Let’s be honest, some of you are skeptical and who can blame you? Every other week, we get hit with some news story about "the next big thing" that will change the world as we know it. Usually, it ends up being one of two things – either an overhyped ad campaign or something that could be that great, but the technology is just too far off for it to be in our hands anytime soon – kind of like wireless internet in the mid-90s. Unfortunately, this makes it all too easy to dismiss the real trends and shovel ready innovations that are here right now, and mobile apps are one of these. They're here, and even small mom and pop operations can benefit from them.
What is the difference between a mobile friendly website and an app? Think back to when you were a kid and the time that there was this hot new toy you had to have for your birthday or Christmas. Remember how excited you were when you saw a commercial for it on TV or in the Sears catalog? It drove you nuts. Now remember going into the store and seeing it on the shelf and getting to hold it, or play with the one in a store display. That’s when the youthful adrenaline spiked and the begging for mom and dad to get it right then and there went hardcore. That is the difference between a website and a mobile app.
An App Today Keeps the Repo-Man Away
While apps are nothing new, their potential as a marketing platform for small businesses is starting to move into the big time. Once the realm of time waster games like Farmville, people are now checking apps while commuting to and from work to decide where they want to meet with friends for dinner or researching a product and seeing how it looks or works. Other times apps can be used as virtual tech support where a product’s users can have an interactive, smart manual to help them along – business is literally providing excellent customer service without lifting a finger. There is no limit to what apps can and will be able to do.
When you buy equipment for your business, you don’t only think about how useful will it be right this minute. You consider the long term. Anything that requires a company to sink a good bit of capital into has to provide value now and for years to come. Getting an app now is like a restaurant buying a new over that will last at least a couple of decades.
One major fear with technology is that as soon as you drop thousands of dollars on a new gadget or software program, there will be something new and better on the market within six months. That is a valid concern for hardware, but software based tools like apps aren’t so easily outdated. Apps can be updated to incorporate new platforms, and advances in other technology. In other words, a business can build an app now and when VR tours of a business or product becomes a standard thing to have, an app can be updated to include it.
Getting your customer base to get your app now will mean that they will still be customers/users in the future. Even in the off chance that within five years should technology advance to the point where you have to redesign your app from the ground up completely, you will already have your customer base ready and willing to upgrade. Not only that, you will have had five good years of successful marketing with the old app.
Outside of their immediate function, apps are the canary in the coal mine warning small business owners about a massive shift in shopping habits going on now. People are responding less to traditional marketing like print ads and radio/TV spots, and instead, rely on mobile devices. An app is a small business's way to safeguard against being passed over by consumers, especially the picky and hard to please millennials. It isn't uncommon for tech-savvy shoppers, whose numbers are growing exponentially, to bypass a business's official site and go straight to their app. If they don't find one, they will often get another place to shop. The sooner your small business gets an app, the better. If you don’t, you can be sure that your competition will.