A lot of words and statistics can be used to build the case that mobile devices have grown and continue to grow into one of the most popular technological advancements. Just looking around would convince the most skeptical among us. And as with all new developments, the speed with which these new developments are improved and made more accessible is directly proportional to their popularity. As a result, mobile is changing and improving… FAST!
For business marketing, an online presence is an ongoing evolution from the days, not too long ago, of just having a website, which developed into a mobile website, to developing an online social presence, and to now developing your own mobile app. Many large businesses have been in the mobile app marketing arena for some time. They realized the many benefits and conveniences mobile apps provided their customers and, with proper management, the increased revenue and customer loyalty they would gain. They also had the resources to fund the exorbitant development costs required to create a custom native app for all the mobile platforms and were able to still do it cost effectively.
Technology marches on! Today, mobile apps are no longer within just the reach of the largest corporations. For the purpose of this article, we will not get bogged down in the technical difference between custom native apps, mobile web apps, hybrid apps, mobile websites, et al. The focus is going to be on what appears to be the best option for small businesses. The target… an exceptional User Experience (now commonly referred to as UX), easily managed content and affordability.
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There is no one best solution for every type of business out there. There are advantages and disadvantages to all the mobile options. The key is selecting the best fit, ie., the option that provides the greatest number of benefits to the business and their customers, at the best price. After doing the research, it’s difficult to present an unbiased presentation of these facts when the best choice for most small businesses is so clear. In short, the engaging customer features available, the ease of complete control of the content and the affordable price, the native mobile app built using a template (NMAT) is the next best marketing tool, to improve the bottom line and increase customer loyalty.
To be clear, custom built native apps that are built from the ground up, require hand coding for each app on each mobile platform, Apple, Android, etc. This is a very expensive process. Coders are very well paid and the end result provides a great, custom, UX. The new alternative, NMAT, is building an app using an already coded template system that can be customized in appearance, function, and content. This option provides similar features as the custom app, to choose from, at a fraction of the cost, with a very similar UX and can be totally controlled on-line.
Here is a quick look at the comparison of benefits between the mobile website and native apps.
Device Features – Apps have full access to all of a mobile device’s capabilities including camera, GPS, data storage, etc. for the best UX. Mobile websites currently have limited access.
User Installation – No installation required for. A bit of motivation is required to search and find a mobile business app. In the gaming industry, this should not be an obstacle. Most customers will be motivated to find your app to benefit from the content including offers and discounts.
Speed – A mobile app is much faster then a mobile website creating a better UX.
Owner Maintenance – The maintenance of an NMAT is much simpler these days with the app hosted in the cloud. Online Content Management System Dashboards (CMSD), allow clients to change the content of their app and send messages 24/7. Custom native apps are much more complicated to update. Ais updated as easily as a web page.
Offline Functioning – Without a wifi or cell service connection, mobile websites are not accessible. Native apps have offline accessibility giving them the edge in this category.
Development Costs – Custom native apps are extremely expensive. Both Mobile websites and NMAT’s involve the least cost and are very affordable. Possibly with future technological advancements, mobile apps for small businesses may go the way of Betamax, and mobile websites may overcome many of their current shortcomings and become the dominate mobile format. But for now, and probably for the foreseeable future, native apps are the best marketing tool available for small businesses. For maximum benefit, your app can be used in conjunction with your mobile website and gain additional user benefits such as the ability for customers to log into their personal accounts.
Now to the good part. Here’s a look at what benefits a mobile app can bring to your business and your customers. The power of the mobile app to engage and communicate with the customers is in its features.
Mobile App Benefits
The features currently available that can be built into an app is what ‘powers’ the benefits and makes it such a perfect fit for small businesses. In addition to the traditional listing of your businesses’ general information including facility amenities, specials, event calendars, contact info and directions, etc. that you would find on any standard mobile website, apps offer features that better engage customers and fully utilize their mobile devices capabilities making for a very personal and fulfilling UX… that they will want to share. To be clear and further illustrate the benefits of an app over a mobile website, this summary of features will include only those that are available in a mobile app format and not a mobile website. There are dozens of features available for businesses to choose from to use in their app. We will look at just a few of the more beneficial ones here.
1. Content Management System Dashboard (CMSD) – This gives businesses complete control over the content of their app 24/7. Managing an app is very much like managing your social online presence. It requires daily attention and creative management. The CMSD makes it easy and efficient to make changes to your app’s content and appearance, and an easy to use preview feature allows you to view your changes instantly.
2. Push Notification keeps your customers well informed – This feature allows you to send graphically attractive, instantaneous messages to your customers with offers to encourage their immediate or future attendance in your facility. The geofencing targeting option within this feature makes targeting your customers more like using a scalpel than a sledgehammer. Strategically used, push notification can keep your customers well informed, connected to your business and continually coming back.
3. Offer QR Code Coupons – This feature requires customer attendance a predetermined number of times before unlocking the value of this coupon. With attractive offers, this feature has the potential to increase customer attendance and increase revenue. QR codes are easily created within the CMSD and available for printing on any and all marketing materials that can be placed in the various departments around your facility.
4. Offer Loyalty Cards – This feature is a virtual stamp card designed to reward your current customers for multiple purchases or actions. It is a simple task using the CMSD to design the number of customer actions required to redeem the offer. This helps remind your current customers that you appreciate their business and helps solidify their loyalty.
5. Offer GPS Coupons – GPS coupons are made accessible when customers are within a predetermined distance of your facility. The number of check-ins required to redeem these coupons, and the time frame, is created using the CMSD. Creative and strategic thinking will make this feature very useful.
6. Detailed Analytics – Be completely informed on all aspects of your customer’s usage of your app. See what’s working and what’s not and make adjustments. The analytics available directly on the CMSD provides valuable information to app managers.
7. One-Touch Calling – A simple feature that makes calling more convenient for your customers. A good customer service.
8. Event Attendance – Want to highlight a special or recurring event to your customers and get a sense of how many customers will be attending? This feature will provide that benefit and also help get the word of your event circulated by allowing users to notify their friends and family of their plans to attend.
9. Third Party Integration – There is a wide variety of 3rd party websites that can be integrated into any app. customers can sign up on your email list directly into services such as Constant Contact, iContact, Get Response and others. Also, integration of all the popular social media and advertising websites is available.
One other very big benefit of having a well managed and informational rich app is that it will cut down on the time currently required to give out the same information to customers calling on the phone. Another is the directions feature. One touch and the app will guide them to your location from wherever they are. An app is like every other online presence channel that you currently manage… you do get out of it what you put in. When the decision is made to create an app, a plan should also be in place for the personnel and time required to manage it to reap its maximum benefit. It will make your business better.
Mobile apps are now like where websites were 15 or so years ago, you had to have one to keep up. In another 5 years or so, every serious small business will have a. Now’s the time to get a jump on the competition and lead the way.