If you are in Group 2, let’s talk for a minute about mobile apps versus mobile websites. This may seem super obvious to some so bear with me. A mobile website is your website optimized to look and act well on a mobile device. So if you went to someone’s website using the browser on your phone and you have to pinch your fingers to get the page to expand enough so that you can read it, it is definitely not mobile optimized. Any good website designer today is going to design a new website that is ‘responsive’ – meaning it responds and looks good no matter what size device you are viewing it on. But if you have an old site, you should check to see what it looks like on your phone or tablet.
Yes, you can do pretty much anything on a mobile website that you can do on your main site and if it is optimized, it will look good and people will be happy to use it. If it isn’t, they will be gone in a hot minute and onto something that is easier to use.
A mobile app is entirely separate from your website and is downloaded to devices from Apple’s app store or Google Play. There are over 2 million apps available between both platforms. (source: Forbes.com) Your business gets a little piece of real estate on each phone that downloads your app. Pretty cool.
On to Group 3…
Most people can see the benefit of a mobile app for a restaurant, a spa, or other brick and mortar type establishment. These kinds of businesses can send out coupons, develop loyalty programs, have food ordering or appointment setting right from the app, and all the other things you see on the typical app you might download from your favorite food chain or spa.
What about your business?
Ask yourself these questions:
- How will my customers benefit from having my app?
- What will make my customer download my app?
- What will make my customer keep my app on his/her phone?
Most of you probably already know the biggest benefit of a mobile app: Push Notifications. This is the ability to “push” out a message to all or some of your app owners. You can do this by platform (Apple or Android), by geographic location (think about that for a second), by time zone, or even to a designated list of app owners. The messages can include a web URL, a link to a specific tab on the app, a HD image or video and they can be scheduled up 12 months in advance. You can even set up a notification to go out when an app owner enters a certain geographic location.
Here’s an example. The Little Bamboo is a company that sells products made of bamboo. They have a cool product line and are expanding. (thelittlebamboo.com)
So, let’s answer our three questions.
How will their customers benefit from having an app?
- Coupons for app only specials. Maybe the best closeout deals are on the app only.
- Tips on how to care for the bamboo products – this can be in the form of podcasts so they can be listened to in the car or while mobile.
- A YouTube Channel connect that has all of the company YouTube videos available right from the app. This could be “How to” type things to use their products in recipes, etc.
- A tab for comments and questions about the products where people can post via Facebook to the app.
- A Loyalty tab for purchasing more than one product and unlocking a free gift.
- A store tab which connects directly to the store and makes it super simple to buy products right from the app.
- Push notifications about new products and specials sent directly to their phone and can be discounts for a limited time only and include photos, videos, etc.
- Users can sign up for the company newsletter right from the app (a pop up comes up the first time the app is opened if desired)
This is just a tiny number of benefits from a huge list. And remember, the Little Bamboo store mobile app is in the palm of the customer’s hand 24 hours a day/7 days a week (well, almost)
Do you see how these benefits answer our other two questions as well? Just like Social Media, having an app is all about engagement. Communicate with your customers, give them value and they will not only keep your app forever, they will tell their friends about it.
A couple final thoughts:
You can pay anywhere from $0 – $5000 to build an app. The average falls right around $1000 – 2000 if you have it custom designed. There are plenty of app companies out there that will tell you that you can build one for yourself for free. If you are or know a very good graphic designer and have the time to learn to design and build an app – go for it. Otherwise hire someone who does it every day and save yourself a lot of headache.
And please be sure that whoever you hire can also publish your app. I’ve had at least a dozen people come to me with their brand new apps that either they have built or had someone else build and ask me to get it published on Apple for them.
Apple has very stringent guidelines and they will deny approval for a whole host of reasons. The main rule of thumb is that the app has to have the functionality that separates it from a mobile website. There has to be a reason for it to be an app or they will not approve it. And the app has to look great. Apple wants everything to look great on their high resolution awesome displays! Once it’s built, you’ll have to publish the app which means you will need developer accounts on both platforms. Then you will pay a monthly fee to keep it live on Apple.
A good app designer will handle all of this (design, build & publish) and help you with marketing and using your app going forward.
In my opinion there is not a single business that cannot benefit from having a mobile app. If designed and built correctly, any business can be approved through Apple. The possibilities are virtually endless!
For more information, please contact me!