"Going mobile" is no longer an option for small business, it's a necessity.
Cell phones and tablets are used by more than eighty percent (80%) of the public now, so all online marketing must include being "mobile-ready" or "mobile-accessible" for the marketplace. We have discussed, in this blog, the importance of being accessible from all hand-held devices.
However, as you plan your social media marketing strategy for 2015, the million-dollar question is this: Does your small business need an app?
An "application" or "app" as it's commonly called, are independent programs which can be downloaded from a mobile device and opened from a browser. Apps appear as brands or logos on the home page of your device. Usually, apps can be accessed through a marketplace like the Apple AppStore. Many are free and quickly loaded for immediate use by the cell phone owner. (Free apps are recommended for most small businesses as most consumers balk at paying for apps unless they are games or certain products.)
A typical Mobile Device Business App has the following traits:
Easy Purchasing: Your customers can purchase directly from your app. Cell phone users like to buy directly from their devices as they wait in line, sit at the metro station or eat during lunch break. Apps provide an easy purchase point to buy a coat, set a hair appointment or make a reservation at a restaurant.
Loyalty Programs: Customers can join your business loyalty or VIP programs and use the app as a way to check in and run the bar code for each purchase. It makes it easier to spend money at your business and rack up the points for free or reduced products. "Push notifications" are sent to customers (along with an email) to alert them to special or "one day only" sales. It's a proven way to increase sales and website traffic, too. Many large businesses from department stores to doughnut shops use loyalty programs to keep the market share dollars in their store.
Social Media Sharing: Mobile viewers can easily share your content, ads and postings easily from a mobile device. A quick sale or product debut can be shared by thousands of fans in a matter of minutes on their social media channels. Your fans become "mobile ambassadors" for your products all because your app let them know immediately from your app.
One-click Calling: Smartphone users can tap your app and call your business. It makes it easy for customers to order a menu item, reserve a seat or hold an item so they can then visit your business and pick it up.
Click-to-Map: Imagine customers being able to quickly map out your business, get the directions to it and then travel there without having to manually enter your address in their devices? You don't have to imagine with an app as this feature lets mobile device users get instant direction using their GPS by just tapping the app! It makes the decision to purchase your product easier for your client and reduces the time of decision to purchase.
Apps give your small business a larger presence on cell phones thus greatly expanding your reach and audience. While you do want traffic to your website, apps are a more convenient venue for purchasing your products. They also are an integral part of your social media marketing efforts. Big Business figured it out about five years ago when the Smartphone grew in popularity and its competitors came along. Marketing through applications became an integral and valued way to sell products and increase profits.
Developing an app for your small business can cost several thousand dollars up front for custom applications, but there are also a great number of ‘do it yourself’ app providers that make basic app functions accessible to the masses. For example, biznessapps.com is an entry level, low cost app platform. Costs depend on the features and the developer. Check around with friends in your networking group or business association to see if they have any recommendations.
Apps will soon be a regular part of the small business landscape and 2015 may be the year your company debuts its own as part of a successful social media marketing strategy.