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Can a mobile app help small businesses? Does it have any benefit to invest in the development of an app? Can Offline Businesses Benefit from Mobile Applications?

Initially, we might believe that apps are only for those new startups with innovative ideas. We might think that perhaps a business like ours, either by sector or by size, does not need them or cannot benefit from them. Error!

Do you remember what people said years ago about the webs? Exactly the same! However, today, it is rare for a business or company that does not have a website. It is considered something basic.

Still, perhaps we could think that the web is the web and the apps are the apps. They are different things and apps are not yet used as much as webs. One thing is not comparable to the other. Error again!

Evolution of mobile and web use

It is true that the web is still popular today and just as important as it was a few years ago. Anyway, if we take a look at how and where these websites are being viewed, we will realize that something has changed in the last decade.

This graph confirms precisely that hypothesis. In it we can see a global average of the time that a person spends using both devices, both computer and mobile.

The evolution is clear and we see how the mobile already exceeds the computer in use and it is expected that this difference will continue to increase in the following years.

The truth is that it is not something that should surprise given the great accessibility we have to our mobiles. While the computer, generally we can only use it when we have a desk to sit on, the mobile is constantly carried with us anywhere. It does not matter if we are on the subway, walking, queuing at a supermarket or at the gym. We can use it almost anywhere at any time of the day.

Now, these graphs could simply confirm that we are using mobile phones more than computers. It would not be a big problem for a business that already has an online presence with a website. At the end of the day from the mobile we can also access any website.

We would simply have to make sure that our website is displayed correctly on smaller devices such as mobiles and tablets that we use today. Anyway, there is a very interesting fact that we must take into account.

When we are using our mobile devices, we spend around 90% of the time in mobile applications and only 10% consulting websites. What does this mean?

We are not only changing where we see information but also in what form. We are going from the computer to the mobile and, at the same time, from the webs to the applications.

Does every business need a mobile app?

After seeing all this data, you have to be clear. Not all businesses need an app. Not much less.

Making an app just because, because I want an app, because they are fashionable, is not a sufficient justification to create a mobile application.

The way to raise this option is to know what possibilities we have and see if there really is room to create something in the form of an app that adds value to both users and the business.

Having clarified this, we are going to see some of the benefits that an app can bring to a business. This is surely the best way to discover if an app could be interesting in our case. Perhaps looking at some examples can give us a really useful idea for our business.

1. Improve the service or product

Mobile applications are something new and innovative. They offer many possibilities that can add more value to the user when it comes to interacting with the business.

In other words, we can improve the service or product we offer through an app and make it more attractive to the competition.

An example might be a customer club for a store. A kind of digital membership card through which you accumulate points for each purchase you make. This app could show you the points that you accumulate as you buy and also offer you different rewards that you could obtain with them.

This is by no means a new idea. The concept of a loyalty card has been used for a long time in all types of businesses. In any case, doing it in the form of an application can make it much easier to consult points, rewards, and therefore motivate the customer more.

Another example could be an application for a health insurance that allows consulting and managing all the services to which a user has access.

Once again, like the loyalty card I mentioned earlier, something new is not created but rather a concept that already exists is reinforced.

In the case of the health insurance app, it is possible to simplify procedures, make inquiries easier and therefore make the service more attractive, easy and simple to use.

2. Greater visibility and connection with the customer

It is much easier to keep an existing customer than to get a new one. The more we are in contact with a customer who has bought in the past, the more chances there is that this customer will not forget about us and buy again.

This is one of the main reasons why there are newsletters via email or, a few years ago and perhaps more outdated, the letters that were sent to our mailboxes with catalogs.

Although some businesses continue to use them, and in some cases, they may make sense, it is clear that old mail methods are being overshadowed by newer technologies that offer greater reach at lower cost.

Now, if we put aside the more traditional methods and look only at new technologies. What options we have?

As we have already discussed, email newsletters are a very popular method of keeping in touch with an existing customer. We simply need the customer’s email, permission to send advertising and from here we can send emails from time to time.

However, with the entry into the scene of mobile applications, newsletters are not the only way to maintain contact with our customers. The so-called push notifications are a very interesting new way to do it.

What exactly are push notifications? Mobile applications allow notifications to be sent to the user’s device at any time.

Emails have the great handicap of spam and advertising filters. Gmail, which is the main email client in use today, is tremendously effective at this. The vast majority of newsletters that reach Gmail email end up in a secondary tray and not in the main one, greatly reducing the possibility of the user seeing that email.

According to a study by Xtity, an IBM company, open rates for push notifications are 60% compared to 20% for promotional emails. On the other hand, interaction, that is, the percentage of users who not only see the communication but also interact and open it, is 40% of push notifications compared to 5% of emails.

