Lots of companies have created apps for their businesses – either to sell (in the hope of making money), as an extension of an existing service (like TripIt) or as a way value added service for their existing customers (like Starbucks App).
What about your business? Is it time?
Scott Hirsch co-founder Apps Bar , an online resource where any small business can build and publish a professional-level smartphone app shares his insight on app creation for growing businesses.
With the continued proliferation of smartphones and the on-going growth of app stores, there has never been so much opportunity – and confusion – for small business owners.
With more than a million apps downloaded every month at Apple’s iTunes alone it may seem impossible for a single small business owner to grab any attention.
Since www.appsbar.com was introduced in April as an online resource for building and publishing apps, I’ve spoken to countless small business owners who have no idea how to get involved and get noticed.
The public’s appetite for downloading apps just keeps growing. Smartphones and tablets have become the way we shop, connect with friends, and, of course how businesses find and engage customers. The first advice I give any small business owner is to embrace the idea that apps have matured from simple games and funny noise makers to robust marketing tools.
Many small businesses still look at apps the way they first thought about building a website, then a blog, and then of course micro-blogging on social networking platforms. What we impart is that every digital platform should be viewed as a new way to engage customers. App stores until recently were too expensive for small businesses to even consider – with the cost to hire an app developer hovering around $10,000.
But as with earlier online platforms new tools have come along that break down the cost barriers and even the playing field. Suddenly, a business has the means to compete for attention in an app store. But there’s more to know.
The first mistake many businesses make is thinking that charging for an app will boost their bottom line. Your apps should be free. You wouldn’t charge someone to visit your website, would you? Small businesses should approach app development the same, as a doorway to attracting and engaging customers.
But that doesn’t mean an app can’t help drive sales. A robust app should build in online catalogs as well as order forms, digital coupons, and calendars of events to drive customer orders or invite them to a brick and mortar building.
One of the biggest app stumbling blocks is how to make an app a two-way marketing vehicle. It’s true: just because you build it, doesn’t mean the people will come. Posting an app as marketing placeholder is an obvious step in the right direction, but by leveraging the right collection of tools, an app can provide customer touch points – including market research, customer service, and customer relationship management too.
Each appsbar app averages 500 -1,000 downloads within the first day they’re published. But they don’t magically find an audience. Just like your website, a business needs to make an effort to let their customers know the app is available. Any app needs to be interesting and provide a function, like an exclusive discount or coupon to loyal customers, or a Q&A with the business leader. The single most effective way any small business can use their app is to let the world know it’s available, whether that’s a sign in their store, in their signature on every email sent – and of course across all available social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter.
There have never been more tools and resources available for small businesses to join the app phenomenon, but with a projected 98 billion apps downloaded by 2015, there are ways to make sure yours stands out.