Does your business have a mobile app? If not, it may be falling behind.
Having a mobile app for your business not only gives customers "anytime, anywhere" access to your products and services, but it also opens doors to staying on your customers' radar and maintaining lasting relationships with them.
Today, however, the question isn't whether or not businesses should build a mobile app; it's how they can use it to get the most out of their investment.
"By the end of this year, there will be more mobile devices on Earth than people — small businesses that don't get on the mobile bandwagon will find themselves left in the digital dust," said Li-at Karpel Gurwicz, marketing director at Conduit Mobile, a do-it-yourself (DIY) mobile app building platform.
This is because businesses that recognize the potential of mobile apps have an advantage over those that do not embrace the disruption.
"While catching up with mobile technology can be a challenge, it also presents a great opportunity for businesses to build a community, connect with customers on the go, and compete with larger chains and companies," Gurwicz said.
Gurwicz offered businesses the following advice regarding best practices for building and managing their own mobile app:
1. Take advantage of the many tools available to help small businesses create mobile apps.
Luckily, "going mobile" has become easier and more affordable for small businesses than ever before, thanks to the number of tools now available, including DIY app creation platforms.
Small businesses no longer have to turn to costly developers or digital agencies to create an app. Now they can walk through simple steps on their own and create a fully functioning custom app from a computer, tablet or even directly from a mobile phone.
DIY tools like Conduit Mobile also connect and sync with Facebook, Twitter and other social channels so a small business doesn't have to maintain multiple accounts to keep the app content fresh. And because small businesses own the entire creation process — rather than outsourcing it — they can more easily maintain and update their apps with special deals and coupons, loyalty programs, and news updates. This way, they stay front and center in their customers' phones and minds.
2. Avoid this common mistake.
Many companies mistakenly focus all of their efforts on attracting new users, and don't concern themselves with actually keeping them. This mistake is especially easy to make during the holidays. With so many downloaded apps competing for your users' attention, don't forget to plan what comes after install.
To avoid app fatigue, keep your customers coming back for more by incorporating creative design elements, offering the right features for your community and keeping these features constantly updated with new content, new offers or other information. Customers shouldn't find old deals and stale news in your app — it should be a refreshed experience every time.
3. An app is not just a mobile version of your website.
SMBs need to think of their app not as a low-functioning extension of their website, but as an active and dynamic marketing experience that builds community and allows customers immediate access to your business from anywhere. For example, during the holiday shopping rush, retailers can offer a seamless shopping experience by allowing customers to order "in-app" and then pick up their purchases at the store. Restaurants can update specials, offer reservations or showcase new menu items for potential diners. App notifications and geotargeted messaging can also give customers updates on special offers, bringing big business pizazz to the small business experience. These types of experiences keep users connected to a business, even as they go about other places, doing other things.
An app should continually provide extra value to users. It can also humanize your business through real-time updates and constant connectivity. As long as small businesses keep this in mind, customers will give their time, their attention and their lasting loyalty.
4. Monetize mobile initiatives through mobile forms, mobile couponing and loyalty cards.
With features such as mobile forms, coupons and loyalty cards, small businesses can make the old tricks new again by bringing them into the mobile era, offering more convenience for their customers. Mobile coupons provide discounts or special offers to promote products and services, attract customers, and boost sales. Mobile loyalty cards eliminate the need for those punch cards in your wallet, instead housing these frequent customer incentives directly in-app. Mobile forms make it easy for businesses to incorporate immediate feedback from users, and enables publishers to enhance their customer service, get detailed reports, and allow users to schedule appointments or make reservations.
5. Ask for feedback.
Always remember: Though mobile may be a new medium, the art of running a good business remains the same. Small businesses' greatest asset is their unique connection with their customers and community. Don't lose sight of your audience. If you wouldn't use the features on your app, chances are that your customers won't either. Ask your users for feedback to make sure that the app is fully adapted to their needs. You can even build a feedback feature directly into your app with a form or a survey system — both are powerful tools that provide direct insight into your customers' needs and wants, and allow you to tailor your app to fit them.
The most effective apps encourage a real community and lasting customer loyalty. Small businesses can benefit from the holidays to grow their app following and build a strong user base that will last throughout the year.
Originally published on BusinessNewsDaily.