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Improved Customer Experience Tops Reasons Small Businesses Opt for Mobile Apps

mobile apps for small business

Mobile apps are a unique marketing channel that allow businesses to engage with their most loyal customers.  At AppsBuilder we make it easy for small businesses to create and manage their own app, but are they taking advantage? Clutch, a leading research firm in the mobile app development space, surveyed 350+ small business owners to find out.

I was pleased to provide my thoughts on Clutch’s small business survey results in a recent interview – which you can read in full here.

Here is a summary of the interview along with key findings from the report:

Q: Do you have any reactions to the distribution of small businesses that have a mobile app or plan to have one in 2015 or later? Does the graph show a promising trend, or do you feel small businesses are still far behind on mobile?

 

Clutch mobile app survey 1

Generally, yes, SME’s still do have a ways to go when it comes to reaping the benefits of a mobile app.

2014 was proclaimed “The Year of Mobile” and, for the first time, saw mobile usage surpass desktop usage, making up 60% of time spent accessing digital media (Comscore 2014). And, of that, 80% of mobile time is spent in an app – not surfing the mobile web, as many would think (Flurry, 2014).  Consumers are using mobile apps to research locations to shop, eat, play and relax – and it’s up to businesses to be where their audience is. Most businesses understand that a mobile-friendly, or responsive, site is imperative to their business, but many still lag behind adopting a mobile app strategy.

Mobile apps give businesses the opportunity to get closer to their customers, to understand user preferences thanks to geolocation capabilities, create relevant “mobile-moments” thanks to personalisation and increase loyalty via fidelity programs. Where the mobile web can help you raise awareness and increase traffic, mobile apps can help you foster the customer relationship and increase retention – and it’s this mind-shift that many small businesses have yet to make.

We’ve talked to many SMEs and the feedback we’ve gotten is that there is still hesitation about mobile apps, primarily because many businesses don’t realize that a native app isn’t another mobile version of their site, but a stream-line, experience-driven environment. Aside from misunderstanding the benefits of an app, there are also fears over the lack of technical knowledge or budget to support such a project. However, these fears no long hold true as DIY tools, like AppsBuilder, are available to help any business build their own iOS or Android app on a budget anyone can afford.

Last year we hosted SME Mobile Strategies, a dedicated event for SMEs that gathered the best of the best in the mobile industry to talk about going mobile, from developing a mobile presence to infusing mobile into your content, social and SEO, to getting started with app marketing basics.

 

Q. How would you characterize your small business customers that have a mobile app? Are they coming from any particular industries?

Our clients come from all types of sectors, from family-run bars to fitness instructors, to real estate brokers and event planners. However, one thing that remains a constant is an understanding of digital marketing. Many of our small business customers curated their web presence, adopted mobile-friendly design, and are now looking for new ways to stay on their customer’s smartphone.

In mobile, there’s pressure to be innovative, but for many businesses it can be counter-productive to focus on being cutting-edge. Instead, what they actually need to focus on is building a mobile app that is “tried, tested and true” and can be customized for their brand. That’s where standard templates and customizable features can really help a business. By eliminating technical or usability concerns, marketers can focus on their mobile business and being competitive in a mobile-first world.

With AppsBuilder, users can create apps with custom content or sync their existing web content (like RSS feeds, social media accounts, even eCommerce shopping cart) into screen layouts designed with UX best practices. Essentially, by eliminating the need for coding and long development schedules, we help marketers create great looking apps that can be published quickly, so they can get on with mobile marketing activities.

 

Q. Below are companies that already have a mobile app and their spending plans for 2015. What types of spending increases or app improvements are you seeing so far this year?

 

Clutch mobile app survey 2

Mobile app technology is one of the technologies most critical to creating a cohesive customer journey, and for many businesses holds as much importance as marketing analytics and their CRM tools. Spending on mobile, and mobile apps, is unlikely to decrease because mobile has really infused itself into business’ strategy. And as companies grow, a bigger chunk of the marketing budget will be destined to the mobile strategies.

