Posts tagged small business apps
You may have heard recently about the increasing importance of mobile tech strategies for small businesses. Tremendous opportunities are indeed available, but knowing how to take advantage of them is another matter entirely. Indeed, few small business owners are familiar with mobile app development, deployment, and management, or the benefits thereof.
You have enough to worry about without becoming an IT specialist as well, right?
No worries – we have some easily digestible information that we think you will find extremely helpful!
For starters, to learn more about why you can’t afford to ignore mobile, you can check out our post here. If you’re already on the mobile bandwagon, however, and you’d like to learn a few key mobile strategies, please read on.
1. Support existing functions
Mobile apps don’t live in a separate world, isolated from reality. They’re closely interwoven into people’s daily lives, at this point.
When sitting at your desk, a calendar app will ring out a reminder from your pocket about your next meeting. You might then pull out your phone and order up car service on the way down stairs. When you hop in the car, a GPS app will tell the driver how to get to the destination.
Et cetera, et cetera.
When designing a mobile app for your business, think about functions that your business already does, and brainstorm ways for apps to improve them. If you’re a dry cleaner, your app could notify customers when an order is ready for pickup. If you’re a real estate broker, your app could work with existing software to tell clients more about houses they’re visiting by accessing their device’s location data. And so on.
The solutions are truly endless. Be creative, and use your app to enhance your business’s existing functions, and it will provide value right out of the gate.
2. Focus on mobile app tasks
People don’t typically download small business mobile apps to screw around – they’ve got awesome games for that. They generally have a specific task in mind if they’re going to fire up a small business’s mobile app. Play to these tasks, whether it’s looking up contact or location info, making a purchase, submitting a request for a quote, or something else. The key is knowing what customers and prospects want to do with an app from your company, and then to build around that so that core tasks can be executed quickly and smoothly.
3. Don’t settle
It may sound like a pain, but after you roll out your app, it’s important to review user data and feedback, and to continually tweak your app to improve it. Not only will the user experience get better, but you’ll also gain familiarity with data that can provide striking insights into what your users and customers want.
Apps are an excellent source of information – don’t discard it!
4. Do what mobile does best
A mobile device should not be thought of as a portable desktop. It has special features and functions that should be used and taken advantage of, such as the accelerometer (which detects movements), the GPS function, and personalized user data, if you have access to it. Look for ways to take advantage of these functions, and always remember that you can ping a mobile user no matter where they are. Many businesses now will alert customers to a special offer when they walk past the location, for example.
They didn’t develop all those bells and whistles for nothing – use ‘em!
The mobile game is still in an early stage, but time is passing quickly. Follow these tips and experiment to find what works best for your business, and you’ll likely be ahead of the competition in an area that is becoming more important with each passing day.
Recently, LinkedIn launched fresh versions of its apps, and many were surprised to find that, instead of being web-based, they were fully native. You may be wondering what prompted the change, but the answer is not what you might think.
The usual problems with HTML5 are well-known: 1) it’s slow on many devices and in many situations, and 2) it crashes too frequently. So, which of these problems was LinkedIn having?
Kiran Prasad, LinkedIn’s senior director for mobile engineering, said in a recent interview with VentureBeat, that the primary reason for the switch from HTML5 to native is that the LinkedIn team was, “[S]eeing that more and more people are spending more time in the app, and the app is running out of memory. It’s not performance issues, like speed or rendering, but it’s still a big problem.” (The other reason he cited was the desire to have smooth animations when running the app.)
So it’s not that HTML5 itself is unworkable for LinkedIn’s needs, it’s that the app ecosystem doesn’t yet support the specific issue LinkedIn is having.
What does Prasad want to see? More tools! Especially an improved debugger, and a way to understand and address performance issues quickly and effectively. This means that, with a little more help from the powers behind the platform, HTML5 could once again become a viable option for LinkedIn (and presumably others encountering the same problem).
This intrigues us. Many are aware of the facial advantages and drawbacks of various systems and platforms, but sometimes a “minor” non-obvious issue is enough to tip the scales and send market players scrambling to a competing solution.
