In 2016, only 20% of businesses had developed an app for their business. (1) When you think about it, that’s a pretty shocking statistic.
Smartphones and tablets are everywhere. They are the cornerstone of our modern existence. They have changed the way we interact with the world around us. Considering the amount of people using these devices and the amount of time spent in front of their screens, surely not having a business app is a missed opportunity, right?
We certainly think so. In this article, we look at exactly why every business should consider developing a mobile app.
Studies have shown that some people use their smartphones for up to five hours per day. (2)
Of course, this isn’t typical usage, but the same study did find that the average adult does check their phone around 85 times during waking hours. That’s a lot of time staring at our tiny, pocket-sized screens.
So how does this impact your business?
Almost every time a user looks at their phone, they see a wall of apps staring back at them. If your app is a brick in this wall, your business immediately becomes more visible to consumers. If it wasn’t there, they’d never have the opportunity to notice your brand during one of the 85 times they check their mobile a day.
This increased visibility means a number of things. Most importantly, it means that since your brand is right in front of them, customers are more likely to click and browse your app, even if it wasn’t initially their intention to do so. It also means you become a lot more memorable, resulting in extra business as the customer thinks of your brand, rather than a competitor’s, when they need services or products you offer.
The reason technology has taken off — and the reason apps are so popular — is because we like to make things easy for ourselves. If you look at the most popular apps, (3) such as Facebook, Google Maps and Amazon, you’ll find they offer the same basic functionality as their mobile website, yet people still download them by the millions. Why?
Because people want instant access. They want the most instant access they can possibly get. Why do something in 10 seconds when you can do it in one?
Investing in a business app makes you that bit more accessible to consumers. It makes it easier and simpler for them to use your business, which means they’ll be more likely to do so.
A lot of businesses avoid building apps because they already have a mobile-friendly website.
If you have a mobile-friendly site, why bother shelling out for an app? Easy: features.
Apps have the capability to incorporate specific features that can boost your ability to advertise yourself to consumers. Push notifications (4) are one such feature that you can’t take advantage of if you just have a mobile site.
Push notifications are an app-only feature — something you can only utilise if your business has invested in building one. Once on somebody’s phone, you are able to alert them to events such as deals, offers and sales, or send them direct messages about new product launches. Can you think of a better advertising method than sending material directly to someone’s pocket?
Apps don’t just create a direct advertising opportunity; they’re also a direct portal for community engagement and communication.
Consumers like to connect with businesses. (5) They like to be able to talk to them, offer feedback, make comments easily and — hopefully not too regularly — lodge complaints. The easier a business makes this for them, the more they’ll appreciate the business. I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that a customer who appreciates your company’s way of doing business is a customer that is likely to return.
Apps offer a powerful platform for customer-company relations. At the tap of a ‘button’, consumers can access your business and, if connectivity is properly integrated, engage with you simply and easily, through chat services, built-in contact forms, etc. This helps you build community and loyalty in a way no other platform allows.
It’s no secret that the more you know about your target market, the better you can sell to them and produce products or services they like. Apps present a unique way of gaining data (6) you might not be able to acquire through other channels.
Perhaps the most challenging data to get without an app is location. Apps open up the ability to discover where your customers are, which allows you to hone your advertising to fit with specific locational needs. You are also able to gather data periodically, at set intervals, as the app is always on the user’s phone, gathering data. This means you can track trends and see how interest and app usage changes over time.
Businesses are rarely unique, so giving back to your customers is essential for repeat business and loyalty. One such way apps can be highly beneficial for this is through loyalty programs.
We all have one on our phone: an app that allows you to build up points for a free cup of coffee or a half-price pizza. It’s a great tool to have. It rewards regular customers and also keeps them coming back.
Plenty of shops and businesses operate reward schemes, but simply through stampable cards. How many times, though, have you experienced the situation where you’re asked for your loyalty card and you don’t have it? It becomes meaningless — worthless. It doesn’t add extra value because it isn’t always to hand.
Nobody — well, almost nobody — leaves the house without their phone, so an app can always be to hand, always adding value.
Businesses are starting to pay more attention to app development, but the rate has been remarkably slow. By the end of 2017, it is predicted that half of small businesses will still be without a dedicated app, (7) which means those that do have a major advantage over the competition.
Consider all the benefits listed above, then consider the possibilities if your business has an app and your biggest rival doesn’t. Who is going to have the edge when it comes to visibility, marketing, connectivity and accessibility?
Of course, other aspects of a business also determine your ability to compete, but an app is a genuinely powerful weapon in the fight for the top spot.
About the author: Nicole Reddie is the co-owner and founder of Apps4U, an app development company that specialises in designing and building apps for businesses.