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Smartphones are part and parcel of daily life for many people across the globe. The number of users has already reached three billion, and this figure is only expected to rise over the next few years. China, India, and the United States are the countries with the highest number of smartphone users, with these countries alone accounting for almost 1.5 billion users.

Many of these people will have downloaded and used at least one cell phone app. Apps have become increasingly popular in recent years, providing not only entertainment but a source of convenience. From video games to banking, booking a cab to shopping and everything in between, cell phone app has become a lucrative industry should you have the right idea. 

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Here are some interesting statistics to show you just how popular cell phone apps have become:

With figures and statistics such as this, you can see how a cell phone app can offer small businesses valuable marketing opportunities. Of course, you need to make sure that they provide something of value to your customers, but they can do wonders for your business if done properly. 

But why? Surely the world of apps for cell phones is oversaturated, right? And – you have that mobile-friendly, perfectly optimized website that marketing and business experts are always banging on about, yes? Why do you need an app as well?

Small businesses, particularly those working with a limited budget, are often unsure whether they need an app for their business. They can see the apparent value of one, but because they have the optimized mobile website, they question whether it is just one more thing that they need to fork out for. 

The answer is that a website and an app serve very different purposes, and for that reason, they are both needed. A mobile site is integral to your brand’s presence on the internet, and search engine optimization (SEO) makes it more visible to more people. On the other hand, a cell phone app is a key to customer retention, encouraging customer loyalty and driving sales. 

Cell phones are omnipresent

As we established at the beginning of this article, cell phones are more common than not now, and that means they come everywhere. You would be hard-pressed to find anyone in a developed country over the age of 16 without a cell phone to hand. You absolutely need to tap into this market.

We are using them to read books, watch movies, listen to music, catch up with friends, interact in work meetings, talk to family on the other side of the world, order shopping, buy clothes, navigate our way around town and check emails. People even run whole businesses from their cell phones. Many people prefer to use their cell phone over accessing the internet from a desktop or a laptop computer – many people do not even bother with a computer unless they need it for work or school purposes. 

The way brands can market to consumers through branded apps that 

link companies to their customers 24/7 have already been revolutionized by smartphones. 

Brands are now successfully using apps to communicate with their customers, and they offer a much more direct way of marketing than ever before. Whether it is a push notification that gives you personalized offers when you are in a particular location to offers in the app giving you a discount if items have been sitting in your cart unpurchased for days – apps can give your customers the push to complete a sale.   0

Foursquare and Yelp are only two examples of brands that really harness the power of push notifications in their apps. They both offer the option of turning on notifications that give you a heads up if your friends check into a location near to you if there is an event that is going on near to you and send you vouchers for stores close to where you are. 

The reason that push notifications are so successful for marketing and communicating with customers is that, on average, they have a 97 percent open rate. This means that whatever message you want to push is seen immediately. When you compare that to email, which has an open rate of just 4 percent, it becomes easy to see why push notifications are among the best channels for marketing and communication, particularly when it needs to be seen there and then.

It increases the visibility of your business

Apps also increase the visibility of your business. When someone is using their phone, they may only use one or two particular apps. However, to get to those apps, they need to unlock their mobile device, scroll through their menu, and find the app. Their brain will, without realizing, take note of every image that they scroll past. Even if they do not open your app, they will subconsciously record it, and when they need it, they will remember your app. This is why it is essential to have a top-quality graphic for your app.

It is a direct marketing and sales channel

A cell phone app can, if designed properly, become a one-stop-shop for your customers. Gone are the days where you need salespeople to entice your customers, print brochures and catalogs off, and fill in paperwork to finalize a sale. A cell phone app can do all of this for you and more. You can include all the information, have booking forms, a messaging option, chat forums, a newsfeed, promotional offers, maps, and much more.

So, we have covered why your small business should have a cell phone app, and you have decided that you want to move your business into 2020 and get one sorted.

But how? How on earth do you create an all-singing, all-dancing app that people want to download and use? 

Creating your own app

Set goals

Like any major project that you undertake, you need to have some clearly defined goals. What is it that you are hoping to achieve, or what problems are you hoping to solve? The answers to these will establish the developmental process. If they are not defined clearly in the beginning, it can be very easy to lose focus.

Carry out research

Make sure that there is a need for your app. Yes – as we have established, apps are becoming an almost necessity, but you need to know what your target audience wants from your app. Create surveys, carry out interviews, and run focus groups.

Develop a wireframe

It sounds complex, but a wireframe is easy. Essentially, it is the rough layout of your app. Do it on a piece of paper, a whiteboard, or a specialist piece of software. You simply need to draw out the core components of your app. It isn’t the stage of looking at the aesthetics, but more how your app is structured, e.g., If they click on X, what happens on the screen?

Develop your app

Well, there are two options available to you: build it yourself or pay someone else to build it for you. Both options have pros and cons, so you need to weigh them up carefully to see which will be more beneficial for your business.

Gather Feedback

Once you have your app ready to launch, whether you have learned to code and created your own or you have outsourced the task to a professional software developer, it is time to gather some feedback from real users. Of course, you can ask friends and colleagues what they think, but you can also carry out user testing with Indigo design from Infragistics. This will give you an insight as to what people think about the app. Sometimes, it can be not easy, especially if the feedback is not what you wanted to hear, but it is an important step. It is not what you think about the app at the end of the day, but what your customers and users think of it. 

Improve and develop 

There is no such thing as the perfect app. All apps are updated regularly, fixing bugs in the system, and releasing updates and new features. Much of this should be based on the user feedback, so do not forget to regularly check the app stores to see what people are saying about your app. Every time you make a change to the app, you need to follow the same steps as above – setting out goals, researching it, and gathering feedback before making it public.

Apps are rapidly becoming one of the most important tools in the marketing toolbox for small businesses. Don’t risk falling behind by not having one; get one set up now!

By Erica Buteau

Change Agent. Daydream Believer. Maker. Creative. Likes love, peace and Jeeping. Dislikes winter, paper cuts and war. She/Her/Hers.

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