How important is having a mobile app for your small business?
If you have a mobile app for your small business, how has it helped your customers or your company? And if you don't have a mobile app for your business, do you have plans to build one? Why or why not?
EDIT: I should've clarified, I work at AppIt Ventures (www.appitventures.com), a mobile app development company. I was just asking these questions to spark up some conversation and see what everyone's opinions are :)
If you already have a responsive design website (.i.e a site that adapts to whatever device is being used to view it, just like most modern wordpress themes are) then there's no need for a mobile app. This would save you a lot of time and resources that could be better ultized elsewhere.
If however, you do have the time and resources to invest in a mobile app and its something that your clients have indicated that they need, then by all means go ahead and get one.
It very much depend on the business you are in. Would a plumber need an app? A grocery store on the corner? A hotel? It depends on the type of end user/customers you have.
Mostly you need a good mobile web solution if your aim is to convey messages or having something like an online brochure.
If you have active customers that benefit from some new functionality tied to your brand then an app works as a great marketing tool. For instance we (http://pingpal.se/) provide a platform for developing positioning apps, a feature app that is very popular in the outdoor industry. For instance, finding your friends in the slopes at a ski resort provides a good service and therefore builds brand of that ski resort, more than just providing an online interface to your customer service and bookings. An app can then also be extended with alarm and alert functionality etc. Providing some more extra safety features and value to your customers.
So in my opinion you should only go for an app if you can add some real value to your end users, If it is more of an info channel you are after, go for a mobile web solution.
It depends on the type of business and what will app do for its users.
Will it make their lives easier? solve a problem? take their experiences to a higher level? and many other user-base questions ... the answer to those questions should lead you to the conclusion if a business needs a mobile app.
As for a mobile website, a website should be responsive regardless.
I just finishing writing an article on this topic from a marketing perspective! Here is the link- I think some of the folks reading this discussion will find the info helpful. https://www.box.com/s/xb9q1kr5uke0ajgypoly
Probably not useful at all. Who wants to install and app for each small business they come across. Have a useful web site (responsive is great but not essential - let's face it most new devices have mobile web browsers that can display websites pretty well).
Examples I've come across - hair salon with QR code (so you have an extra step of needing to download an install a QR code scanner app) on counter that you need to scan to get their app. What does the app do? They did not even know - some sales guy told them they need one.
Mortgage broker app that allows me see commission rates in various areas - why do I need an app, just give me a web app (in other words something that requires no install and works in my web browser).
If your business is considering an app then with a few specialized exceptions opt for an HTML5 web app, not a native (iOS or Android) app. It will cost you less, work on most popular devices, and does not require customers to install anything.
Just look at the change in Apple's fortunes in recent weeks (I am not taking sides here, just pointing to how quickly the environment in which apps live can change) - do you want to put all your investment in a specific vendors platform? The web is open and that has allowed it to flourish - apps are no different and in the end HTML5 apps will be a better option.
The key question: How does the app add value for your customers and what pain does it remove or gain does it provide. Not sure? Head over the Business Model Fiddle http://bmfiddle.com and work it out on a Business Model Canvas. (Disclosure: Business Model Fiddle is a free HTML5 app that I built to help businesses learn about and use the Business Model Canvas)
A mobile friendly website certainly! However your customers are not the only ones who want apps. Getting a developer in to make apps for your staff to use can be very motivating. If anyone is interested this is one of the services I provide. For example, do your staff have to remember formulas? Do you need constant access to documents offline? There are many sort of apps your staff can have to make working more efficient. Especially for a small business
Mobile app? Ehhh....
Mobile website? A MUST!!! 2012 was the first year that tablets outsold computers & laptops, and mobile search will exceed traditional online search soon.
I wrote this blog piece recently that I think might help a little bit:
I do not know what you business is, so hard to answer the question. But unless there is a strong need for an app, I would say to focus on (1) a truly responsive version of your corporate website and then (2) a truly mobile version of your website. Then if you still need an app - have at it!
I will make my response brief, but hopefully useful. Once you have established your primary market/business differentiator than building an app that allows your customers to tap into that resource (bargain prices, information or whatever) will increase your stickiness. It demonstrates what your company is committed to and that you have streamlined access to it for their convenience.
I think the first thing to mention is depending on your company, you may want to consider having a mobile website instead of an app. Or you may want to have both. For more information about a mobile app vs. a mobile website, this question is relevant: http://www.mosaichub.com/open_forum/question/mobile-app-vs-mobile-website
I think the first factor for deciding whether you want an app/website should depend on the size of your company. If you have a lot of resources, I'd almost definitely recommend having an app/website (or both) unless there's very little value for your site to do so.
If you have less resources, this question becomes tougher. Mobile traffic makes up roughly 13-15% of Internet traffic right now but is rapidly growing (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Usage_share_of_web_browsers#Desktop_and_mobile_browser_usage). To put its growth into perspective, about a year ago it was around 8%. So the option of building a mobile site/app is definitely becoming more important each day.
Ultimately, I think you have to ask yourself stuff like: what's my target audience? Is there any content/product I have that will allow me to make money off a paid app? Does my content/product appeal to mobile users (e.g. search/local does, a photo-editing flash app wouldn't)?
Reach... is even more essential in today's way of doing business.