If you’re wondering how to develop an app for your business, you’ll want to decide if having an app is the right move in the first place. Let’s review a couple of important considerations and ideas to consider before you head out on the path to creating an app for your business. First, take a look at the business itself.
We recently started to map out a proposal for a new project. This particular project meant working around an existing relationship with a staff developer who maintains a version of the app for another platform. As we moved through the process of crafting a proposal to meet their needs, a number of questions came up, including the question about security.
It's been nearly two years since I first posted my blog "3 Questions Clingy Customers Want Answered", but it still holds true. You might be wondering why I didn't just recycle the blog. If you weren't, well ... I'll tell you anyway - it wouldn't help with my goal to get new content every week this year. I also wouldn't be able to tell you about a recent interaction I had related to answering those questions.
It's no surprise that technology is on everyone's mind, particularly small businesses who face a unique challenge. In order to stay relevant, they need to update their technology, but often that means bootstrapping a solution better suited to large enterprises or costly custom development. Neither is appealing to small businesses who often have small technology budgets. The solution lies in MVP.
When you embark on the journey of creating something, it's important to remember your audience. Whether it's coming up with a great blog or presentation, a re-designed or completely new Web site, or a brand new product or service, it's important to keep in mind that, without an audience, you're really just talking to yourself.
It's becoming just as important to be able to connect with your customers directly through their mobile devices as it is to have a company Web site. That's great, but it's not for everyone and building a mobile app isn't as simple as converting your existing Web site or application into a mobile app. Planning, methods for the app to obtain and share data, and the mobile app itself all need to be created.
In my networking circles, many business owners tell me they want an app. When I ask what they want the app to do they are, more often than not, uncertain. Mobile apps are the hot new commodity, but are a considerable investment and just having one isn't enough. If you don't yet have a mobile Web site, developing an app is certainly getting ahead of yourself. Before jumping in with both feet, you can save a lot time (and money) by doing some up-front planning and strategy to deliver an experience your customers will love and use.
Earlier this month, I was privileged to speak at the Tempe Chamber of Commerce's Hot Topics luncheon on the topic of mobile marketing. As the technology landscape shifts, the methods of marketing continue to evolve and businesses need to adapt or be left behind. The prevalence of mobile devices opens many avenues to engage customers with a more valuable, relevant experience.
WHAT IS MOBILE MARKETING?
When most people think of mobile marketing they picture a mobile app or Web site. In reality, mobile marketing is so many things, but, at it's core, mobile marketing is reaching out to customers with relevant, timely marketing that reaches their mobile device. Businesses can now interact with their customers using Push Notifications, mobile apps, responsive Web sites, mobile search ads, text message marketing, and location-based advertising. Each of these methods has unique advantages and drawbacks depending on demographic, available budget, and the nature of the business. But why is mobile marketing so important?
WHY MOBILE MARKETING?
If you've ever sat in a shopping district food court, sipping a latté and people-watching, you've probably noticed the amount of time individuals spend looking at their smart phone or tablet. According to recent studies, the average person checks their smart phone every six minutes, 150 times per day. Approximately 40% of a person's time is spent on a mobile device and of that time, and 80% of that time is spent in some type of app.
Mobile devices are becoming the go-to choice to look up information and search traffic originating from mobile devices has increased 200% year over year. In early 2014, statistics show that 1 in 3 Google searches originated on a mobile device and the 2013 holiday shopping season showed us that people use smart phones to look up business information and directions on the go and tablets to purchase. Because email and business information are both commonly accessed on a mobile device, being able to provide a fluid, intuitive experience to potential customers, regardless of how they choose to access your information, is key.
Perhaps the most compelling reasons to be mobile-ready are simply to appeal to customers and what they want. Over half (57%) won't recommend a business with a poorly-designed mobile site and 70% of mobile searches lead to action within one hour. This means that when a potential customer is looking us up on their smart phone, they are looking so that they can purchase, and purchase soon.
WHAT ARE MY OPTIONS?
As with so many things technology-related, there are serveral options of varying complexity and effectiveness. But it comes down to three that can have the greatest impact on the bottom line: mobile search ads, app-based marketing, and location-based marketing.
Mobile search ads aren't really anything new, but there are some features that are. Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and others all offer ways to bid on keywords to display your business in highly visible positions on a page. These ads, while highly visible, are also highly coveted and many of the common keywords are priced at prohibitively expensive bids, especially for common businesses where you go up against large companies with marketing budgets bigger than the entire income numbers of many small businesses. One of the recent features added to Google's AdWords layouts is the addition of a "Call" button for mobile ads displayed on a smart phone. These can be highly effective since they give the potential customer a way to instantly contact a business that is relevant.
