With more than two million apps available on the iTunes app store, who needs another app to add to the collection? You do! Here are just a few of the reasons having your own small-business app can benefit your business, and your customers.
Direct access to your customers. Geekwire reports that smartphone users spend about 2 ½ hours a day on their mobile devices; the bulk of that time is spent engaging with apps. Nielsen data indicates that mobile users over the age of 18 used apps 65 percent more often in 2014 than they did just two years prior, equating to more than 30 hours a month in app usage. For small businesses that have native apps, these high levels of consumer engagement present an opportunity to stay top of mind with customers. (Familiarity, after all, helps to breed loyalty.)
Assuming your business’s app offers content that enhances a customer’s life in some way — either through the opportunity to save money, find information, gain convenience, or simply be entertained or inspired — this constant contact nurtures customer relationships. Gradually, this relevant and repeated engagement can position your business more as a trusted resource and partner, than a promoter.
Streamline your rewards programs. Rewards programs can encourage repeat purchases and give your customers a reason to choose you over a competitor, but ease of use is a key factor in program efficacy. Mobile app technology allows businesses to integrate loyalty offers directly into the app, giving customers a reason to download and use the app.
Improve customer convenience. Social media and mobile technology have made instant gratification a norm in society — and customer expectations. When your business has its own app, you can better serve customers in the moment, and eliminate unnecessary process waste. If customers typically call your business to make an appointment or reservation, for example, an app can empower them to “self-serve” such arrangements. Apps can also help customers check real-time wait times at your checkout lines, pay using their mobile device, receive package tracking updates for online purchases, and confirm whether an item they want to buy is in stock before they make a trip to your storefront.
Build a visual representation of your brand identity. Building a consistent brand identity requires a consistent investment in creating “surround sound” marketing efforts at every customer “touch point” like social media pages, signage, business environment, and printed and online marketing materials. However, small-business budgets and resources don’t always allow for such robust brand development. An app is an expensive way to support your brand, through design, interface, and features that can include audio and video.
Learn more about what your customers want. Having your own business app is like a real-time focus group. Measuring app-engagement activity can indicate what your audience is interested in — and what they’re not. When you measure metrics like the amount of time users spend with your app, which of its features they use, and how frequently they return, you can leverage those insights to continually improve your app based on your user behavior. The findings may also reveal new opportunities to enhance your business in offline channels, too.
Your customers have come to expect the technology. Though the volume of apps customers can choose from does make it important to design a compelling app that can cut through the competition, app usage data indicates that mobile users haven’t begun to tire them. In fact, smartphone owners between the ages of 25 to 44 use 29 apps per month, according to Nielsen data. Mobile users over the age of 55 are almost as actively engaged, using about 22 different apps each month — and spending more than 20 hours a month with them.
While apps may seem like a tool reserved for major brands, building an app that supports your business isn’t an expensive or complex undertaking. In fact, like many small-business owners, you may find that it’s one of the most valuable tools in your marketing arsenal when it comes to learning more about your customers, and how to best connect your business into their daily lives.
Kristen Gramigna is Chief Marketing Officer for BluePay, a credit card processing firm used by various sized businesses. She has more than 20 years experience in the bankcard industry in sales management, direct sales and marketing.