5 top tips for making your business app indispensable

Originally featured on My Customer

Mobile use is growing exponentially and showing no signs of stopping. A recent report predicted each mobile device user in Western Europe will send and receive 6.5 GB per month by 2020, up from the current rate of around 1.3 GB per month. This growth in mobile traffic is being partly driven by consumers spending more time on their phones and tablets – gone are the days when a mobile was used simply to make phone calls.

While the total time people spend on their mobile devices is increasing, one particular activity is standing out. Users spend 80% of their time accessing apps and only 20% using a browser. In addition to opportunities to use apps as a productivity tool within a business, this trend also presents an opportunity for companies to provide a better customer experience, no matter what business they happen to be in. The message is clear – apps are now the medium of choice for customers on mobile devices and businesses wanting to engage with their customers new and old need to react accordingly.

In the consumer sector there’s plenty of evidence that demonstrates an app is a great route straight into your customers’ hands. Starbucks has an app that lets customers pay for drinks and collect points using their phone. Gillray’s Steakhouse & Bar’s app allows customers to book tables as well as learn how to perfectly cook steak. The LinkedIn app keeps professionals up to date with news from their network. Apps make it easier for customers to use a product or service from their phone, to provide a direct marketing channel to customers and can be used to get insight into customers’ behavior.

While many companies have realised going mobile is beneficial to the business and fast becoming a necessity, in reality the cost of creating one can be off-putting. With the rise of online app creation platforms, this is becoming less of an issue. The challenge is to create an app that really addresses customers’ needs, and stimulates their loyalty. Below are a few top tips for creating an app that will differentiate your business from your competitors and enrich your customers’ experience.

Thinkstock_iStockphoto

Thinkstock_iStockphoto

1. Know your audience

Before creating an app, work out what your customers would find useful and what your competitors are already doing. Assess your target audience to decide what sort of app would be most suitable. If you’re targeting businesses, keep it professional.

When it comes to competitor research, have a look at their apps. Perhaps there’s something missing or a feature that isn’t getting good feedback in the app store. This can help give your app the edge over your competitors.

2. Make sure the app will benefit customers

This might sound obvious, but companies often get it wrong. Apps can be innovative and exciting, but if your customers see no point to it, they’ll soon stop using it and eventually delete it. To entice customers to download your particular enterprise app it needs to provide a clear benefit that will help make their lives just that bit easier. If you’re a creative services business, where turnaround times can often be paramount to success, your app could make it easier for customers to view and approve content quickly. If you’re in the entertainment or travel industry you may want to allow customers to access their theater or plane tickets through an app rather than making them queue to collect them. And/or, if you’re in a legal firm, you could consider an app that gives customers secure real-time insight into the status of court hearings and/or billing information. Whatever app you create, listen to the pain points and opportunities identified in your customer research and then focus your app proposition accordingly.

3. Make your app easy to use

On average, mobile users spend around one minute in an app. Even though the time users spend on their phones is increasing, they still want information quickly. To keep customers coming back to your app, spend time making sure your app is easy to use and easy to navigate. If a customer can’t find what they need quickly, it’s unlikely they’ll come back. Even worse, your customers could leave bad reviews on app stores, reducing app downloads.

4. Engage your customers

Your customers are constantly being bombarded with advertising, which can have a desensitising effect. To help you stand out from the crowd, your app should rightly be seen as huge opportunity that opens another direct channel between you and your customers – but just like any other area of marketing, that communication should be one of engagement rather than a ‘push’ approach. Making this a two-way street can really improve engagement, and using your customer research insights can help define what the right content strategy should be to ensure that two-way dialog can happen. Instead of firing generic information at your customers – the broadcast approach – try an approach that gives them a voice. For example, this could be a free text box for customers to include additional comments or requests with an order placed through a shopping app.

5. Think about your own workforce

Although customers are the obvious target audience for an app, increasingly businesses are using apps among internal audiences to boost productivity and adapt to more flexible ways of working. With 80% of Internet users using a smartphone, your workforce (no matter how small or big) is likely to fall into that category. Are there processes that you use today that could be done more efficiently by an app? Think about sales collateral. Access to customer data on the move. Customer reporting. Recent reports suggest enterprise apps could boost productivity by more than 30%.

A mobile app can have real benefits for your business and, with rising mobility, it is no longer a luxury. People are spending more and more time on mobile devices, and the majority of that time is spent using apps. For companies, this is a real opportunity to stay in touch with their customers and staff, and literally be at their fingertips. It boils down to this: find out what your customers want, and then give it to them. This will keep your customers and employees not only loyal to your app, but to your business too.