Posts tagged small business apps
Recently, Nielsen’s Cross-Platform Report for 2014 reconfirmed this fact when it reported that 89% of time spent on media on a smartphone is spent on apps, while only 11% is spent on the mobile web. Monthly, apps account for about 30 hours of time per user (a year ago, it was only about 23 hours – a 30% increase, year over year).
Who’s driving these trends? It’s not just young folks.
The mobile trend overall is, as expected, most noticeable among young adults. For adults ages 18-24, smartphones are huge, coming behind only TV and AM/FM radio in terms of multimedia device usage. Compare TV at 22 hours weekly and radio at 11 hours weekly to smartphones at 7 hours weekly. In addition, Internet browsing on the computer is only at 4 hours. That is, for this age group, mobile apps and mobile web are ahead of the desktop/laptop, when it comes to media.
This tells you where things are headed for your business in the future when it comes to connecting with the younger segment of your audience.
But, if you’re thinking that this doesn’t have a big effect on your overall marketing plans, think again, because the trend holds true for the population in the aggregate, with monthly time for smartphones at 34 hours and computer time on the Internet at 28 hours.
The world’s gone mobile, folks.
Why are apps so far ahead?
The data show that this is primarily due to the types of tasks that each is used for. While a user can easily sink hour after hour into Candy Crush, or Facebook, it’s harder for a person to browse the Internet for comparable lengths of time on a mobile device (a workplace computer, of course, is rumored to be notoriously well-suited to this purpose).
This isn’t to say, however, that mobile websites should be treated as an afterthought.
On the contrary! They’re a necessity for any small business. And while they are used for far less time than apps, don’t let the comparison fool you. User searches on the mobile web are increasing very quickly, and often lead directly to store visits and purchases for small businesses. Even though they don’t account for a lot of user time, they make up for it in the quality of time spent. Essentially, a mobile website is a key new channel for connecting with customers, and avoiding creating one is both short-sighted and destructive to revenue growth potential.
Customers only hop on mobile websites for a few seconds, but those seconds can mean the difference between making a sale and being invisible.
So what’s the takeaway here?
The takeaway for small businesses is that users have become very comfortable using apps. Obviously, a user won’t tend to spend the same amount of time using the app of their local pizza shop as they will the leading social apps or games, but the carryover effect should still be there. Firing up an app to handle a task is becoming a highly ingrained behavior, and small businesses would be well served to take advantage of the habit while the small business app market is still unsaturated.
Create your own app, and you can make the most of a technology that has become a popular powerhouse with a huge amount of people. You need to go where your audience is, and as the data show, your audience is probably in an app right now.
Image Source: Business Insider
Using push notifications, businesses can reach users anywhere, anytime with targeted, relevant messages that drive action.
Unlike mailers and ads, which are costly and may not necessarily hit the mark, push notifications are easy to create (they can be as simple as a single sentence), and can generate immediate results.
Some businesses, however, have made mistakes and turned users off with spammy push notifications. This represents a failure to follow one of the main rules of mobile technology.
When and where matter
Push notifications shouldn’t be sent at random times on the theory that the message will get across no matter what and users will take whatever action they like. It simply isn’t true. There are better times to send certain messages. Experiment to find what works best for your company.
This also applies to geographic concerns. Because you can use geo-fencing to trigger push notifications when users are near your location, you also want to consider the right places to send messages. Users may be much more responsive to certain messages and offers when they’re very close to your location, as opposed to far away.
Give them what they want, not what you want
This ultimately drives the success of all promotions and communications. You need to focus on content that users are interested in, and that they find valuable. If you start from there, you won’t go too far wrong. If you start, on the other hand, with your own wants and needs, you can go very far wrong.
Keep the user in mind, and your notifications will become welcome communications that users want to take action on. When that happens, you’ll unlock the full power of push.
Learn more about the most advanced push notification system available here.
But if they knew how much revenue they were losing, they probably wouldn’t be so happy.
Go on, take a guess. How much is the lack of mobile websites costing small businesses each year?
No. Too small.
A billion? That’s a big number, right?
Nope. Wrong again!
A trillion? It’s not a trillion-dollar loss, is it?
