Apps are no longer considered merely a “branding exercise” for small businesses. Business owners are becoming wise to the marketing power a well-designed, intuitive app can bring. From simplifying online purchases to providing easy-to-access information, the benefits are undeniable which is why small businesses must develop mobile apps to stay competitive.
Why Small Businesses Must Develop Mobile Apps
In previous years, the rising cost of custom app developers made apps an impossible expense for small businesses. The recent growth of software development kits that streamline the app development process and allow even non-coders to create a fully-functioning app have dramatically reduced the cost of creating an app.
The affordability and fast development times these kits allow has encouraged more businesses than ever to create their own apps.
As social media use continues to rise, consumers are becoming more open to engaging with brands on a day-to-day basis, even if they aren’t specifically loyal to or purchasers of that particular business. Business owners and marketers are capitalizing on consumers’ desires for interaction by producing entertaining mobile apps. While being fun to use, informational or inspirational, a common characteristic of these apps is that they feature a strong call-to-action to persuade the user to purchase a product or in some way benefit the company in question.
What Types of Small Businesses are Making Apps?
A 2015 analysis of 40,402 apps created with an app development platform found that while “expected” businesses such as restaurants and gyms were highly prevalent, others such as golf courses, hotels, politicians and plumbers were also on the rise.
But why are these industries building more apps? Well, as the ease of building apps increases, so does the amount of potential functionality. One-off investments in systems such as in-app payments or bookings can save businesses money in the long-term as they reduce the amount of time their staff needs to spend fulfilling orders, taking payments or completing bookings.
For businesses that meet potential clients at various locations, the ability to show data or portfolio pieces offline using an app can make the difference between closing the sale and losing the prospect to a competitor.
How are Small Businesses Benefiting from Mobile Apps?
A recent survey showed that 62 percent of the businesses asked already had apps or were in the process of building one. Of those, 20 percent used their apps purely for branding purposes, 30 percent have revenue generating apps and 50 percent use them for support and engagement.
We spend 174 minutes on mobile devices every day. Mobile sales are estimated to have reached $74 billion in 2015 — up 32 percent from 2014. Thirty percent of all online purchases by Millennials are done on mobile devices. This jumps to 33 percent for moms and 43 percent for U.S. Hispanics.
However, apps aren’t just for commerce businesses. Push notifications can be used by any niche to put your brand name directly in front of the smartphone owner. Apps can be used for any type of activity: booking systems, file uploads, vouchers, newsletters, digital magazines, support, providing information, logging exercise or nutrition, showing videos and so much more.
Even businesses that you wouldn’t have thought would benefit from an app are proving critics wrong by producing innovative and engaging apps. For example, an independent pet food supplier could have an app that encourages users to upload comical photographs of their pets for a chance to win a prize. A product for new mothers could build a community of local mums and arrange meet-ups. A realtor could create an app that compares local house prices now to five years ago. The possibilities really are endless. All it takes is a little imagination to devise a system that consumers will enjoy engaging with.
What Does the Future Hold?
The projections around app driven revenue are staggering. Non-game app downloads are estimated to grow 23 percent in the next five years, exceeding $182 billion in 2020. Smartphone adoption in emerging markets should see mobile app store downloads more than double between 2015 and 2020.
Current data about mobile purchasing across the different age groups gives a strong indication that in 5-10 years, everyone is going to be a mobile shopper. Sixty-nine percent of millennials buy products on their smartphones, compared to 53 percent of Gen Xers and 16 percent of Boomers.
The increased market share and spending power this brings will make apps a necessity for B2C businesses in order to streamline a consumer’s journey from product browsing to payment.
The above statistics are also good news for digital agencies that offer mobile app development. As more businesses adopt apps, the demand for their services grows. The development of new ‘smart products’ such as virtual reality and wearable technology may compound this further as apps will need to be adapted to work on new online platforms.