Should your business develop a mobile app?

Mobile could be the key to developing your business and bringing in more traffic, advertising and sales. But prices can reach up into the tens of thousands – would an app suit your business? Are they really necessary, and what makes a good mobile application for a business?

© Highways Agency (CC BY 2.0) Cropped

© Highways Agency (CC BY 2.0) Cropped

There is little doubt the potential for mobile that mobile can bring to retail businesses and other associated firms. Research from Harvard Business School showed that on average Americans spend 410 minutes shopping on their mobiles, around 12 per cent of their total time. A study from Flurry showed that people spend 162 minutes per day on their mobile phones; and shopping on smartphone and tablet has increased by 18 per cent in the past year alone.

Advertisers and marketing executives are latching onto the trend towards mobile too, with reports that UK mobile advertising spend is set to overtake newspaper advertising revenue in 2014 as more people user their mobiles for news than read newspapers regularly.

Total digital media advertising is expected to reach £9 billion by 2017, and mobile makes up nearly half of all retail traffic today. The shift is phenomenal.  Your business can tap into this expansion by creating a mobile app for customers to download from the Apple Store or Google Play.

Having an app is a good form of cross-platform marketing

Apps can be used on a variety of operating systems, and across tablets, phones and laptops. The market has exploded. As of June 2014 there were approximately 1.2 million in both the Apple Store and its Android counterpart, with around 30,000 quality apps launched every month.

As more people use mobile and tablet devices, applications could be a useful way to cross-promote your brand across platforms, and ensure a secure presence across them all.

© Matthew Pearce (CC BY 2.0) Cropped

© Matthew Pearce (CC BY 2.0) Cropped

It doesn’t have to cost the earth either

Getting your app in the store costs around $99 per year to join the iOD Developer Programme, and if you charge for your app, then they also take 30 per cent of this cost. It costs $25 to get a developer account on Google Play for Android. The extra advertising through putting an app onto the store could help to direct people to your website.

“If deployed effectively, apps can transform business processes, significantly reduce costs and generate valuable business intelligence and analytics which might have previously been unobtainable,” said Rob Mannion, managing director of RNF Digital Innovation, which creates applications and manages technology solutions for businesses. “If they are not, it can become a costly exercise, or negatively impact the way you are perceived by your customers.”

It depends on the type of business you have

There’s obviously not much point developing an app for a service for children or the elderly, or indeed any group which doesn’t have a large percentage of smartphone users. Despite the growth, last year reports stated that only about half of businesses have a mobile-optimised website or app. A part of this could be that they feel that an app would be unhelpful to further promoting their business to their target audience.

Olivia Byrne, Company Director of Eccleston Square Hotel in London offers guests a “unique experience” with their app that they cannot get online with their website, including room service, calling out a hairdresser, the ability to read restaurant recommendations or check out local attractions on their phone.

© Eccleston Hotel (cropped)

© Eccleston Hotel (cropped)

“Any service business that provides a product works well with an app, but it has to be a strong offering to sell and keep a loyalty driver to your business,” she said. “People don’t want too many apps on their phone.”

“Nowadays people use mobiles more than the website on a desktop – our app has lots more functions, and the fact that it stays on the phone after checkout is a constant reminder of our hotel.”

They are also in the process of developing geolocation technology with hospitality platform technology firm, Intelity, and in the future would like to use customer data from the app to capture information about guests’ preferences, such as room temperature and other check-in adjustments that can be made in advance.

Digital technologies and innovations in data mean that mobile apps can improve customer experience

Every mobile device has the ability to track where its user is at any time, and this technology can be harboured for the benefit of both the customer and business. For example, using WiFi or GPS tracking an application can gather data about where a customer spends most time in a shop, and the retailer can target deals accordingly.

Apple’s new technology, iBeacons, uses tracking technology to guide customers through airports, send them special offers for the goods they are walking past and work with them to offer exclusive and relevant offers that they will be interested in.

© Jonathan Nalder (CC BY 2.0) Cropped

© Jonathan Nalder (CC BY 2.0) Cropped

There is, of course, the danger that push notifications and the notion that a business is “spying” on its customers and a balance must be struck before forcing products on customers. Every customer’s habits are slightly different, and they may become suspicious and distrusting of a brand that irritates them or shocks them with how it is using their data. The famous case of Target discovering a girl was pregnant before her father based on her spending patterns was met with outrage.

Or should you design a mobile optimised website?

For many businesses, especially start-ups with low marketing budgets, this way of ensuring your customers have a direct link to your product on their home screen could be the way to tap into the app trend without splashing the cash.

Websites can be created using responsive design technology that can alter the format based on which device is being used. They can be a little more expensive than a traditional website, but by doing this and then developing a shortcut ‘app’ to your website available for customers to download, it can bypass the costs.

Matt Cannon is a web and application developer for Method & Class, and gathers as much detail as possible about the company’s goals for its mobile development before designing a solution.

“Nine times out of ten, a business would benefit more from a responsive website than having native apps built, and would be a better investment for a company over time, primarily due to the fact they can be accessed on a much wider range of devices and they cost less,” he said.

© K?rlis Dambr?ns (CC BY 2.0) Cropped

© Karlis Dambrans (CC BY 2.0) Cropped

“Apps can be great for improved brand recognition, and where there isn’t always an internet connection. Another benefit if much greater access to the device for things like geolocations.”

For small businesses, there are other ways of marketing your services that may be more cost effective

“Registering on Google+, Google Maps and things like Yelp can really help up your business’s presence online,” said Ross Wilson, mobile strategist at the Kotikan app development agency.

“The idea of just getting an app to market it on the app store has faded now, as there are so many apps around it is hard to get people to download yours. The main purpose of any app should be to drive the purpose of the business, and boost sales.”

Business Technology will be addressing these concerns for businesses and how best to improve their products on mobile at the Mobile Content Summit later this year. Click here for details.

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  • Cam Norton

    Mobile apps don’t have to be expensive. You can build your own native app with about 8 hours worth of training on shorthand software at sites like http://www.como.com. You can also go with a simple app design freelancer or low cost web based development company like http://www.apportunemoment.com. These are all solutions to getting a low cost app that still works to build business and improve marketing.

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  • http://www.abmobileapps.com/ Larry Addles

    There is true in apps not necessarily being the best for small businesses, if you can not afford to build a good app just stick with a mobile responsive website. If you have the choice of building a template app or updating your website, definitely go with the website updates. We build custom mobile apps and price generally start at $100,000.00 or more based on features.
    Sincerely,
    Larry
    http://www.ABMobileApps.com

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