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Here’s the “Skinny” on Mobile Apps for Businesses

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April 16th, 2016 by admin

Apps for small businesses are getting a second look these days mostly due to their marketing advantages and their ability to create a deeper and superior customer experience. It’s a great medium to spread the brand and culture of a small business through customer engagement.

I have been developing mobile apps for small businesses since late 2011. It has been both rewarding and challenging for my clients as well as myself. We have seen a major shift in consumer behavior regarding mobile phone usage. Three years ago a small business might have seen about 10% of its customer traffic coming from mobile devices, but today it’s topping 70% and within the next year or so, a shift to a mobile app and at least a mobile website will become clearly a necessity.

So, let’s start by asking a couple questions…

Does my business need a mobile app?

A recent survey by Clutch, a premier brand developer, says that currently 20% of small businesses are actively engaged with their own branded mobile application with another 27% planning to build their own app in the near future. Beyond that an additional 22% are unsure, but still could be convinced to build a mobile app in the future. The remaining 31% are currently saying they are unlikely to have one in the future. With the way that people are presently utilizing their phones and adopting new technology that 31% could change very quickly.

At this point, honestly, no, your business does not “need” a mobile app. Should you consider having a mobile app? Absolutely! But, I recommend you do a little ‘homework’ first. This is where the ‘skinny’ starts:

  • How active and how much do you rely on your current website? Do you offer (sell) any products or services on your website? Do you rely on your website to generate traffic and/or leads?
    • If you answered yes, you should seriously consider a mobile app. Here’s why… people are searching for your business on their phones and if it’s not mobile ready (easy to find, navigate & read), they’re probably ‘gone’ after a few seconds. An app can easily offer quick 1-touch contact with your business, offer on-the-go appointment/reservation making and/or e-commerce to purchase your products & services. Additionally, your website is static so if you post/edit your site, it will not be seen until someone actually visits your website. An important feature of a mobile app is that it provides 2-way communication. A message can now be sent instantly to your app users (it will show up like a text message) AND it can be linked to that post/edit that you just put on your site.
  • Does your business rely on social media channels, like Facebook, twitter, Instagram, or blogs?
    • If you answered yes, you should seriously consider a mobile app. Example: let’s say you post something on social media that may be time sensitive and you want this information to get to your customers ASAP. Again, the 2-way communications feature applies. Your time sensitive message can now be sent instantly (it will show up like a text message) and can be linked to your post as well.
  • Does your business offer coupons, special offers, events and/or a loyalty program?
    • If you answered yes, you should very seriously consider a mobile app. There is no easier, faster or more cost effective way to engage your customers regarding offers, events or loyalty programs than with an app. All related maintenance factors are removed, thus labor costs go down!
  • As a business owner, if your focus is on plans to create a better customer experience – the end-to-end journey, then consideration for having a mobile app is essential. There’s no better place for your business to be than in your customers’ pocket!

How much will it cost? (This is Big skinny) 

If you ‘Google’ the cost to develop a mobile app for your business, you will find your head spinning within seconds. It’s kind of like asking how much does it cost for a dinner? A frozen dinner will cost a couple bucks while a dinner prepared by say Gordon Ramsey may cost hundreds of dollars. So the better question would be:

How much will MY mobile app cost? Ok, so there are do-it-yourself apps that have little or no up-front costs to design/create (because you are doing that part) with a monthly fee ranging from $9.99 to $299 @ month. The take-away here is to know that an effective app must pass ‘muster’ (be approved) by the Apple and Google Play stores. An app that is not available in these 2 stores will NOT be effective and is basically worthless. Many do-it-yourself apps will not make the grade.

On the other end of the spectrum, creating a ‘native’ app from scratch can be very costly. You will find development pricing to run the gamut from $6,000 to over $100,000. Why the disparity? It’s all in the coding and programming. Today we have available to us app ‘platforms’. These platforms provide an infrastructure that has preprogrammed feature frameworks that can be integrated into an application thus saving hundreds of hours of programming. It’s these ‘bundled’ features that bring the cost down to a palpable level while not diminishing the quality and utility of the feature. This type of application is known as a hybrid app.

So, the best app for a small business is a hybrid app that includes both “native” features (integrated with the smartphone’s operating system such as the calendar, camera, maps & directions, address book, performance, fast graphic loading, multi-touch & fluid animation) and HTML5 integration for cross platform performance.

Hybrid apps make it possible to embed HTML5 apps inside a thin native container, combining the best (and worst) elements of native and HTML5 apps.

A beautifully designed custom hybrid app will cost as little as $1,000 to a few thousand dollars depending upon the desired features and falls well within a small business’s budget. This design also provides the business owner with a custom designed dashboard giving them complete authority and access to the backend of the app. This provides the ease of quick changes, modifications and sending messages that the business owner will want to utilize. This is a key factor in the decision making process! The business owner must have control of this medium just as they have full control over their social media channels. A true native app that costs between $6,000 and $100,000 will not have the flexibility and dashboard that a small business needs. It would require outsourcing any changes to the app developer, a cost that would be prohibitive to a small business. If you are a Target or Starbucks, this route would be fine.

Summary: A mobile app carries a big competitive advantage for a small business. As yet there is no marketing medium that provides a better 2-way communication and customer engagement experience. They are fast becoming the most powerful channel available to enhance customer loyalty and satisfaction. If you are looking for a more effective marketing channel and no longer feel that print, radio & TV are giving you the ‘bang’ for your buck the way it used to, a mobile app is a great solution. The marketing power you gain by “being on” the most personal device a person owns (by downloading your mobile app) and carries with them throughout their waking hours is almost limitless. Of course it will take some time, resources and a solid strategy of integration with your other marketing initiatives to really be successful, but the return on the investment far outweighs the costs involved. The Business App Company provides 24/7 support and training to insure a successful launch and ongoing growth. To learn more or for a free demo on what a mobile app can do for your business, give us a call at 860.281.4172 or email dean@thebusinessappcompany.com.

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