Here’s a quick question:
Are your customers smartphone users? If you have answered yes this post is for you.
Mobile apps are increasingly becoming the new websites as companies look to build custom smartphone and tablet apps for their target market.
A number of these companies are not even traditional IT companies, and many of them are small brick and mortar businesses who can’t afford to sink $100,000+ into mobile app development.
For example, a company that sells chemicals for powder coating and metal plating has a free mobile app that helps engineers easily calculate surface area, plating time, plating thickness etc using standard formulae. The app also includes conversion calculators, links to helpful articles, and troubleshooting guides.
As you may have guessed this app is a valuable tool for increasing brand recognition among the target audience and is a fantastic marketing channel. It ticks off all the boxes associated with valuable content and will ultimately result in increased sales and revenue for the company.
The growth of custom mobile apps
There is sufficient data to support the benefits of custom apps. A survey by CDW conducted among enterprise executives reports that after custom apps were introduced:
- Efficiency has increased by 46%.
- Productivity has increased by 41%.
- Employees save 5 hours/week on an average.
The numbers for small businesses are smaller, but the graph shows an upward trend here too.
Based on budget, small businesses like bakeries, gyms, fashion boutiques, vets, spas, and bars have either used app development agencies or DIY mobile app builder platforms like Como and BuildFire to build custom apps.
The benefits of custom apps
In a previous post we have covered the benefits of building an app on Android. But regardless of the mobile OS you pick, a custom app can benefit your business in several ways, apart from improving brand awareness and providing a direct marketing channel. With a custom app you can:
- Enhance customer service- A custom app can give your customers an easy way to contact you with a few taps or swipes. If your customers are smartphone savvy they are likelier to use an app to contact you instead of using email or phone, not only to log support tickets but also to order cakes or book a table.
- Streak ahead of the competition- Custom mobile apps are still few and far between and it’s virtually certain that none of your competitors have built one. Having a well designed mobile app can give you a first mover advantage, and let you punch above your weight.
- Develop customer loyalty- If your app lets you offer coupons, gift cards or can be made an integral part of your customer loyalty program you can make it more attractive for customers to get value from doing repeat business with you.
Along with all the usual advantages of a mobile app (it lets you take advantage of the device’s hardware like sensors and cameras, keeps users engaged longer) building an app means that your business is at the fingertips of your customers.
Do this right and you can deliver exceptional user experience.
How to build the right mobile app for your business
While a mobile app has a number of benefits the road to success has a number of potholes. The actual tech part is easy- It’s the design and the promotion stages, which comes before and after which will determine whether you will reap any benefits from your investment.
To get the maximum ROI from your mobile app do this in the design phase:
1) Prototype extensively
Building a prototype is critical to improving user experience on an app. A prototype is a quick and cheap way of seeing how the app would actually work in real life, and it exposes the kinks that can be very costly to address in the finished version.
2) Understand the user context
Your app will be valuable if it acknowledges the context in which it’s used. For instance, a mobile banking app will have different requirements than an app used by gyms, and if the design does not take into account the emotions and expectations of users the app will be totally useless. Get this part right, and you will answer the “Why do your users need a mobile app” question.
3) Focus on the plumbing
While the frontend of the app is important it’s also critical that the backend is robust for it to deliver optimal user experience. If aspects like database connections, user authentication, integration with social networks, and content management are not thought through the app might be virtually useless.
4) Incorporate monetization
Your custom app might sit at the top of the buyer funnel and only serve valuable content. However, it should encourage users to engage with you. Depending on your business and on your buyer personas this can take various forms, from collecting email addresses so that users can be nurtured to offering them opportunities to buy from inside the app.
So far, we have looked at the benefits of having a custom mobile app and have outlined the strategies involved before actually building a custom app.
A lot hinges on how you promote the app, but that is a story for another post.