You need an app right this minute!

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.


Lina Barfoot

Editor at SavvySME

All things marketing and advertising interest me greatly.


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Jef Lippiatt

Jef Lippiatt , Owner at Startup Chucktown

It isn't that I totally disagree with having an app for your business, however, I would add some words of caution. Before spending unnecessary time, effort and money think about your business goals and added value for your customers. If you are only creating an app to have one, you may want to rethink your strategy. Having an app that replicates your website is something that happens, however, if there is no added value to the app, why not just pull up your site in a mobile browser? The thing is, unless you have valid reasons for creating a native app (iOS or Android) you probably shouldn't go that route. The route I would suggest is a responsive / adaptive website or web app that adapts too all devices. This has several advantages over going straight to native. 1. You can test that you have interest / demand in the mobile 2. It is much less costly to create a responsive / adaptive site that works on all devices than native apps If your venture doesn't currently have the expertise to build and launch native apps internally you are looking a potentially high cost entry into the native app marketplace (not counting marketing and advertising related to it). If you have the expertise internally the other factor you need to consider is the time. Does your team have time to continuously tweak your native apps to meet Operating System updates and new requirements? Do you have the time to constantly look at fixing bugs and issues that surface from user feedback? Does your team have the focus to keep all fronts up to date and consistent (website or web app, iOS app and Android app - not to mention scaling for phones vs. tablet form factors)? I'm not saying you "shouldn't" make an app. I'm saying unless your business has specific needs for native applications and those apps are providing additional value to customers and helping you meet business goals. You may want to ensure you have a proper plan in place before undergoing into the native app marketplace.

Lina Barfoot

Lina Barfoot , Editor at SavvySME

Some very interesting points there Jef! I do think though that mobile versions of websites are often poorly planned and don't work nearly as well as they should. But perhaps that should have been an added point in my article! And I think there is always added value in an app, they're so much more flexible and innovative than a lot of websites. But don't get me wrong, I love when people don't agree with me!