The demand on modern business to have all-encompassing, multi-stream, all-device presence is a constant source of pressure. Marketers, some customers and plenty of design houses will be pushing your company to have a social media presence on Twitter, YouTube and Facebook, to have custom apps for Android, iOS, Apple Watch and maybe even Smart TVs.
But, when it comes down to it, you only need Apps or social accounts that your business can afford to accommodate and operate. Like the products that serve the needs of the business, apps need a definite benefit. Also, if you are lucky, they can help differentiate your company from competitors.
For now, most smaller companies will stick with a website, providing them with a 24-hour presence, and perhaps a Twitter/Facebook account for casual promotion and customer interaction. Those that can afford the time, budget and staffing resources for greater social media scope might add in Instagram or YouTube account to better show off what business it does and the customers it serves.
Do you want an App with that?
Which brings us to the thorny question of, does your business need an app? If an app is good enough for McDonalds or Starbucks, surely your company can benefit from one as well. Depending on the business type, there are many obvious benefits.
Key is the constant presence on a customer’s phone screen, a daily visual reminder that you exist. From the customer perspective, the most popular commercial apps provide information, discounts, offers, access to information, and for the digital native generations, a sense of belonging. Advanced Apps can also use augmented reality or mapping to make the App a wider part of the customer’s day.
These are key for those obvious types of business like major retailers, diners, and hospitality/travel types, but are also of growing importance for B2B companies, trades and agencies. Every type of business has customers, and a greater need to communicate with them. Are we suggesting a funeral service should have an App? Perhaps not, but the number of outliers is shrinking fast.
The value of an App
If the App provides news (related to your line of business, not what the Kardashians are up to) and information of interest to the customer, they might use it regularly which can create some stickiness and loyalty. If it is worth your time creating that news, making those offers, then an App could be for you. The App encourages customers to provide their contact information which creates further avenues of contact, all key information if you are looking to engage with customers.
The process works both ways. If you provide enough value, perhaps your company can provide hints and tips for users in its field or tools for a tradesman in one place, the App will stay on their screen and you can feed them offers and learn about their behavior. Or, if it sits there with no updates, unloved, it will soon vanish never to be installed again.
But that relies on how often you would expect the customer to interact with you. Regular fliers like having their favorite airline App close to hand, but does someone who brought a bike feel the need for a deluge of information? Or, if a customer buys a bunch of nuts and bolts from a hardware chain a few times each year, will you and the customer benefit from an app-based relationship?
The benefit of Information and Whales
Whales are what most companies crave, high-value customers who regularly use their store or services. A whale could be a local government department devouring your stock, a clique of rich-young-things taking up roost in your eaterie, or just people who love your unique products.
These are the people you need to be getting in touch with, and an App is a key part of that process. The more information you have on them, the better you can tailor products, deals and the tone of your message to attract them. Data from the App and your sales can tell you what to stock to keep them coming, and what products to evolve to attract more customers.
When it comes to creating an App, smaller businesses might look to DIY App builders, say AppInstitute, that allows a company to create their own product without the need to engage expensive design agencies. This can help keep costs under control and allow the company to build an App naturally adding features as and when they need.
The hard number’s game
With all that in mind, to decide if an App is worth your business, consider these five pointers.
- Look at your existing customers, talk to them to see if and how they would benefit from an app. Ask them, or check the data to see if they use your website or any social media.
- Look at your business plan, if it requires winning large numbers of new customers, then can an App play a part in that, as individual service becomes untenable.
- What could the App do? If you are simply providing information, then can’t a website do that just as well.
- Do you “think digital” – if your company has a growing digital footprint and sees a benefit from that, then an App is the next logical step.
- Think strategically. If you have the budget then investing in an App and future updates can be a long term part of your plan.
Looking to the future with apps
Even with our traditional British reserve for all things trendy, the App is increasingly an essential touch point for businesses with growing customer bases. From providing information or offers, it creates a way to attract attention. By adding tutorials, useful practical tools and even new features like chat bots or augmented reality product displays, it can be useful and engaging.
They can help a local company appear global, and with the right customization, a global company appear local. That alone can be worth the price of development, bringing an audience to you, whatever devices people are using. There is lot of negativity towards Apps, with the need to update and provide content, but the reason it exists should be to boost your business. And, if you can see value in that, then an App should be well worth investing in.