We’re interested to hear: does anyone out there have any stories of hidden issues that were make-or-break for your team’s decision-making?
Can you remember your first mobile web experience?
That is, the first time you tried to launch a browser on a mobile device? As you stared at a blank screen, and watched a progress bar slowly tick its way forward, only to be stopped about halfway across, your impression was probably something like this:
“This is it? Really? … This is slow!”
Things have changed a lot since then.
While mobile devices still lag behind their desktop counterparts, they are certainly useful for some limited web browsing. And when connected to a Wi-Fi router, many devices operate at speeds that are totally satisfying.
If your mobile browsing experiences have been getting better and better, we’re happy to confirm that, no, you weren’t imagining things. The mobile web is actually about 30% faster than it was last year, according to a recent report from Google.
More specifically, mobile page load times are 30% faster. About a third of pages load in 1-3 seconds, and about another third load in 3-7 seconds. That is, almost three-quarters of mobile web page openings were fully loaded in less than 7 seconds.
We know, we know. “7 seconds!? Who has that kind of time!?” Relax. The industry players are working on solutions from a number of angles. In fact, Google, identifies at least four areas of improvement that are contributing to the speed increases:
1. Core telecom infrastructure improvements,
2. Faster browsers,
3. Increased LTE/4G deployments for mobile networks, and
4. Mobile device processing power improvements
So the mobile web is significantly faster, compared to just last year, and is light-years ahead of where we were beyond that. In addition, the improvements have come to many countries around the world, not just the U.S., so many hotspots around the globe are speeding up.
Soon enough, all of our mobile devices will support web browsing that is too fast to complain about.
Today’s stressed-out, Type-A workers need all the help they can get, as they rush from one project to the next. Unfortunately, the apps below won’t make you folks any less stressed (we know that’s impossible), but they will make you more productive.
If you’re going to burn yourself out, you might as well at least get something done, right?
1. Google Drive
The ultimate solution for cloud-based document collaboration and sharing, plus a load of other powerful features. Not only will this app let you access your Google Drive files, but you can actually edit documents and spreadsheets, view pdfs, share items with your contacts, and do tons of other stuff.
It’s a pretty powerful solution when you’re not at your computer, but you need something to take the place of Microsoft Office. It’s doubtful that you can conveniently perform highly complex actions, but for quick-and-dirty editing and sharing, it’s a totally functional tool.
The gold standard for note taking.
Evernote is not just for jotting down a few words here and there, though – you can sync notes across devices, share lists, access notes remotely, record voice reminders, and generally keep on top of your To-Do items in every way. It’s won a tidy pile of awards and accolades, and it’s totally free. Just download it, already!
3. CamCard Free
Business cards are riding slowly into the sunset in many places and industries, replaced by their virtual equivalents. But until they’re completely retired, it can still be helpful to have a way to capture the data on them, and integrate it with your electronic contacts lists.
Enter CamCard Free.
With CamCard, you take a picture of a business card, and the information on the card will be pushed to your address books (iPhone, Gmail, Exchange accounts, etc.)
Older folks tend to be the most powerful folks in an industry. And they’re the ones most likely to hand you a business card. The next time they do, don’t look at it with disgust. Just take it, smile, and CamCard it. Then throw it out.
It’s the best of both worlds.
“Wait, did he say don’t use blue in the graphics, or did he say he wanted blue in the graphics? Ah well, no prob. Lemme just pull up the recording.”
Thanks, Voice Recorder!
Not only can you record meetings, calls, interviews, lectures, or simple notes to yourself, but Voice Recorder also sends them automatically to your Gmail account as attachments for easy access from any device later on. The recordings are searchable by title and date, and if you’re feeling creative, can also be used as ringtones.
For a grand total of $0, it’s hard to see how you could go wrong, here.
If you need to share files easily, even big ones, this is your app. And Dropbox isn’t just for sharing with others. With auto-uploading folders on your computer, you can save files on your desktop, and have them automatically appear in the cloud for access later from your Dropbox app.
