It’s fairly common to hear that a business without a strong Internet presence is doomed to fail. Depending on the nature of the business, that might mean having its own website, its own Facebook page, a broad social media presence, or even a simple blog. But now, the expectations for a business’s Internet presence have extended to include mobile apps and capabilities. And at this point it’s beginning to become clear: a small business that’s not taking advantage of mobile opportunities is without a doubt falling behind, just as one without a website a few years ago would have been doing.
Most importantly, establishing a mobile presence means designing an app (or having one designed by a professional, or even a student with the necessary background and experience). In a very basic sense, a mobile app ought to function as an easy alternative to your ordinary website for potential customers who prefer accessing content through apps than through their browsers. However, apps have become too important a marketing tool for small businesses to go without. Through an app you can automatically advertise your business and any new services or products you may be selling; you can gather important feedback data from customers willing to do surveys or provide ratings; and you can even send alerts in the event of a sale, special promotion, new store opening, etc. An app can become a small business’s direct line to customers in a way that even a very strong website can’t quite match.
For some businesses, a mobile app can also be extraordinarily useful as a tool for customers in an actual store or shop. A lot of modern small businesses with retail locations are beginning to make use of mobile card machines to serve customers with contactless technology and take payments anywhere within a store. This means that a customer who wishes to pay through a digital method can simply scan a screen over your business’s mobile payment readers to conduct a transaction. And with practices like these already in place, customers may also be more inclined to use mobile apps in person to earn rewards, use coupons, etc. This is all about creating a more convenient and beneficial atmosphere for the customer. And if mobile devices are already being used for payments, you may as well provide additional perks for customers to enjoy through the app.
On a somewhat-similar note, a customer with your business’s mobile app loaded onto his or her phone can become accessible to beacon technology once in one of your retail locations. Beacons are basically small tech tools that can be placed in businesses in order to recognize mobile phones on the premises and deliver information to your customers through the app. In other words, if a customer walks into your location and he or she has the app already loaded, you can automatically send information about any store sales that may be going on, any reward points that might be earned by visiting the store, etc. It’s essentially the same benefit you get from accessing customers through the app remotely, but it specifically works when the customer is actually in a position to give you business.
Finally, there’s also an aspect of this conversation that relates solely to perception and image. This gets back to the idea of how incomplete a business now seems without a website. In the eyes of many consumers, the lack of a web platform can make an entire business seem somewhat illegitimate, or at least unreliable—no matter how smoothly the business itself runs. These same feelings are slowly but surely starting to apply to businesses without mobile apps. At this point, many consumers still won’t think twice about it, but there are also many who will look for a business’s app, if interested, and think less of the business if they don’t find one. For this reason, even a very simple app can work wonders for your business, as it checks a box that’s increasingly important in how people judge companies.
These are all benefits that can pay off in major ways for small businesses. And if you happen to be a small business owner, don’t let the prospect of having to actually design the app scare you off! It’s not easy, but it’s certainly less complicated than it used to be, and it’s absolutely worth the hassle.