They have a lot to offer, especially for growing businesses. With thousands of free and low-cost off-the-shelf offerings and DIY platforms for building your own, now is the right time to develop a mobile-app strategy that meets your business needs.
This is the first article in a seven-part series outlining best-practices and advice for leveraging mobile apps for your business.
As mobile apps become increasingly important to all companies, it’s time to plan how they can help your company better connect with customers.
Most modern businesses would barely be able to function without computers. But a computer is nothing more than a conglomeration of circuit boards, diodes, and other electronic parts. Software programs make the hardware useful, especially programs that meet specific business needs such as accounting, marketing, and supply chain management. Similarly, a smartphone or tablet without the right apps to help you meet your business objectives is about as useful as a computer loaded with nothing but games. Apps are basically scaled-down software programs for the tiny computers most business owners now carry in their pockets or bags. And whether you buy them off-the-shelf, build them yourself, or hire someone else to do it for you, apps are essential to maximizing the benefits mobile technology has to offer.
As with most tech-related business decisions these days, Internet access, bandwidth, scalability, and flexibility are important considerations you should factor into any mobile-app strategy, regardless of whether the app is bought, built, or contracted out. Joel Warburton, senior manager, data product management at Comcast Business, stresses that this should be done very early in the process. “Bandwidth is going to be a critical consideration throughout this process. If it’s a customer-facing app used for remote ordering, loyalty programs, marketing plans, and the like, it’s probably going to require a lot of bandwidth,” he says. “If you are building the app yourself or having a contractor do it, there are additional bandwidth issues involved. During the development and testing stages, for example, you’ll likely be sending very large files back and forth to your developer, or internally if you’re building it in house. Everyone is looking for the next killer app, but you have to keep in mind that the more popular an app is, the more bandwidth it’s going to need. So bandwidth size, reliability, flexibility, and scalability are important considerations.”
SMARTPHONE USAGE ON THE RISE
Ownership and usage of smartphones and other mobile devices have exploded among both consumers and the businesses pursuing them. Richard Rabins, CEO of Alpha Software Corporation, cites research showing that the number of companies using smartphones for business purposes has more than doubled during the past five years, and three-quarters of business owners say mobile technology is important to their future success. “The question is no longer whether your business should jump on the bandwagon, but rather how,” Rabins declares.
Rabins’s enthusiasm is echoed in many quarters, including mobile app proponents, who cite the technology’s potential to help businesses strengthen their relationships with customers, suppliers, and other strategic partners. Mobile apps can magnify your ability to connect with customers, making it possible to deliver product and service information, customer service help, marketing offers, and more to targeted customers and prospects in a timely fashion. “An app on your customer’s—or potential customer’s—home screen is the most important real estate any business can hope to occupy,” says David Eads, founder and CEO of Mobile Strategy Partners LLC.
The right mobile app can transform how companies work and how they interact with their customers, says Alex Bratton, CEO and chief geek at Lextech Global Services. Mobile apps can make processes more efficient, reduce paperwork, and drive collaboration. They can increase revenue and profitability, enhance communication, and decrease employee turnover. “The key is to first determine your pain points and evaluate if mobile can help overcome those challenges,” he suggests.
Part 2: What Mobile Apps Can Do For Your Business - Opportunity Areas for Growing Businesses