It’s a smooth-functioning, go-anywhere solution that basically lets you ensure that files are never stranded on a particular device or with a particular team member.
Now that we all have computers in our pockets, there are no longer any excuses for forgetting things. So whenever you need to remember something, just pop open one of the apps below on your iPhone, and make yourself a note.
1. List Master ($7.99)
This well-reviewed wonder app not only allows you to make lists, but ensures that they are accessible no matter where you are. You can view your lists online, export them via email and Dropbox, and sync across devices. With List Master, you’re truly the master of your lists.
2. eTodo ($.99)
eTodo is great for those who want robust scheduling functionality with their list app. eTodo lets users categorize items as “Inbox” (for initial ideas), “Action” (for things that are ready to be done), “Next” (for things to address afterward), and “Someday” (for more distant future plans). Items can be sorted by due date, tagged with time-sensitive colors and priority levels, and more.
If you’re obsessed with the clock, eTodo might be a good fit for you.
3. ReQall (free)
reQall focuses on the most basic feature – getting the notes down. You can use voice recordings, emails, texts, IMs, and more, to make sure that, no matter what situation you’re in, you’ll always be able to get your thoughts recorded. Thus the name: reQall!
4. To-Do List Pro ($.99)
Like most list apps, To-Do list allows for multiple lists and sub-lists, item categorization, and other functions. The neatest feature here, however, may be the progress analysis and graphing that helps users understand how time is being spent.
For those that are worried they may be serial procrastinators, To-Do List Pro will reveal the awful truth.
5. Remember the Milk (free)
Aside from being named after the most classic To-Do list item, our favorite feature with Remember the Milk is that it simply won’t let you forget an item. Reminders can be configured to go out via email, SMS, and even instant messenger. If you can’t get it done after a barrage of notifications like that, you’re beyond the help of a simple app.
6. Things ($9.99)
Things is the Cadillac of to-do list apps. It gets all the awards, and probably has the most robust feature set. If nothing but the best is good enough for you, Things is your to-do list app.
If you can’t find an app you like on this list, there are plenty of other options, so feel free to experiment and browse to find one that works for you.
(And as a final goodbye, make the last item on your hard copy to-do list, “Download to-do List app.”)
A recent post by the app consulting and analysis company Flurry revealed that the monthly number of people using apps now exceeds the number of people using desktops and laptops. Each month, roughly 224 million people now use apps, as opposed to 221 million people that use desktops and laptops.
It’s interesting to compare these growing app audiences with those reached by traditional media outlets. For now, a single television show still reaches far, far more viewers than a single app. For example, the top three television shows, put together, reach an audience of about 50 million people. To reach this same audience via apps, it takes about 500 of the top apps.
This comparison may seem silly, but for businesses and advertisers, there’s a hidden difference that shouldn’t be ignored: apps allow for extraordinary segmentation and targeting. Advertising on prime-time television shows is extremely expensive and usually leads to a fair amount of waste. Viewership is broad, and can include many segments that are not relevant to a particular advertiser. Advertising on apps, in contrast, is cheaper and can deliver a better value if done properly, because a tighter user segment can be targeted.
For these reasons, in-app advertising has become a major channel for business promotion. 88% of all apps downloaded are ad-supported, and total revenue for in-app ads is projected to reach $2 billion this year.
“But wait,” you say, “I hate those little ads in my apps, and I never click them!”
The advertisers have heard you, and their “ads” are changing to adapt to the new medium of apps. As Mashable reports, sponsors are testing a number of strategies to avoid irritating people with their ads, including 1) appearing as a part of game apps themselves, 2) paying viewers for ad views, and 3) making more inventive ads that depart from the old-school static display model (e.g. an ad for the Westin Resorts appeared as a frosted screen, which the user could wipe with a finger to reveal a tropical paradise in the background).
For businesses, the message is clear: the aggregate app audience has hit another milestone of growth, and is quickly becoming a major channel that should not be ignored.