Mobile search ads can be expensive, but when carefully crafted can increase conversion from potential customer to customer. Because they are highly relevant and timely, these can be very effective, but require a minimum spend of $100 to $500 per month depending on the keywords, industry, and many other factors.
App-based marketing really consists of several different variations on the same type of advertising. Through different advertising providers, such as Google's AdMob, Facebook ads, and mMedia, you can provide targeted advertising to users in their favorite apps. These ads can include images, text, or video. Video ads will gain the highest conversion, but text or image banners will be served to the greatest number of apps and devices.
Lastly, Location-based marketing is a recent addition to the mobile marketplace. If you've ever had someone throw the term "geofencing" or "beacons" at you when giving you a marketing pitch, they're likely talking about location-based marketing. This kind of marketing is all about localization, personalization, and location history. It relies on access to the GPS location information provided by modern smart phones. When someone installs an app or visits a Web site that uses location-based marketing, they are asked if they would like to give that Web site or mobile app access to their GPS location data. In the case of mobile apps, these permissions are passed through to referenced advertising providers. GPS information can be "fine" or "coarse". Coarse GPS location provides a position that is accurate to approximately 100 to 500 meters. Fine GPS location means the position is accurate to 100 meters or less.
For the purposes of geofencing, where software detects mobile device entry to an area from the size of a city block to an entire city, the accuracy of the information is important because the variance could put someone outside the zone for timely information and easy travel or access to the source of the advertisement. In general, this practice is perfect for brick-and-mortar shops. By advertising with a platform that implements geofencing, you can block out an area immediately surrounding your location and advertisements (in the form of push notifications) will only be sent to devices that indicate their location is inside the "fence". For businesses such as restaurants, sending advertisements just before lunch time to devices currently inside the fence or as they arrive within it can provide a boost in sales. Over time, more targeted advertisements can be created based on the history of a device's locations.
Another type of location-based marketing is even more localized, targeting customers who are already shopping inside a store. Through the use of beacons, which use bluetooth (the same technology that allows you to talk on your smart phone using a wireless headset), push notifications can be sent to devices which have a compatible app alerting customers in the store to sales and specials in their immediate vicinity (bluetooth is typically limited to a range of 50 meters).
Both types of location-based marketing are paired with advertising platforms, notably Foursquare and Swarm. With paid advertising (and, in the case of beacons, specialized hardware strategically placed in a retail location), a personalized, easily accessible product or service can be provided to customers in a position to to act on it immediately.
These are just a few of the options available for mobile marketing. There are others, but they have been on the decline or have a limited appeal. These include QR Codes (those strangely abstract squares begging to be scanned for the information they contain) and SMS (or text message) marketing. These can be effective for certain demographics so it is important to know your customer base and understand their communication preferences.
MOBILE MARKETING TIPS
When it comes to mobile marketing, there are a lot of ways you can engage your customers and provide them with a relevant, timely experience. In order to provide the best experience, it's important to consider the medium. Mobile devices, while very powerful, have limited space to display an advertisement and still be readable. Cramming too much on the screen leads to overload and confusion. It's important to stay clear and concise in mobile advertising. Twitter is a great benchmark for messages. If it can't be said in less than 180 characters, you should probably rethink your message or medium. A short, 20-second video can be a great way to get a complex point across and circumvent the space limitation.
Location-based marketing takes this to the extreme, but it's important to optimize your advertising for the viewer's location. Sending them a push notification for coffee at 2 AM while their phone sits on the nightstand next to them might not be the best use of advertising (not to mention that it could wake them up if they haven't silenced their phone - and nobody likes to have their sleep disturbed). If you're using geofencing, keep the monitored area to within a few blocks of your retail location. If you can get location information, do everything you can to make sure that what you show the viewer is nearby, easy to get to, and available when they arrive.
You should also consider your audience. What works for one demographic won't for others. What devices are they using? What apps do they favor? Are they fans of the "check-in" or would they rather have you send something to their email? All of these questions can affect how you advertise and the medium you use.
Finally, experiment and measure. In order to answer the questions we mentioned above, you need data. Sometimes customers will happily tell you the information, other times you have to try something to see what happens. Try variations on text in different locations and check the response. Measure ("benchmark") your results to see what advertising is working and bringing you business and what's not helping. Mobile marketing is an on-going process and needs to be revisited every few months ( at a minimum - almost daily when you're first getting started) and adjusted based on the results.
Mobile marketing is a complex topic, so it's important to meet with someone who knows the ins and outs and can help you focus your efforts. Keep these tips in mind and get to know your customers.