Why Your Small Business Needs A Mobile App

Welcome to the Mobile Revolution!

According to StatCounter, internet usage by mobile and tablet devices exceeded desktop worldwide for the first time in late 2016, with the former devices accounting for 51.3% of Internet usage worldwide, compared to 48.7% for desktop.

This increase in mobile usage, which can only be expected to continue, has been driven for the most part by the ubiquitous smartphone and a corresponding upsurge in the development of new mobile technologies.

Rise of the App Builder

While leading brands like Facebook, Amazon, and Uber, with their multi-million-pound app budgets, continue to jostle for space on your home screen, another significant child of the revolution has been quietly levelling up.

Anyone old enough to remember the birth of the web may recall WYSIWYG products such as Microsoft FrontPage and Macromedia Dreamweaver, designed to help the non-coders among us (that’s most of us), build not-too-shoddy-looking web sites.

In similar fashion, the dreamers and pioneers of the mobile revolution have invented a number of WYSIWYG products with drag-and-drop capabilities that make app building a synch.

Entrepreneurs, agencies, and small business owners are all exploiting this new development; in particular, taking advantage of an exciting new array of app features and functionality.

Powerful Features. Awesome Benefits

As small businesses battle to stay afloat against the more dominant high street and internet brands, the mobile app could prove to be an essential tool for keeping customers local.

Owners and managers can now engage with their app users directly through Push Notifications, informing customers of new developments, upcoming events, special offers, and much more – notifications can also be pushed to Facebook and Twitter feeds. Culturally, as people become more comfortable with pop-ups pinging their lock screen, Push Notifications could be a real game changer for small businesses, if used intelligently and sparingly.

Once a user is engaged with the app, a customisable monetisation feature may be a profitable inclusion when looking to convert app visits into sales. For example, restaurants and takeaways may use a food ordering feature that allows customers to buy directly via the app and arrange for collection or delivery.

A great way to reward repeat customers is through a loyalty feature, where you can offer a selection of discounts and special offers applicable, for example, after a certain number of purchases have been made. Again, using the example of a restaurant or takeaway, the customer presents their phone to the waiter or at the at the takeaway counter and the assistant enters a secret code into the app authorising each ‘stamp’. All activity can then be handily tracked by you through a separate management app.

Small businesses rely heavily on word-of-mouth recommendations, so what better way for your loyal and satisfied customers to tell their friends and family about your business than through a Reviews feature. If they have enjoyed their experience, they will be transferred directly from the app to a review site like Google, Facebook, or TripAdvisor where they can submit a positive review. Alternatively, if for some reason, they are unhappy, they will be directed to a feedback form where they can submit comments directly to the business owner for further consideration.

The above selection of features demonstrates that an holistic approach to business development is possible: engaging with an existing customer through push notifications, converting that engagement into one or more repeat sales through a monetisation feature like food ordering, rewarding repeat purchases through loyalty discounts and offers, and lastly, encouraging the happy and loyal customer to advocate on behalf of your brand through a reviews feature. Small business owners can reasonably expect to generate not only repeat sales from existing customers, but new business as a direct result of customer reviews and referrals.

Which Platform to Launch On

A fundamental decision that will need to be made by the small business, and which is also likely to effect final app costs, is which platform(s) to launch on.

The mobile market continues to be dominated by two operating systems – Google’s Android OS and Apple’s iOS – together accounting for over 95% of market share. However, there is a potential challenger to this dominance on the horizon – the Progressive Web App.

Indeed, some are already calling 2019 the Year of the Progressive Web App, or PWA. What we currently know is that PWAs retain the app-like feel and interactions of a native app but are web-based, unlike their App and Play store rivals. However, whilst they are much easier to setup and access (basically via a url) than native apps, PWAs are still lagging behind Android and iOS apps in terms of features and functionality.

Thus, with the jury still out, it remains to be seen whether the PWA is able to make any inroads into the current Android/iOS dominance. One final thought on platforms: Google are moving their indexing from desktop-first to mobile-first which could prove to be a serious leg-up for the PWA.

The All-Important Bottom Line

Perhaps the greatest benefit afforded by the rise of mobile apps under this current revolution has been their sudden affordability and the incredible value they now offer businesses.

Prior to the arrival of app builders and web applications, the only real option was native apps, which would have to be built from the ground up and mostly at significant expense – sometimes running into the tens of thousands.

Nowadays, a small business owner can reasonably expect to spend no more than the price of a full-page local magazine ad for a mobile app with 10+ features to be designed, built and published on Android, iOS, and in PWA format.

The Swiss Army Knife of Mobile Marketing

In closing, it’s worth noting that not every type of small business will necessarily benefit from the current generation of affordable apps. Customisability, user base size, app uptake, feature relevance, and monetisation options, are all factors the discerning small business owner should consider when investing in a mobile app.

However, it’s fair to say that the range of features offered by this current generation of app builders are more than capable of providing small business owners with a solution that elevates the final product from cute gimmick to mobile Swiss Army Knife.

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