Small businesses lose about a trillion dollars each year by not having mobile-optimized websites. Most of the losses are due to local shoppers having bad experiences on non-optimized websites and avoiding the businesses that give them a hard time online. The data show that mobile searchers tend to be ready to make a purchase and visit a local business, but that bad websites interrupt their trip. If more small businesses had mobile-optimized websites, they would earn more revenue from mobile searchers.
Well, that’s only the beginning of the benefits that mobile technology can bring to a small business. Here are a few other major benefits that have more small businesses going mobile every day:
Efficient mobile payments
Plugging sales into desktop software, generating invoices, mailing them out, chasing delayed payments, and all the clunky processes of yesteryear can be eliminated for many small businesses, now that mobile payments are fully developed. With a Square card reader, anyone can take a credit card payment through their mobile device. And with PayPal, anyone can send an electronic invoice instantaneously from any location. Mobile technology is making payments incredibly efficient.
Remote-accessible, cloud-based operations
Why download and manage your own IT solutions when cloud-based providers have developed such excellent solutions? Of course, for some businesses, a custom-tailored program is important. But for the majority of small businesses, apps that can be used on any mobile device will work just fine.
Once operations are mobile, business can be conducted and managed any time, any place. Mobile frees everything up and removes needless limitations on your business.
Customer-friendly mobile apps
More and more, when a customer is a fan of a business, they’re coming to expect to be able to download its app. Apps let customers learn of new specials, deals, and events, help them connect with other customers in fan communities, allow them to submit mobile orders, and lots more.
Years ago, a fan of a business would sign up for a mailing list. Nowadays, they want much richer connections. And if your willing, give your customers a business app to them, you’ll be handsomely rewarded.
Many small businesses avoid mobile apps, however, because they imagine that they’re expensive, difficult to manage, or that people won’t use them.
But the actual small buisness app experience is quite different. Let’s discuss each myth in turn:
Myth 1 – Mobile apps are expensive
If you use a development firm, this myth will come true. In fact, making a custom app can cost $50,000 or more! But with Bizness Apps, anyone can afford a mobile app. For a low monthly fee, you can have a mobile website and apps on both the iOS and Android platforms.
And you can build it yourself in minutes, instead of months. With our step-by-step app builder, mobile apps aren’t hard to make and they definitely aren’t expensive.
Myth 2 – Mobile apps are difficult to manage
You don’t have to have any specialized knowledge to manage a Bizness Apps app. Instead, you can make changes easily at your dashboard. You can add features, remove them, check out analytics, and more.
No IT gurus needed. If you have a question, however, you can always contact customer support and get an answer night ot day.
Myth 3 – No one will use your mobile app
Mobile apps are more popular than ever. With the average person’s mobile time per day steadily increasing, your app can expect to earn a good amount of users and gain strength over time. It will need a bit of promotional help, of course, but even a simple line about your new app in your ads and mailers can give it the push it needs.
What can I do once my app is out?
Once your app is out, you can use it to grow your business in a variety of ways. First, you can take sales directly through your mobile app. But if you need to drive activity and revenue, you can use push notifications to send messages to your user base and create demand.
You can also create a mobile loyalty program to reward frequent shoppers. And with loads of other features, the only real limit on how you can use your app to grow your business is your imagination!
In our opinion, we’ve been right each year!
Mobile has grown continuously by leaps and bounds. Even quarter-to-quarter, huge increases in mobile activity, app downloads, time spent using mobile solutions, volume of revenue earned through mobile, and many more benchmarks show that each year is indeed The Year of Mobile. Innovations show us new ways to use mobile solutions, mobile devices become more and more useful and precious to us, and day-by-day, mobile becomes a bigger and bigger part of our life.
Okay, so you know where we stand.
But what’s on tap for 2014? Well, if you ask Kim Whitler over at Forbes, you’ll learn that mobile may reach a tipping point this year. A few numbers to review that were cited in the article:
• 20% of online sales now come from mobile users (up 55% year-over-year on Cyber Monday).
• Leading marketing firms will be spending 10-25% of their budgets on mobile this year.
These reasons, among many others, are probably why (according to the article) Jay Henderson, Strategy Program Director at IBM is recommending a “mobile first” approach. (In our words, a mobile first approach means that you don’t simply translate existing things into mobile versions – instead, you spend the time to build fresh mobile products to take full advantage of the fastest-growing platform around.)