How do we know? Well, Web.com asked small business owners (about 500 of them), and learned that 84% of those that have stand-alone mobile websites are getting new business from them. This means that prospects and leads are waiting to be found on mobile devices, and that small business that meet them there are getting positive results.
A few related notes:
• 69%: The number of small business owners who think that mobile marketing is key to their growth in the next five years.
• 64%: The number who intend to spend more on mobile marketing this year, when compared to last year.
Given this information, it’s safe to say that small businesses are enjoying returns from their investments in mobile websites and mobile marketing. The main motivations for pursing these avenues are to 1) deliver better service to customers, 2) gain new customers, and 3) build an edge over the competition. But despite these worthwhile benefits, only about a quarter of small businesses have mobile-friendly websites. In addition, most don’t have a mobile strategy, and are currently missing out on opportunities to be found by mobile searchers.
Meanwhile, mobile search volumes are exploding. Mobile search is quickly pushing past desktop/laptop searching, and customers are increasingly expecting businesses to have functional mobile websites. Indeed, a customer’s experience during mobile search can have a powerful impact on a business. In another post, we laid out the unintended negative consequences of having a poor or nonexistent mobile presence, as well as the positive effects of a well-designed mobile presence.
The results might surprise you.
At this point, small businesses must be aware of these issues, or they’ll pay a heavy “tax” imposed by the market and shifting user expectations. With other small businesses confirming that mobile marketing gets positive results, and helps them push ahead of the competitors, isn’t it time you gave it a shot?
For more info, please click here.
In this day and age, there are no more excuses for not having a personal budget laid out. The apps and tools available to you, often for free, are cheap, easy to use, and will make your life better. Here are four of our favorites, for iPhone:
1. Expenditure ($2)
With a clean interface and a few nice extra features, Expenditure makes expense tracking about as simple as it can get. You can pick your spending categories, add transactions, take notes, and even use photos to help you “keep an eye” on your spending. If you don’t want to get too bogged down with sophisticated reports and advanced information, Expenditure will keep things straightforward for you, and simply show you what you spent.
2. Mint (Free)
In the first annual app awards, Mint was awarded “Best Finance App.” You can’t go wrong with a free app that is also probably the best one out there. Mint pulls in account info in real time, lets you create and adjust budgets on the fly, and does everything you want it to do, in general.
3. iReconcile ($3)
iReconcile has a wealth of features that might be just what you’re looking for. In addition to the usual budgeting and transaction recording functions you might expect, iReconcile has advanced reporting, searching, exporting, and memorization functions that enrich the experience. iReconcile also offers sync and backup services to round out their product.
4. MoneyBook ($3)
MoneyBook boasts the usual set of features, but bills itself as “Finance with flair.” Is the app stylish enough to merit such a distinction? You be the judge!
No matter which app you use, the important thing is that you get tracking. (The sooner you track, the sooner you find out how much those awesome deals on Groupon are really costing you each month.)
Recently, the digital analytics company comScore released a report regarding mobile trends that contains a number of useful facts for those trying to target buyers on their mobile devices. As new technologies are introduced and user behavior continues to adapt in response, businesses that aim to connect with customers on their mobile devices must also change to keep up with the trends.
Here are some of the highlights:
• Of the social media platforms available, Facebook is by far the most popular, accounting for over 80% of time spent on social media activities. In fact, among all apps, Facebook is the most popular, with Google Maps and YouTube also taking up very large shares of user time.
• Demand for video is still increasing, and ad placements in and around video content are increasing along with it.
• Smartphones have reached 50% market penetration, and Android now makes up half of the market for the first time.
• Retail e-commerce growth percentages are in the teens, and are four times higher than brick-and-mortar percentages. Total e-commerce sales were almost $300 billion for the year.
• About 11% of all e-commerce now takes place on mobile devices.
• 28% of smartphone users also own a tablet.
• 38% of tablet owners made purchases online.
• 37% of time spent consuming digital media is spent on a mobile device.
There are a few takeaways from this information that can help your business produce better results from its online and mobile marketing efforts.