In terms of trends, we’ve seen a lot of interest in better app marketing. Whether that means investing in sending push notifications, setting up beacon-enabled proximity campaigns, or better data tracking and analytics, we see that our customers are getting savvy with mobile marketing and want to get the most out of their investment. For this reason, we’ve started integrating with more robust third party app marketing providers, like Urban Airship and Parse to name a few.

 

Q. Do you have any reactions to the reasons why small businesses are building apps? Are you seeing this play out in your business?

 

Clutch mobile app survey 3

The chart speaks for itself: the main reason why SMEs build apps is to improve customer experience. This decision is driven primarily by two reasons: users evolve, becoming more demanding, savvy and time-poor, which means businesses need to adapt as well and learn to “be where their customers are”. Secondly, with mobile apps business can contact & engage audiences exactly in the moment they need it most, wherever they are, directly on their phone.

According to Salesforce’s annual State of Marketing report says 70% of respondents saying that they see mobile marketing as a critical enabler of their business. To give you an idea, loyalty programs, in-app coupons or offers, and cross-channel engagement activities that integrate mobile are not only effective – but marketers who have integrated mobile (68% in 2015 vs. 49% in 2014) report all other marketing technologies and marketing channels as more effective! For this reason, we’ve developed easy to add widgets for your mobile app that can plug into email or CRM tool, helping SMEs get a jump start on creating engaging in-app content and features.

 

Q. For comparison, we’ve also included this info on Responsive Web and companies that have a mobile-friendly presence. Any reactions, in light of the Google algorithm change that favors mobile-friendly websites?

 

Clutch mobile app survey 4

Clutch mobile app survey 5

Clearly, the release of Google’s new algorithm will put pressure on websites that aren’t mobile-friendly as they fight to avoid a significant dip in their search rankings. Building a responsive site is the best practice advocated by Google, but SMEs can also develop mobile HTML5 sites, using a platform like AppsBuilder.

Also, it will be interesting to see how Google will start using information from indexed apps as a factor in ranking for signed-in users who have the app installed. This means that if I have the app of the pizza place down the street, they could outrank other search results when I’m doing a search for some take-out. “Un-gating” content from indexed apps in search is great and it makes sense seeing that users are spending more time in apps than on the mobile web.

 

Q. What do you think of the distribution of companies interested in wearable apps? 75% say a wearable app is not likely for their business in the future.

 

Clutch mobile app survey 6

I think that this is pretty accurate feeling about wearables. Many of the biggest brands are still exploring how wearable tech can help their business and so it’s no surprise that 75% of businesses don’t yet see it in their future. However, innovation moves fast, and it might take a few leaders to set the pace for future developments in this field.  Thinking about it for a second, the same thing happened with apps, and look at where we are now! In the end, wearable device revenues are forecasted to reach over $53 billion in 2019 – so something’s ought to be happening here. (Juniper Research, 2014)

On a side note, there was an article from Intercom a few months ago that explained the shift away from viewing apps as destinations that people experience to the idea that apps sit in the background, pushing notifications to a central experience, dictated by the user. It’s about designing systems, objects and the relationships that exist between them, rather than simple ends to a quick journey. Wearables use apps – which are now fairly common among retailers, FMCGs, travel brands, etc. – and I think that this is the middle ground they are walking now. Eventually, the adoption wave will arrive to SMEs  just like what we’ve seen in web and mobile development (luckily once all the kinks get worked out!).

 

Q. What types of companies or what purposes are better for a standalone mobile app versus a responsive website?

On the surface they both share a similar purpose – to get mobile users to interact with a brand through their mobile phone, on the go. However, as mention above, when it comes to the goals a business needs to achieve, the mobile web and mobile apps act in very different ways. It’s up to a business to understand how to leverage different mobile solutions to reach different customer segments, at various stages in the sales funnel, to form a complete (and competitive!) mobile experience for consumers. Luckily, with mobile development more accessible than ever, the battle is no long one versus the other, but how to adopt the best solution to meet your goals.

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