Anyhow, when even a blue chip juggernaut like IBM has taken the plunge, you know a technology has reached a significant milestone.
Our Predictions for 2014
Mobile will be abandoned and people will return to writing letters and looking things up in encyclopedias. The paper just feels nicer, you know?
We’re going to go out on a limb and say that mobile will definitely continue to grow significantly in 2014. More businesses will go mobile, more users will increase the amount of time they spend on mobile devices (and the variety of things they do with them), and the world will continue to detach from non-mobile devices.
In addition, we might also start to see a solidification of the advantages that mobile-friendly small businesses enjoy. They’ve got more “mobile time” under their belts, and will leverage this to stay one step ahead of non-mobile competitors. It’s still a hugely favorable time to go mobile, don’t get us wrong, but the number of competitors that have done so will continue to grow.
That is, today, a small business that goes mobile can still get a boost from the fact that not all competitors will have done so yet. By the end of the year, this boost will probably not be as large.
Okay, we’ll see you all in 2015. Get excited, we’re thinking it could definitely be “The Year of Mobile!”
Texts and push notifications are so similar that it can be tempting to lump them together and treat them the same way. They both arrive on a user’s mobile device, they both have to fit within tight character limits, but they both have average open rates that are over 90%.
So, why would anyone argue that push notifications are better?
Well, one consideration is cost. Many users do not have unlimited texting plans and will wind up getting charged for each text message you send. This can irritate users and lead them to look at your message negatively. Or, they may opt-out of future messages altogether, which is bad for business.
The same is true on the business end as well. The cost to send out a massive amount of texts is relevant for many businesses, especially small ones, depending upon what service and platform are used to blast out messages. Push notifications, in contrast, are unlimited and totally free when you build and manage your app using Bizness Apps!
The opt-in / opt-out dynamic also favors push notifications, when it comes to user attitude. Users have total control over which apps send them notifications, and may even specify which types of notifications they want from each app. Text messages, on the other hand, often come unsolicited. In fact, due to the sale of phone number lists between companies, some users may receive spammy texts from time to time and view SMS as a lower-quality messaging channel.
Push notifications also increase engagement with your app and improve user retention rates. Thus, not only can they help drive activity on the topic of your message, they also help increase the returns you see from your app. Push notifications serve double duty and offer a number of benefits at once.
With Bizness Apps, we also enable you to send custom messages to your customers that entice them to come back into your business. For example, you can send a beautifully designed push notification message in seconds offering people 10% off their dinner within the next hour if things are slow during certain business hours.
This not only helps bring in new customers, but can help attract loyal customers back into your establishment. The return on investment here is absolutely staggering for a small business.
When a user gets a push notification, it’s a message from a company they know and want to hear from. And from a business standpoint, the cost couldn’t be lower. Considering their effectiveness and ability to address a number of goals at once, we find push notifications to be just as good as, if not better than, text messages. (Of course, there’s no reason not to employ both in your marketing strategy, but if you can use only one, we know which one we prefer.)
A recent research paper from Moovweb and Forrester has noted that, by and large, HTML5 apps are still lagging behind native apps with developers. Two main complaints are still at the forefront of the debate:
• Delays in development. More bugs. According to a survey referenced in the paper, most of the time, apps developed using HTML5 are delayed in delivery. As developers report, testing and fixing bugs is soaking up the largest piece of the time lost. This means that more time and effort go into HTML5 development, and that developers encounter more headaches along the way.
• Delays in running. HTML5 apps are just slower. Devs note that updates are delayed and stock browsers on devices can also lead to issues. With performance problems, developers have a lower ceiling on how well their app will do with users. These limits on what they can do are frustrating, to say the least.
As a result of these problems, developers are viewing HTML5 as appropriate only for limited circumstances, as opposed to being the skeleton key to the mobile world some might have originally dreamed it might be. The idea of developing once for all devices is enticing, but in practice, there’s still a lot of room for improvement. Even with advanced responsive design tools and practices, native is still in the lead. Here’s why:
• Native is much faster. As we noted above, HTML5 apps run more slowly. In an on-demand world, this is a big problem. Telling people to be patient simply isn’t going to work. Users are accustomed to instantaneous gratification, and native apps give it to them.
