So in the small business sector it is a necessity to always be on your toes in order to keep up with the corporate world and their ever constant stream of new methods and technologies to reach the public. So what exactly should small business look into in order to ensure that new innovations, such as mobile apps, would ultimately be beneficial and worth while? Mashable collected the lead in mobile apps to show what direction these small business owners should go in the consideration of mobile apps. An incentive based program, whether by location based check ins or app rewards for constant use of the application in order to encourage constant and reoccurring use. Assess the practicality of the app, perhaps a partnership would be more successful with a pre-existing app. Ensuring that this in fact solves a problem, like making payments easier with mobile payments. But most important is to have realistic goals for your app, don’t pour your money into an app that only reaches select groups and ultimately wouldn’t achieve the goals you have set.
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Apps can be traps. Or specifically, time and money pits. Yet in the increasingly app-friendly world where smartphones and web-enabled devices are essential, many businesses can reap bountiful revenues, reach new markets and garner awareness by hopping on the mobile bandwagon.
That said, a business owner shouldn’t produce any old app, nor can you just throw an app online and hope it will be found. You need to have a plan for development, and a plan for marketing. And once somebody downloads your app, it must provide value — otherwise, you can almost guarantee negative comments and feedback. In short, app development is not for the faint of heart.
To help you maximize your mobile potential, I asked a panel of successful young entrepreneurs what to expect during the app development process, what features are best for your business, and the pitfalls to avoid.
1. Deals and Directions
Have a location-based discount feature — customer has to check in at your location via your app to unlock special pricing.
Oh, and have a “directions” feature so that they can get to your location no matter where they are. “One touch call” and “share it with friends” features also help them connect to you.
2. Create Special Promotions
One way to get more sales is by creating an in-app system that rewards people who use the app well and often.
Offer them special deals, discounts, and such. This will help increase loyalty and engagement while also boosting your sales.
3. Forget About It
… I think in the vast majority of cases, this is not an investment that will pay [off] unless you can provide massive value through the app and invest significant money in online marketing to drive downloads.
Instead, I would focus on partnerships with local Groupon and LivingSocial-type sites, Facebook Places, Google Places, DealMap, and LevelUp.
4. Does It Solve a Problem?
Make sure when you create an app that it somehow solves a problem and serves a niche.
People like to use apps that serve a purpose whether it’s information driven, makes them laugh, helps with productivity, etc. When creating an app, think about what you would want out of the app if you were the customer.
5. Mobile Payments Are The Next Big Thing
Mobile payments are going to be huge and you have the opportunity to let customers pay with their smart phones before your competitors do.
Check out Square and Intuit GoPayment to see how mobile payment processing works and whether it’s right for you. Promoting that you accept mobile payments will surely show your customers that you’re innovative and ahead of the curve.
6. Social Media-Friendly Apps
Also strive to build an app that creates real community amongst your fan base. Allow them to meet each other virtually and build stronger brand evangelists to not only use your app but spread the word about your business! Be social media friendly.
7. Give Them Magical Powers
Before you start building an app, make sure you’re not just summarizing your webpage.
Rather, give your customers some kind of magical power to interact with your business with only a few taps. For inspiration, check out how Starbucks lets you interact with Starbucks loyalty cards, while Chipotle lets you almost instantly place an order for pickup.
8. Make It Share Worthy
An app isn’t very effective if only a handful of people are using it.
Build in benefits and features that inspire sharing. People are inclined to share things that are useful. Be sure your app solves a problem your clients have.
9. Focus on Your Audience’s Needs
Ask yourself one simple question: What’s in it for my customer? Why would they want your app?
Does it give them coupons, specials, discounts, behind-the-scenes access, exclusive opportunities? If so, now we’re talking. Reward them, and they shall reward you with their presence.
10. Prepare For the Worst
First things first, you need to assume your app will get denied and plan an extra two to three months in the approval process.
This isn’t a joke. Your app should be dead-simple to use, should be intuitive to any user and if possible, let them share their experience with friends. One-click purchasing, send to a friend and push notifications for new updates are key features for any good retail app.