It's now unavoidable. If you are an owner of an SME, an entrepreneur, or simply have aspirations that run in those directions, you're going to have to make yourself an app. It's not just the domain of the tech-savvy and the teens, it's the future of businesses everywhere. If you provide any kind of service - and you probably do, regardless of what your firm offers to the market - you can offer your customers unparalleled interaction and convenience. You can also track their usage and see how well you're really being received. Your customers can arrange their own appointments/requests, or whatever is pertinent to your business. An app needs it own kind of marketing of course, there are already endless options out there so it should be an addition to your business, rather than something you rely on to quickly fix up your image.
Design it right
When you do create an app (and you should), or hire someone to do so, pay attention to what else is out there and test-drive before you launch. You want to make sure it works the way it should, lest it become a nuisance to your customers. An app doesn't have to be some gaudy experience where you're constantly distracted by ads you have no interest in. Look to new start-ups that are bringing some real quality and substance to apps for some inspiration.
There is Leakserv out of the Netherlands for instance. They have created an app with a great social cause behind it, demonstrating the wide applicability of the technology. There is also Australian Car-Next-Door, a user-friendly app that is quickly rising to the top of the peer-to-peer car sharing market in Australia after securing some significant funding. A good app has to be tailored to the user, and to manage that you have to know your customer. It's not that different from any other form of interaction with your target market; you have to know what they want and what they expect from you.
No empty chairs
For any smaller business it's vital that you not only keep your customers, but that you're at capacity whenever possible. An app is a great way to update information in real time to accommodate customers that are pressed for time and offer last-minute deals to encourage people to fill up any "empty seats" you might have. Or simply use it to engage with people. It's a platform to be innovative; take on board what you are learning from your customers and apply it as you evolve your business.
An online presence no longer equates to a website
You really cannot run a business without a website anymore, or at the very least some form of web presence, i.e social media. However, an app has the added bonus of being potentially interactive in a quick and convenient way that a website will struggle to do. The StartUp WA report, released some days ago, shows that the number of startups investing in mobile technology is exceedingly high, and by percentage rate is much higher than any other type of technology. So there is really no denying that this is where the future is heading, and there is a good chance you will get left behind if you don't get onboard.