• Native has way more functionality. Native apps can make use of a device’s special features, like the accelerometer, GPS, camera, and more. Because of this, the native app experience is often much more robust and inventive, further lowering the ceiling of HTML5 apps.
• Native has less bugs. With ready-made tools, many of the leading native platforms make it very easy for developers to build what they need and have it work smoothly with minimal tweaking and debugging. We’ve already mentioned some of the problems of the development experience with HTML5 – compared to that, the native experience can be a walk in the park.
For now, HTML5 still leaves a lot to be desired from a user and developer standpoint. Whether that will change as time goes on remains to be seen. But today, native is pretty solidly on top.
Okay, so you’ve seen the light and know an app can help your business. How do you go about making your app great to ensure that all those great benefits actually materialize? Well, we’ve got five simple steps that will guide you in the right direction and keep the focus where it belongs:
On the users (aka “your customers”)!
Step 1: Figure out what your customers want in a mobile app.
There are plenty of wrong ways to decide what features should go in your app, but only one right way: you need to figure out what features your customers would like to have in your app. A good way to get started is to check out competitors, local or not, and see what their apps do. For example, if you’re a pizza shop, take a look in the App Store for neighborhood pizza shop apps and see what’s cookin’. Or if you’re a real estate agency, review the apps put out by other brokerages.
Once you’ve seen what’s out there, you’ll have a sense of the most common features. From there, you might want to poll customers and ask them directly about what they’d be interested in. You can do this with comment cards or by polling your fans on Facebook. Some of the feedback you receive is bound to be useful.
After this is all done, do your own brainstorming. Think about what your most popular products and services are, what questions are asked most frequently, and what mobile tech can do to help customers out.
Okay, that was the hard part. Now you’re ready for the easy part – creating the app!
Step 2: Create a business app that gives them what they want.
As you may know, Bizness Apps has an unbelievably simple and easy-to-use app builder. It will take you through the process step-by-step. All you have to do is make a few design, text and image choices, and then select the features you want. The rest is done automatically. Once your app is approved by the app marketplaces (Apple’s App Store, Google Play), you’re good to go!
Step 3: Spread the word.
An app with no downloads isn’t going to help you much. Mention your new app on your website, on social media, in your ads and mailers, and in standees at your location. Give people an incentive to download it, like a 10% off coupon or an entry into a raffle. Once your customer base has your app, they can start using it and the fun really begins.
Step 4: Analyze and tweak.
Use analytics after launch to see what users are doing with your app. If the most popular feature is buried, bring it front and center. If some features are going ignored, get rid of them. The point is to get focused on the users’ favorite functions and tailor the app experience to those as much as possible. Don’t abandon your app once it’s out. If you do, so will your customers.
Step 5: Maximize use.
Okay, now you’ve got a focused app that customers are using. You can now work on sending out push promotions to users to drive revenue and communicate about special events and deals. You can use mobile reservations to make things more efficient and convenient if your business is appointment-based. And you can open up a mobile store and take sales directly through your app.
There are loads of functions available, and once you’ve got a great app that offers the right ones, the goal is to make the most of it. Keep working to find the sweet spot where your customers are happy and your business is getting all the benefits of having a mobile app. If you do, you’ll maximize all the awesome opportunities that the mobile world has to offer.
What to learn more, head here?
Many small business owners wonder if a mobile app is really necessary, or if app companies like us are just part of some big global conspiracy to bring pointless mobile apps to the world. As usual, we’re here to offer information and share the reasons that some small businesses (and business leaders) consider a mobile app to be a necessity.
To switch things up a bit, here are a few of our opinions in their shortest, sweetest forms:
Will your business collapse if you don’t have a mobile app out by the end of the day?
Could your business benefit from having an app?
Would the benefits be worth the cost?
It’s highly likely.
Will your business be giving ground to the competition if you never release a mobile app at any point?
Okay. So you know where we stand. No surprises there. Lets get into things in more detail.