First, social media is king. Users spend the lion’s share of their time browsing Facebook. Therefore, if you want the best chance of being seen, Facebook is where you want your ads to appear.
This doesn’t mean that you should target social media exclusively, however. One of comScore’s main conclusions is that the multi-platform approach works best. Effectiveness of various ad channels is different for each user segment and depends on what industry you’re in, so ad placements in search engines and inside apps can also be quite valuable. Diversify, and you’ll get the best results and learn which channels provide your business with the best ROI.
Second, while Apple devices are incredibly popular, Android is making a big push to cement a position as market leader, and can no longer be ignored. If your business is publishing an app, an Android version is probably worthwhile, and placing ads into Android app networks should also be considered. Again, the theme is that putting your eggs into one basket is a bad approach when a market is still developing and changing rapidly. Experiment with promotions through a variety of channels, platforms, and devices, and stay nimble.
Third, the time is right to enable mobile purchases of your products. With users gaining comfort in purchasing items using a variety of mobile devices, and making more and more purchases via mobile, business owners have the opportunity to get a head start on their competition. Go mobile now, and you’ll enjoy participating in a trend that is developed enough to make it worth your while, while still being new enough to provide you with plenty of room to grow.
It’s now a mobile world. Is your business poised to take advantage? Follow these tips, and you’ll be in great shape.
If your business is taking appointments over the phone, by hand, into an appointment book – that’s fine. The system has served countless business owners for a very long time, and it’s bug-proof (well, so long as your receptionist is on the ball).
We’re not going to tell you that has to change.
What we are going to tell you, however, is the cost of using that system (and only that system): some sales prospects may avoid your business, and may book instead with a competitor. In fact, one mobile restaurant booking service reports that certain restaurants are getting 12% of their bookings online, and a third come from mobile devices.
Of course, this percentage can vary widely depending on what industry you’re in, but if your business doesn’t take online and mobile bookings, you’re almost certainly leaving some money on the table. The reason is simple: the more obstacles you put in the way of a prospect or customer making a booking, the less likely they are to make one. And in today’s everything-on-demand world, the most insignificant tasks count as obstacles:
1. Having to look up a phone number
2. Having to dial it
3. Needing reception to make the call
4. Needing to be in a quiet enough place to make a call
5. Social anxiety of having to speak to a stranger on the phone
6. Being put on hold
7. Having to switch from a device’s phone app to the calendar app (what percentage of users can do this smoothly?)
8. And so on
The goal is always to reduce these obstacles as much as possible, and adding a simple booking feature to your business’s mobile app or mobile website is a great way to do it. Booking features let customers book appointments with your business anytime, anywhere using their mobile devices. When they look up your business online, instead of having to reach out via phone, they can simply pop open your booking feature, select an open appointment, and they’re done. The process is smooth and convenient, and is often a lot quicker than making a phone call.
As a business owner, you’re still in total control of the bookings that come in. You can limit how many appointments users can book, the duration of appointments, which appointments are open to users, and even when they can submit bookings. You’re also notified when an appointment is made, so there are no surprises. Managing and reviewing appointments is also easy from any of your computers or mobile devices. If you like, you can even charge a fee for bookings using PayPal or Google Checkout functionality.
You might be wondering what users who aren’t comfortable with mobile technology are going to do after you “go mobile.” They’ll do the same things they always did! If any user finds this stuff to be too complicated, and still prefers to call in a reservation, that’s fine. You’re not going to lose any of those prospects. They can still call in. You’re just adding a new channel to receive bookings.
At the end of the day, the benefits really add up. First, an easy-to-manage, cost-effective electronic booking system saves you time and money because you don’t have to spend as much time on the phone taking appointments. But that’s nothing compared to the boost you get from new customers and increased bookings. Users can also create accounts and schedule appointments more easily in the future, leading to increased repeat bookings from current customers.
For easier operations and increased revenues – mobile bookings are a simple, cost-effective solution every small business owner should seriously consider.
For more info, please click here.