An app a day keeps your competition at bay

In 2011, American communications company AT&T found, that in a US survey, one third of small businesses admitted they would be unable to survive without mobile apps. Since then, ‘app culture’ has crossed the pond and taken the UK by storm.

Of course, not all app ventures have been a success. For every terrific app (‘Remote’, turns your smartphone into a remote control for your computer), there is an equally embarrassing opposite number (‘The Cry Translator’, lets you know what your phone believes your baby is trying to say when they burst into tears). Whatever apps mean to you, the inarguable truth is that they are big business.

In the final week of 2012, a new record was set. For the first time, over 1.2 billion apps were downloaded in a single week worldwide. Tapping into this market can be a massive source of traffic, recognition and, ultimately, revenue for any business or franchise.

However, as many companies have found since the dawn of the digital age, getting it wrong can have catastrophic consequences. In 2011, American beer brand Miller announced their new interactive ordering app. With this new feature, customers in loud and busy bars were able to order from their flustered bartender by simply setting the amount of Miller Lite beers they wanted on-screen and flashing it at the bartender.

This app was met with condemnation from the general public for being rude (simply flashing your screen at a bartender gives the perception of arrogance), and for being, quite frankly, pointless. In order to avoid a mistake like Miller’s, evaluating the quantifiable need for an app is crucial.

Max Nisen, of Business Insider, writes: “The first question to ask is whether it’s worth it for your business. The number of apps in Apple’s App Store alone passed 1 million last year, so unless you can bring real value to customers with mobile technology, creating an app is unlikely to be worth the expense.”

One of the best reasons for creating an app is to provide better customer support to your clients, to increase consumer loyalty and your brand’s reputation. If your business can provide real benefit to your customers through an app, then investing in its development could reap bountiful rewards.

The best commercial apps in the marketplace are ones that give a unique benefit to smartphone customers from the providing company. For example, HSBC’s online banking app enables customers to skip the long-winded log-in process when they want to make a financial transaction – as a result the app has proved extremely popular with consumers. If, after reading through your inevitably long list of pros and cons, you decide that an app really could benefit you and your customers, then, as Lucy Muschamp from London development company, Appitize, explains, getting one created is surprisingly painless.

Lucy says: “First we require specifics to be sent over to us about what you would like your app to be.” “We can do a range of apps, including customer support or anything really; it just depends on what you are looking for.” “Once we know what it is you want, it goes through our quotation system and we either have a meeting or send you an e-mail with costs and what we will develop for you.”

Once a small business agrees to the quotation, the development process can begin to take shape.” Lucy continues: “Roughly, the process takes about 12 weeks from when you agree to have the app developed. Your representative will be in contact with you the whole time, guiding you through.”

Appitize’s app development packages start at around £2,995 + VAT, but they often provide lower quotations for small businesses looking to develop less complicated add-ons. After the app has been developed, a business can begin promoting it and sending it out to customers to increase loyalty and customer support. Lucy adds: “After the process, we keep in touch to make sure the app is working well for your business. We deal with any updates or changes you would like to make afterwards as well.” The relative ease of commissioning an app for development allows businesses of any size to offer customers an interactive application for their mobile device. Before committing to this expensive process, consider: whether a mobile app can bring real benefit to your business, whether your company can sustain the extra work load created by constantly updating an app and whether your target audience is of the demographic that are likely to use smartphone applications. If so, then in this customer service focused modern age, where easy of access and instant communication is paramount, a mobile app may be the tool your franchise needs to ensure an extremely successful future.