Smartphones have now become our all-in-one portal for mobile engagement with the digital world. Whether we use it to check emails, the news, trade stocks, share experiences, get directions, or order food, nearly everything we do in our daily lives can be accessed with a few screen taps. In the US alone, smartphones are now used by nearly two thirds of all Americans, 10% of whom use it as their only platform for connecting to the internet. In the UK, smartphone usage continues to rise steadily with an estimated increase to 40 million users by 2016. This focal point of mobile online engagement around the world has created not only a platform for unprecedented levels of communication, but also as a means for companies to engage with consumers on a new level.
This article was written and contributed by Ian Naylor, CEO and Founder of UK-based AppInstitute.
Image Credit: Flickr/Phil Campbell
As with any other market, companies — particularly small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) — need to compete for the attention of consumers and their valuable screen taps if they aim to break into the digital sphere. Often, startups and SMBs can find themselves a step behind established brands offering the same service if they are unable to attract customer attention.
Due to a lack of resources or experience, the online presence of an SMB may not go beyond a basic webpage or as a listing within a popular aggregator platform (Yelp etc). One of the most important steps a small venture can take when looking to expose their digital brand and ensure effective engagement is the development of a branded app — a standalone platform that is directly developed for the purposes of the company and the exposure of its product. This can be applied to all industries: From medical practices and schools using apps to communicate through secure messaging, to takeaways and restaurants taking advantage of a simpler food ordering process.
A recently published AppInstitute study of 200 takeaway business owners shows that there is a positive link between customer engagement and overall revenue of everyday SMBs and their use of a business-specific mobile app. By allowing for effective scaling of services — having more clients through a CRM and ordering system — business-specific apps can give owners 100% control over their own brand, the ability to send geo-centric push notifications for promotions, a more effective overview of client analytics, and faster customer checkout via in-app payment features (which flows onto customer satisfaction and loyalty) among many other positive effects.
This study is just one real-world example of how small businesses can integrate app technologies to grow and succeed. However, there is one further step in the deployment of an effective app that ties into recent consumer and big brand trends: An app that is limited in its function.
The next generation: The single-purpose app
Most SMBs make the mistake of creating an app that is simply a mobile version of their website. When it comes to designing a useful app, less is definitely more. Picking one or two functions and focusing the app around them makes for a more useable and ultimately successful app. This mindset can been seen with all the big mobile first players, such as Facebook and FourSquare, who are all deconstructing their apps into smaller versions that do specific tasks, rather than provide the consumer with one overwhelming behemoth.
Ultimately, a great app needs to provide additional value to the customer, and just moving them from web to mobile paradigms is not necessarily enough. The app needs to reward them for making the change and provide added features such as more convenience in communication, quicker service, “just in time” discounts or offers, based on actions, locations, and more. As this specialized style of app becomes more common, many end-users are seeing the benefit of having to spend mere seconds on an app’s action without having to click or scroll through different pages that normally overload traditional apps.
Even though it may seem that this fragmentation of an app is counter-intuitive, this simplified strategy means that there can be less steps for the consumer when making a purchase, gathering information or communicating via the platform. In the end, the effectiveness of an app and the overall user experience will determine not just customer satisfaction, but also the chances of the platform becoming a central tool in a smartphone’s standard toolkit.
About the Author: Ian Naylor, is the CEO and Founder of UK-based AppInstitute, a Software as a Service (SaaS) solution that enables small and medium sized businesses (SMBs) to create and manage affordable Smartphone Apps (iOS and Android), with no tech or coding skills. The company already has partners and end-client businesses in over 10 countries across 4 continents. Follow him on Twitter.