Mobile Apps for Small Business: What You Need to Know

Small businesses of all sizes in a variety of industries are utilizing or developing mobile apps to help with things like marketing and ecommerce. As mobile-phone usage continues to dominate online activity with nearly three-quarters of North Americans checking their mobile phones at least once per hour and almost all — 90 percent — of that time spent on mobile apps, small business owners are eagerly embracing mobile app technology in their business practice. Not sure if mobile app technology makes sense for your business? Here are a few compelling benefits to consider.

1. Mobile customer loyalty programs

Customers love loyalty rewards like exclusive or early access to sales, points programs, and coupons. Having that information available on mobile increases engagement and uptake, making rewards programs more effective than traditional methods like printed coupons or punch cards. Dawn Crowder, owner of jewelry and gift boutique, Carolina Clover, explains: “We sought a smarter mobile solution for both the customer, who is always carrying her phone and loves a good coupon, and us the seller to gain insight to our loyal customers and communicate with them and reward them.”

“Our customers make a qualifying purchase in our store [and] gain a punch through the mobile app that counts toward a larger reward after 10 punches, [when] they receive pre-programmed coupons,” she continues. Through the app, customers also receive a birthday coupon and “we’ve missed you” coupons if they haven’t shopped at Carolina Clover in a while. “It is all automated with options we can turn on and off, which we love and is definitely a smarter solution to the old paper punch card.”

2. Mobile appointment scheduling and automated reminders

For service-based businesses such as fitness studios, spas, and salons, online scheduling is a must. A mobile app allows customers to sign up for classes or schedule appointments from a mobile device, which they can then automatically add to their calendar. Clients can also sign up for SMS confirmations and reminders.

3. Mobile geo-targeted marketing

If you’ve heard of geofencing and beacon technology, but wondered how it works and whether or not it’s something you should include in your marketing strategies, here’s a brief explanation of what it does and how it can help.

  • Geofencing is a location-based digital marketing tool that can be used to send messages to smartphone users by using a combination of GPS, cellular and WIFI data to establish a virtual fence around a predefined geographic area. When one of your app users enters or exits a geofenced area, a targeted push notification is sent directly to their device.

  • Beacons employ Bluetooth low-energy (BLE) wireless technology to pinpoint the location of customers in stores and other places and to deliver messages to their mobile devices. By emitting a BLE signal, the beacon connects with the retailer’s app on any smartphone that comes within range of the signal. Beacon messages can provide customers with targeted, personalized offers with the key advantage that they are already conveniently nearby.

“By using this approach, small businesses can decrease spend, narrow their focus and deliver targeted ads to consumers at the right time and place,” explains Roger Hurni, chief creative officer and managing partner of Off Madison Ave.

4. Mobile customer relationship management (CRM) and sales support

Using a mobile CRM app, team members have access to data and systems necessary to provide timely, effective client service anytime, anywhere.

Oscar Macia, founder and CEO of ForceManager, a mobile sales management product, points out that “By employing a mobile CRM, your [sales] reps can immediately check in, access their sales pipeline, client information, previous correspondence and quotes and orders while speaking with a client in the field. It saves time, looks more professional while providing you, the business owner, with real-time actionable insight of their performance. This insight can be used to adjust your sales strategies and ultimately build a sustainable, predictable growth model for your business.”

Getting your small business app up and running

Few business owners will have the know-how to build an app themselves. Fortunately, there are a number of resources available to walk business owners through the process of designing and testing an app.

Bizness Apps, based out of San Francisco, offers a template that helps business owners build an app from start to finish, including features like loyalty programs, mobile scheduling, and blog RSS feeds for both iOS and Android, in about an hour. Using an ultra-simple drag-and-drop system, owners can develop their own apps, host them, and easily collect usage data for analytics.

For business owners looking for a full-service option, lists top-rated app developers across Canada and provides helpful information to help narrow your search, such as industry focus or average hourly rate for projects. Specifically, Pieoneers based out of Vancouver and MindSea in Halifax have a client base that is over 50 percent small business.

With plenty of options available, building mobile apps for small business is increasingly accessible. Regardless of how big or small your company is, mobile apps offer some impressive benefits worth considering.

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