In any case, although these push notifications are much more effective than promotional emails, it must be said that creating an app just because you want to send promotional notifications is not a sufficient reason to develop one. Very few people will use our application if its only function is to send advertising. You have to look for a real utility that is attractive enough for our customers to be willing to use it.

3. Attract new types of customers

Millions and millions of people use mobile applications in their day to day. The ease of using them at any time and at any time means that their use increases year after year.

We have to take into account then that, if we decide to create a mobile application, we will be automatically accessing a channel that has millions and millions of people.

In any case, it is not only interesting the number of new eyes that can see us but also the profile of the person.

On the one hand, in the event that the business does not yet have an online presence, it means greatly increasing the number of people we reach. We went from reaching people in populations in which there is a physical location to, automatically, millions of people around the world who use their mobile phones in their day-to-day lives.

On the other hand, and regardless of whether the business already has an online presence through a website, we are going to access a different profile of people. Surely a younger audience in general. There are also people, without differentiating by age groups, who are more likely to buy and consume products and services through apps instead of doing it via the web or in the traditional way.

At the end of the day, thanks to an application we will be able to reach people, who if it weren’t for the application, they might never have met us.

4. Get more sales

The easier it is to consume a product, the more likely we are to buy it.

If to order food at home we have to find a place, find the phone number, call and finally pay when the delivery man comes, perhaps we are a bit lazy to do so. While on the other hand, if we only have to take our cell phone out of our pocket and make a couple of clicks, we may not be so bad.

There is no doubt that one of the keys to the success of mobile applications is their simplicity, accessibility and, after all, how easy it is to use them anywhere at any time.

This means that if we sell products or services through an app, we will automatically be making its consumption easier and therefore it can lead to an increase in sales. A good example is Domino’s Pizza, which managed to increase its sales by 19% with the launch of a mobile application.

5. Differentiation from the competition

Differentiation is key in business today. Being different and doing things in a different way from the competition is a great plus. Mobile applications allow us precisely to innovate.

Mobile devices have many components that allow you to create new things that can be very interesting for many traditional businesses. They allow modernizing them and introducing new concepts.

As an example, an online store could of course create a mobile application to sell its products, but it could also go much further.

Let’s imagine that the main strength of this store compared to the competition is its competitive prices. Suppose that most products are cheaper in this store than in the competition.

Well, what if the app of this store offers a functionality to compare the price of any product just by scanning the barcode with the camera?

In this way, the user could be in another store, compare the price with the app, and under the hypothesis that in ours everything is cheaper, they could buy it through the application itself.

This would be a good example of differentiation from the competition using mobile technologies.

6. Utility Marketing

Today there are multiple ways to promote yourself. In other words, there are a thousand and one ways to do marketing and mobile applications are one more.

Utility Marketing is a marketing strategy focused on, as its name suggests, helping to solve a problem for a person who, in the future, could become a customer.

In traditional, life-long marketing, advertisers are looking for the customer. They place advertisements on television, advertisements on radio, billboards on the street … However, with the advent of online marketing, the rules have totally changed. Now it is also about the customer finding the brand.

The idea is that the client finds you when he needs it. A clear example of this is Inbound Marketing or content marketing, which consists of generating content, either through blogs, audio or videos, and hoping that people find you. In all these contents, they talk about topics related to your sector and it is about including some reference to your products or services.

Well, Utility Marketing would be a style of Inbound Marketing but taken one step further. Instead of generating content and trying to sell at that time, it is about creating tools that help the person without having a direct intention to sell.

The purpose is to find the potential customer at a time that is not interested in buying and stay with him helping him with the aim of making us known. In this way, when you may need something related to our sector, you will take us more into account compared to other competitors.

If content marketing is a medium-term strategy, we could say that Utility Marketing is a long-term strategy.

Considering that the objective is to create a useful tool for future clients, mobile applications are perfect for this.

A clothing brand could create an application that allows clothing combinations to be made; What if a white t-shirt with black pants, a green shirt with jeans … It would become known just by using the name and logo of the company but it could also suggest garments from the brand itself.

In fact, there are already today, there are many brands using mobile applications for this purpose.

An example could be Nike that has its Nike + Training application that offers the user a large number of routines and exercises to keep fit. Another case is Nestle with its Nestle Cocina application, a recipe app.

Both applications are largely free and their main objective is none other than to give visibility to the brand.

7. Internal management tools

It is no secret that technology has revolutionized the way businesses work. In fact, the first computers to be sold were conceived, not for home use, but for business use.

It is no longer necessary to store a multitude of documentation papers because, thanks to computers and the internet, we can have everything digitized. New technologies help companies to be more productive.

However, perhaps the revolution that mobile devices have also had and how these can improve the internal management processes of a company is not taken into account.

A private mobile application, for internal management of a company, can reduce costs, errors and task time by creating more productive processes.