Written by Scott Shane
Professor At Case Western Reserve University
Published on www.entrepreneur.com
If you are a small business owner and your business does not have a mobile app, you need to get one. Having a web presence alone is no longer sufficient, as online activity continues to shift to mobile. Simply put, smartphone apps have become too important a marketing tool for small business owners to do without.
Smartphone usage has been on a tear as of late. Nearly three-quarters of Americans check their mobile phones at least once per hour, according to a Gallup survey. Almost all – 90 percent – of that mobile-phone time is now devoted to using apps, analysis reveals. Americans now spend more time looking at their mobile phones than they do watching television.
This rise in mobile-phone usage means that smartphone apps have become a key marketing tool for companies of all sizes, including small businesses. Mobile apps increase engagement with customers. They boost repeat visits, and permit a wide variety of online transactions, including the deployment of loyalty cards, push promotions, and ecommerce transactions. Apps deliver coupons and send announcements that build your sales with customers. Apps also accelerate contact with your company, which enhances relationships with customers in a world where speedy responses are prized by buyers. Smartphone icons even help build brands by providing a visual design that customers recognize.
A few young companies are simplifying the process of creating and testing mobile-phone apps, putting the tools easily in small-business owners’ price range. Bizness Apps, a rapidly growing young company out of San Francisco, for instance, provides small business owners with a template that lets them build a complete mobile app, with a wide range of features – from blog RSS feeds to loyalty cards to food ordering systems to mobile reservations – for both iOS and Android in about an hour. Moreover, their drag-and-drop system allows owners to develop their own apps, host them, and collect usage data in a straightforward manner.
Of course, small-business owners need to test their apps to ensure that they are bug free. Studies show that customers are 40 percent more likely to abandon apps when they encounter a bug.
Another young San Francisco based company, MyCrowd QA, can help you with the bug-testing process. In a couple of minutes and for a few bucks, MyCrowd will conduct a bug hunt on an app. In a matter of hours, they’ll send back a list of bugs. Best of all, you will only pay for the bugs you approve. Because MyCrowd draws on more than 30,000 contingent workers around the world who compete to find bugs, their approach is faster and less expensive – as much as 75 percent cheaper – than that of their competitors.
With companies like Bizness Apps and MyCrowd on the market, small businesses can now build and test mobile apps easily and cheaply. Even the smallest companies can now take advantage of the benefits that a mobile app can provide in attracting customers, speeding sales, and building a brand.