The current marketing channels
For many small businesses, their marketing plan looks like this:
• Send out mailers locally; purchase ads in local circulars
• Participate in social media, and do a few email campaign
• Rely on Google searches, word-of-mouth, and foot traffic to do the rest
Between these things, many small businesses make a living. But many also wish they could increase sales! And for some, it’s a matter of life and death. After all, as a small business, there isn’t a lot of room to take losses and keep on chugging. (Only those in charge of big companies get to throw away millions and still score huge bonuses each year.) For smaller businesses, its sink or swim, and every little bit counts.
That’s where apps come in.
Are Small Business Apps Necessary?
As we said, failure to create an app won’t destroy your business. Apps aren’t at that point yet. But websites provide a good analogy.
For a lot of businesses, a website was once an exotic item to have. The phone book was all anyone needed, and no one really wanted the hassle of a website. But as they became easier to create with ready-made site building programs, everyone got one. Now, no sane business owner would start a business without a website. They’re too valuable a tool for connecting with customers.
With easy app builders like ours now out, apps are headed in the same direction.
Mobile activity is poised to overtake desktop/laptop activity in the very near future, so mobile is at something of a tipping point. If all consumers will be on mobile most of the time, small business owners generally want to be there with them. And the more time that passes, the more likely it becomes that your competition will hop on the app bandwagon. But even with all this pressure, we don’t think this is the main reason that small businesses need to turn their attention to apps. Our reason is simple:
Apps have an amazing cost/benefit ratio!
The Mobile App Advantage
With Bizness Apps, in about 15 minutes, you can create an app for your business – and for a low monthly subscription fee, you’re all set. From there, the sky’s the limit. You can book sales with it, setup customer loyalty programs, promote special offers, gain social referrals, and much more. You don’t have to do any programming or know anything technical – it’s all built-in. For many businesses, the monthly fee is easily covered by the extra revenue generated by the app.
That is, apps pay for themselves.
When you boil it all down, that’s really all that matters to us – apps provide a new way to connect with customers and boost revenue. For us, that’s reason enough.
So, is an app a necessity? No. Not yet. But something doesn’t have to be a necessity in order to help your business. It just has to make sense.
After a 100,000 or so mobile apps, we’ve gained a pretty good idea of what makes an app great. The seven features listed below are shared by almost all of the good business apps we’ve seen. We designed the Bizness Apps app builder to include each of these features, and to make it easy for our customers to stay close to these core goals when making their businesses’ apps. By keeping them in mind, you’re really keeping your users in mind, which is always a good idea.
1. It’s functional
This is probably the most important thing when it comes to apps. With a world of buggy, non-functional apps, you need to ensure that your app works. It should launch without issue, tabs should open up when clicked, and buttons should work – and this experience must be tested on a variety of platforms and devices. This seems like the most obvious possible advice in the world, but you’d be surprised how many apps suffer because of inadequate testing and debugging.
2. It rewards users
When a user opens your app, it should be obvious how the app is going to serve them. Value should be delivered fairly quickly, or should at least be apparent. If a user is stumped right off the bat, your app is toast. Start things off right and make sure that users get something out of your app immediately.
3. It looks good
It’s an image-based world, for better or worse. Your app has to look like a well-designed program, and making it “pretty” is generally the way to do this. Unless you have a hardcore user base, it doesn’t matter what you have under the hood if your interface is ugly and non-intuitive. Keep it neat and your users will feel like they’re in good hands.
4. It’s simple
Don’t overcomplicate things. There isn’t a lot of room on the little screen. Instead, you need to stick to a few core functions and make them super-easy to spot and use. In an industry of hyper-specialization, clutter has become unforgiveable. Find out the most important things your users want (1, 2, or maybe 3 tasks), and focus on those. “Robust functionality” can wait.
5. It’s free
Charging for an app is quite a statement. Unless you’ve pioneered something that truly delivers significant value and can demonstrate why it’s worth paying for, consider making your app free. Free apps are no-risk propositions, and many users only browse the free section. Go where the biggest audience is and remove a huge hurdle to downloading.
6. It’s quick
Your app can’t have delays in operation. It’s got to be blazing fast. Anything less is going in the trash. End of story.
7. It’s shareable
Make it easy for users to recommend your app to others. Viral spreading is still one of the best ways to become successful in the digital world, and making your app easy to share facilitates this. Social media links are the key method for sharing. Make sure you’ve got an easy-to-click option to share somewhere in your app, and it will grow organically.