Local Business Apps: How to Get an Edge on Your Competitors
Having a mobile application for your business, regardless of its size, can give you a leg up on your competitors. But it’s not enough to have an app. You need a good application that differentiates your business from those of your competitors and that adds to the customer experience in ways that similar companies do not.
Mobile applications are no longer the providence of the large, mega-corporations, as small businesses require a online and mobile presence to remain competitive. A January 2016 article on Entrepreneur rightly made the point that, “Simply put, smartphone apps have become too important a marketing tool for small business owners to do without.”
Even if you’re not aiming for the global marketplace, you need to consider that according to various sources, in developed countries, smartphone penetration is over 60 percent. Global penetration is up to 34 percent as well, with projections between now and 2018 expecting this to rise even further,
Now, put this penetration statistic together with the information that the average user checks their phone 85 times per day and it becomes easy to see why having a small or large business mobile application is essential for your long term viability and competitiveness.
Of course, your competition is probably looking at the same or similar information and preparing for their entrance into the mobile application arena – or they’ve already taken the plunge. Therefore having a mobile application strategy is going to be crucial for you going forward.
Have an Application Strategy
Before actually developing an application, your company or business needs an application strategy. Just putting together an application is not enough. You and your business needs to know how this application will work with your company or business and how it fits into the your business model. It isn’t enough to just have the app, you have to be able to use the app to shape your customer’s experience with your business.
While there are a number of different methods to creating a mobile application strategy for your business, Forbes points out seven important objectives or strategies that you should consider for implementation in your company’s mobile application strategy.
Importantly, your mobile application strategy will dictate the direction in which you develop your application. Thus, your mobile application strategy becomes your outline for the actual creation of your mobile application.
While this might seem obvious, often time, seamless integration is an afterthought. A key component of any strategy – and especially true with any business strategy that involves far-reaching implications – is that your strategy functions as a seamless integration, with not only your overall business strategy, but with the physical components of your business.
A customer who uses your application to place an order must be assured that the order will be received and processed promptly, while, at the same time, any backend activities must not be visual to the customer. In other words, your mobile application must do what it claims to do.
This means your mobile application must work with your current software, be updated as you update your other software and ensure timely updates to your mobile application, including applying bug fixes to the application itself.
For a small business owner, this can appear at first to be troublesome or that it might increase the overhead to an unsustainable degree. But this is why it’s essential to have a mobile application strategy – to help prevent you and your business from being overwhelmed with the prospect of developing and working with your mobile application.
Make Social Media Part of Your Application Experience
As part of your application development, a key element for adding to the customer experience is integrating your app to work with social media. Letting customers share what they looked at, considered, purchased and more on social media is a great way to expand your audience and promote your products or services.
Essentially, having social media as part of your application experience gives you the opportunity to be seen and heard straight from the customer themselves. Even for companies involved with B2B sales, social media is an important consideration, with over 62 percent of B2B companies reporting effectiveness on their social media outlets.
Developing the Experience
All of the above is fine, well and great, but how does it help to give you the edge? A comprehensive mobile application strategy that takes your business’s goals, objectives and integrates them into an mobile application gives you an advantage when it comes to competing for new customers (and retaining the same).
Basically, it’s about creating value between you and your customers or clients. Technology savvy customers gravitate towards those mobile applications that appear to add value to their shopping experience and interactions with your business. By the same token, a bad mobile application will generate a bad mobile experience and thus you have to get it right the first time.
This Whitepaper from UTest, a professional testing network company, outlines specifically the consequences of bad mobile application development. In summary, by investing the time in developing your mobile application’s foundation, you’ll correspondingly improve your customer experience. And as this matures, it adds more value to both your business and the customer, giving your business the edge over your competition.
Further, by giving your customers the option of sharing their experience over social media, your mobile presence will continue to grow and improve – again, adding more perceived value to both the business and consumer.
In or Out Application Development
An important question that always arises when considering application development is in house or outsourced application development. There are pitfalls for each, and there are advantages to each, but it really depends on a range of factors concerning your business.
In house development is really only effective for larger companies, where there are resources for a long term development cycle and ongoing maintenance. That said, even some larger companies will split development across both in house and outsourced components.
Outsourcing mobile application development or, in the case of a small, local businesses, just outsourcing the actual programming element, offers significant advantages, not least of which being cost. Entrepreneur offers several articles on outsourcing for application development, including tips for outsourcing said development in order to reap the most benefit.
For small business, the best idea is typically to develop your mobile application strategy and then work with an application developer to generate your application. In a practical sense, you put the ideas for your application together, and they handle the actual coding that brings it to life.
As long as you have a mobile application strategy in place, all it takes is the development and maintenance to get you on the road to providing value to both you and your customers.
Giving Your Company the Edge
You might still come around to asking the question of “How does this give me an edge over the competition?” The answer is that, by putting all the fundamentals in place – such as a strategy for mobile application and development, along with a social media component – and developing your application using cost-effective services, you’re generating a customer experience that gives your followers and prospective buyers value and purpose.
Mobile applications are more than just marketing tools, and their use extends well beyond marketing hype. Those applications that add or create value for the customer help drive positive sentiment towards your business, and this translates directly into a higher return or ROI.
Even something as simple as alerting your customers to new sales promotions via social media can have a significant impact on your business’s bottom line. For a local-only business, the value created by mobile applications could be critical to ensuring profitability over the long haul – not just by giving you the edge over the competition, but by increasing your exposure to consumers, both old and new.
Having an application is a sign that your company or business is up on the latest trends, and it gives consumers a means of interacting with your company or business on their time (thus adding perceived value for them). In turn this translates directly into better sales, better consumer perception and an overall better customer experience.