When I started this article I was reminded of a meme from a few years back that visualised all the objects a smartphone had essentially replaced.
The image is no less relevant now, as it does a great job of reaffirming just how powerful our pocket-sized mobile devices are.
The internet first began creeping into our lives and homes more than 20-years ago, and over the last two decades many businesses have rejected the call to launch their own website with cries of, “it’s too complicated,” “it’s too expensive,” or “my customers don’t use the internet.”
The term mobile-first was first used about 8-years ago, referring then to designing websites for mobile devices first, and adapting then for desktops. Now it frequently means also launching a mobile app to complement your website, but the cries from business owners who don’t want to remain the same.
Yes, there are parts of the world still using 2G, but it is being phased out. Meanwhile, current forecasts suggest that roughly 30 percent of the global population will own a smartphone by the end of 2017. And that number is significantly higher in developed countries: 88 percent of US adults use the internet, and 77 percent of them own a smartphone. Which kind of weakens the whole argument about customers not using the internet.
Perhaps the real reason for business owners holding out on launching their own mobile app is a lack of clarity on the why-whats: why should I launch an app, and what are the benefits? So in this article I will address this by explaining five ways a mobile app could benefit your business.
Market Directly to Your Customers
For me this is the single biggest benefit of having a mobile app – the ability to market directly to your customers. Sure the internet has opened up many more marketing channels, but you’re still up against countless other brands – many with deeper pockets than your own. Not forgetting that if your targeting isn’t spot on, your intended audience doesn’t even see your ads.
The ability to market directly to your customers benefits all businesses, whether you offer the ability to shop online or not. It extends from being able to send targeted push notifications to people with your app installed, to being able to display special offers within your app each time a user opens it. And in all instances you know you are reaching people who are already customers, or have expressed firm interest just by installing your app. There’s very little need for a spray-and-pray approach to marketing when you have your own app.
Brand Awareness and Recognition
Small businesses such as take-aways, barbers, salons, coffee shops, and certain service industries don’t usually have much of a marketing budget. Which means they generally depend on word-of-mouth and store signage – and maybe the occasional social media post – for marketing. And this does very little for brand awareness, and often overlooked part of marketing and sales. Brand awareness is a precursor to a host of other benefits, including:
- Trust – the more aware customers are of your brand, processes, and values, the greater their trust in you is.
- Loyalty – this follows trust, and clearly leads to greater support, and more sales. Customers have relationships with brands, not products.
- Differentiation – successfully boosting your brand awareness means you are also able to truly differentiate yourself from your competitors.
- Marketing spend – unaided recall of a brand is a top marketing goal for most businesses because it allows them to shift marketing priorities, and overall spend.
And a very effective way of having your brand seen by customers dozens of times a day is by having your own mobile app. Customers with your app installed see your brand – in the form of your app icon – almost every time they use their phone. Which is probably a lot more than they see any of your other marketing.
Better Customer Engagement
Smartphones have made us fall in love with messaging; even though they are capable of so much, many of us spend more time sending messages via our phones than making actual calls. And with a mobile app for your business, you’re able to tap directly into this new habit by incorporating a chat facility. Now customers wanting to ask you anything don’t need to find time to call you (and hope the line isn’t busy), or send you an email and then wait hours for a response.
Naturally this means you need to ensure you have someone to respond to any chat queries, but even in a one-man operation this shouldn’t be too difficult. After all, you’re probably quite used to answering messages from friends while watching TV, and eating dinner. As with the next point, this is all about reducing friction. The more inconvenient it is to do business with someone, the more likely we are to go somewhere else.
Frictionless Scheduling & Reminders
Medical Centres, salons, restaurants, and accommodation providers all depend on customers making appointments, and remembering them. And although a booking system can easily be incorporated in your website, it’s even easier for customers to do this through a mobile app.
Because there is less friction involved in opening your app, navigating to the booking form, and scheduling an appointment. Your website is only accessible by launching the browser, and then navigating to it.
An added bonus is the ability to send out timely reminders to customers, with the ability for them to either reschedule or cancel if they are no longer able to make it. Some smartphone users are reluctant to enable push notifications from apps, but with an in-app booking system you give users a firm reason to allow them. Which also gives you access to some of that direct marketing ability I spoke about earlier.
New Data to Understand Your Customer
Something that isn’t addressed too often is the fact that a mobile app gives you access to a wealth of new customer data. You might know that customers are using their smartphones more than they are using desktop devices, but without your own mobile app, you won’t know how this is altering the behaviour of your own customers.
With your own mobile app you would have access to much richer data that would enable you to not only refine your marketing, but also how your business operates. There is a lot you can learn from knowing how frequently each customer uses your app, what times and days they open it, the features they use most often, and even their favourite payment method.
There are many more ways a mobile app can benefit your business, but the five I have used here apply to almost any business. You don’t need to have an online store to benefit from a mobile app, and it doesn’t really matter whether your customer base is limited to a specific geographical location. If your customers have a smartphone, your business should be on it.
About the Author:
Izaak Crook is a Digital Marketing Executive for AppInstitute, a SaaS App Builder platform that allows anyone to create their own iOS and Android app without writing a single line of code.
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