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Small Business Apps: What to Consider Before You Get One

a photo of a person holding a mobile phone with the above-store sales dashboard on screen

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This article is part of our Small Business Series.

Small business apps are becoming more and more popular, presenting business owners with the opportunity to reach a broader audience. In addition, apps are a great way to build a relationship with customers while promoting the brand. After all, most people have their phones on them 24/7. And that means your app, your brand (and product) is with them 24/7 as well.

But – before you jump into designing a small business app, you should determine if it is more beneficial than just a mobile website. A mobile website is basically a smaller version of your current website designed to work in any browser on a smart phone or tablet (keep in mind apps tend to only be compatible with certain devices). And unlike an app, which a user has to download and can delete from their phone or tablet, the website can’t be deleted from the web. Furthermore, an app takes more time and money to produce than a mobile website so the pros and cons should be weighed before calling a developer and signing a contract for your small business app.

Questions to ask when considering small business apps

Both a mobile website and a mobile app can give you peace of mind. Here are some things to keep in mind when deciding if your business could benefit more from a mobile app:

Will the app do something the website can’t?

For example, do customers constantly search inventory and need to have customizable search options? Or does the app need to access phone features, such as the phone camera? If the answer to any of those questions is yes, then a small business app is probably for you.

Will your app be used often?

If the answer is yes, then an app is a much better choice than a mobile website because it will be easier to access.

Will your app be interactive?

The most classic example of an interactive app is a game. Users play the game on the app, thereby interacting with it. If your app will be interactive, then it is best to go this route instead of creating a mobile website.

What is your budget for small business apps?

An app is more expensive than a mobile website. Not to mention it is easier (and therefore cheaper) to create and maintain a mobile website. If a small business app is out of your budget, you should stick with a mobile website.

Will your app need to be updated constantly?

If so, you might want to consider a mobile website instead. The website will be updated automatically whereas a mobile app will need to be updated by the user.

Marketing for small business apps

Now that you’ve gone through these questions, if you’ve decided that an app is better for your small business than a mobile website, you need to do some marketing work. After all, you can’t expect the app to just speak for itself. Creating a great app that is needed and relevant to today’s consumers won’t get it out there and into the hands of consumers. There has to be a marketing strategy associated with it. (See this article on marketing to Gen-Y, for example.) In other words, a buzz has to be created.

One of the more prevalent methods used to create “buzz”  is to create a story about your product. Watch any commercial on TV these days and you’ll notice that most of them tell a story related to their product. Finding a way to create a story around your product can help make a buzz. This can be done by tying it to a national event or holiday coming up, like spring time or the beginning of March Madness. Or you can try to find a celebrity to collaborate with. One thing to consider while doing this is who you want to reach. Is it middle-aged adults with children? Families in which the parent buys the app and the child uses it? Once you’ve figured that out, make the story about your app relevant to that specific target audience.

With all of that being said, don’t discount the power of word-of-mouth. It can be an extremely powerful tool when spreading the word about a new product… And it’s a great help to those with a tighter budget!

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