Small Business Ideas: The Value of Mobile Applications

by Elisabeth Suzio on October 20, 2011

Did you know that smartphone users spend an average of 81 minutes a day on mobile applications?  According to EngagingCities, an organization that tracks the impact of interactive technologies on cities, mobile applications are continuing to gain popularity.

What does the widespread use of mobile applications mean for small business owners?  The popularity and convenience of mobile applications can improve the availability of information about your business, build brand loyalty, and increase sales.

What Are Mobile Apps?

Mobile applications (or “apps”) are downloadable operating systems that connect users to internet services via portable devices such as Android, iPhone, and Blackberry smartphones as well as tablets and e-readers.  After an application is downloaded onto a portable device, an icon for the app appears on the phone. Apps make important information from your website more easily accessible for portable devices.

How Do Mobile Apps Help Customers?

It’s a familiar picture: people rushing down a busy street while clutching smartphones.  With your app, they don’t need to open their phone browsers, type in your web address, and navigate your entire website as they bump into pedestrians on the sidewalk.

  • They can simply click the app icon and immediately access two or three key pieces of information.
  • People don’t always have their computers with them, but they do carry their phones constantly. A 2011 Nielsen Company report projects smartphones will comprise half of the mobile phone market by the year’s end.
  • If a business puts its app’s QR code on a sign or on the side of its building, people can scan the code on their smartphones and download the app immediately.

International Media Lab maintains that mobile apps are a resource customers can use to save time while traveling, standing in line at the grocery store, or debating friends on which restaurant to choose.

How Will Your Business Benefit?

  • By investing in a mobile app, you can attract smartphone users by providing them with a quick and convenient way to access your business’s information and products (which increases your sales through ease of access).
  • Mobile apps can easily be customized for the needs of your small business and can be revised with little effort to keep information up-to-date.
  • You can use mobile apps to push  unique content to your customers – events, news, promotions, offers, etc.
  • A mobile app offers your business more publicity through word of mouth.
  • A mobile app can offer more specified functionality and features than a mobile website does. For instance, if your website lists sale items, your mobile app could send users notifications when a specific deal is available.
  • Note: mobile apps must be user-friendly and provide unique content.

I recently used a friend’s mobile app for a restaurant to view its menu.  I didn’t need to type the web address or zoom in to click “food,” then “menu,” and then “appetizers.”  I just tapped the icon and hit “appetizers,” one of a few large buttons.  It’s surprising how many people will avoid an establishment if its website or app doesn’t offer ease of use to its users.

Are Mobile Apps Right For Your Business?

Mobile apps can be costly.  Since they only work on particular operating systems, you will need to develop separate apps to be compatible for Android, iPhone, and Blackberry devices.  Mobile apps also tend to target only a particular demographic so you will want to consider your customers and be sure you are not offering the same information on your mobile app as on your website.

According to Pew Research Internet & American Life Project, the majority of mobile app downloaders are “young adults, adults with higher education levels and incomes, and those living in urban and suburban areas.”  If this matches the demographic of your target customer base, you may want to consider creating a customized mobile app for your small business in order to offer convenient access to your customers.  If not, it may not be worth investing in mobile apps but you will want to consider other ways to increase your mobile presence.

Find out how to get started with 4 Steps for Going Mobile

Learn how to Build Mobile Apps For Your Small Business


Track Your Mobile Apps with Analytic Platforms

Keep an eye out for more posts coming soon with stories about small businesses who went mobile, information on QR codes, and tips for taking your own small business mobile.

Celina Durgin for contributed to this article.

Do you need to figure out what this will do to your bottom line? Do you need to cut costs in other areas so you can invest in taking your small business mobile? Let us show you how.

Do you have a question for Dawn, your small business coach? Don’t panic. She’s here to help!

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