Mobile device users are increasingly turning to apps to get things done on their devices. But small business owners are lagging behind when it comes to developing apps, a study by Clutch shows.
Clutch surveyed small business owners—mostly with 10 or fewer employees—and found that only 15 percent have a mobile app, while another 18 percent plan to build one this year or in 2016. However, 40 percent don’t expect to ever develop a mobile app, while 27 percent aren’t sure.
Apps are becoming more important. Last year was the first year in which mobile usage surpassed desktop computer usage, according to comScore. Some 60 percent of online time was spent on a mobile device, and of that time, 80 percent was spent using apps.
What are some reasons a small business might want a mobile app?
- Unlike a mobile-friendly website, an app is a streamlined tool that allows your customers to do something faster and more easily than they could on your mobile website. No wonder the top reason small business owners surveyed either built or plan on building an app is “to improve customer service.”
- Small business customers are doing more and more on their smartphones. By developing an app, you can engage with your customers any time, anywhere, directly on their devices.
- Mobile apps can create a new sales channel, especially if your target market is younger. Some 74 percent of Millennials in a separate study by Oracle report making purchases using mobile apps. But any busy customer (and isn’t that just about everyone?) will appreciate the convenience of being able to buy on the fly.
- Mobile apps can save your business time (and time is money). If a customer can use a mobile app to order a pizza from your restaurant, schedule an appointment at your salon or reserve a bike at your bicycle rental store, you and your employees don’t have to spend time answering the phones and taking time away from other work.
- Mobile apps serve as branding and loyalty tools. You can reward customers for purchases, send them personalized marketing messages. Plus, don’t forget that your mobile app on their phones is a constant reminder of your business, keeping your company top-of-mind.
Developing a mobile app doesn’t have to mean reinventing the wheel. In fact, it’s actually better if your app doesn’t reinvent the wheel, Clutch says. The Oracle survey reports Millennials have especially high standards for apps. To attract them, your app must load quickly, be appealing to look at and offer the same functionality they could enjoy on a desktop computer. Using standard templates and formats for an app help ensure that your app works smoothly and is easy for customers to learn to use. That way you can focus on using the app as a marketing and sales tool, vs. dealing with technical concerns or customer complaints about usability.
Not ready to create an app just yet? Try incorporating existing apps into your mobile marketing to help deliver a better user experience.
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Karen Axelton is Chief Content Officer of GrowBiz Media, a media company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. Visit her company’s blog at SmallBizDaily.com.