A lot of words and statistics can be used to build the case that mobile devices have grown and continue to grow into one of the most popular technological advancements. Just looking around would convince the most skeptical among us. And as with all new developments, the speed with which these new developments are improved and made more accessible, is directly proportional to their popularity. As a result, mobile is changing and improving… FAST!
For business marketing, an online presence is an ongoing evolution from the days, not too long ago, of just having a website, which developed into a mobile website, to developing an online social presence, and to now developing your own mobile app. Many large businesses have been in the mobile app marketing arena for some time. They realized the many benefits and conveniences mobile apps provided their customers and, with proper management, the increased revenue and customer loyalty they would gain. They also had the resources to fund the exorbitant development costs required to create a custom native app for all the mobile platforms and were able to still do it cost effectively.
Technology marches on! Today, mobile apps are no longer within just the reach of the largest corporations. For the purpose of this article, we will not get bogged down in the technical difference between custom native apps, mobile web apps, hybrid apps, mobile websites, etal. The focus is going to be on what appears to be the best option for small businesses. The target… an exceptional User Experience (now commonly referred to as UX), easily managed content and affordability.
There is no one best solution for every type of business out there. There are advantages and disadvantages to all the mobile options. The key is selecting the best fit, ie., the option that provides the greatest number of benefits to the business and their customers, at the best price. After doing the research, it’s difficult to present an unbiased presentation of these facts when the best choice for most small businesses is so clear. In short, the engaging customer features available, the ease of complete control of the content and the affordable price, the native mobile app built using a template (NMAT) is the next best marketing tool, to improve the bottom line and increase customer loyalty.
To be clear, custom built native apps that are built from the ground up, require hand coding for each app on each mobile platform, Apple, Android, etc. This is a very expensive process. Coders are very well paid and the end result provides a great, custom, UX. The new alternative, NMAT, is building an app using an already coded template system that can be customized in appearance, function and content. This option provides similar features as the custom app, to choose from, at a fraction of the cost, with a very similar UX and can be totally controlled on-line.
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Here is a quick look at the comparison of benefits between mobile website and native apps.
Device Features – Apps have full access to all of a mobile devices capabilities including camera, GPS, data storage, etc. for the best UX. Mobile websites currently have limited access.
User Installation – No installation required for mobile websites. A bit of motivation is required to search and find a mobile business app. In the gaming industry, this should not be an obstacle. Most customers will be motivated to find your app to benefit from the content including offers and discounts.
Speed – A mobile app is much faster then a mobile website creating a better UX.
Owner Maintenance – The maintenance of a NMAT is much simpler these days with the app hosted in the cloud. Online Content Management System Dashboards (CMSD), allow clients to change the content of their app and send messages 24/7. Custom native apps are much more complicated to update. Mobile website are updated as easily as a web page.
Offline Functioning – Without a wifi or cell service connection, mobile websites are not accessible. Native apps have offline accessibility giving them the edge in this category.
Development Costs – Custom native apps are extremely expensive. Both Mobile websites and NMAT’s involve the least cost and are very affordable. Possibly with future technological advancements, mobile apps for small businesses may go the way of betamax, and mobile websites may overcome many of their current shortcomings and become the dominate mobile format. But for now, and probably for the foreseeable future, native apps are the best marketing tool available for small businesses. For maximum benefit, your app can be used in conjunction with your mobile website and gain additional user benefits such as the ability for customers to log in to their personal accounts.
Now to the good part. Here’s a look at what benefits a mobile app can bring to your business and your customers. The power of the mobile app to engage and communicate with the customers, is in it’s features.
Mobile App Benefits
The features currently available that can be built into an app is what ‘powers’ the benefits and makes it such a perfect fit for small businesses. In addition to the traditional listing of your businesses’ general information including facility amenities, specials, event calendars, contact info and directions, etc. that you would find on any standard mobile website, apps offer features that better engage customers and fully utilize their mobile devices capabilities making for a very personal and fulfilling UX… that they will want to share. To be clear and further illustrate the benefits of an app over a mobile website, this summary of features will include only those that are available in a mobile app format, and not a mobile website. There are dozens of features available for businesses to choose from to use in their app. We will look at just a few of the more beneficial ones here.
1. Content Management System Dashboard (CMSD) – This gives businesses complete control over the content of their app 24/7. Managing an app is very much like managing your social online presence. It requires daily attention and creative management. The CMSD makes it easy and efficient to make changes to your apps content and appearance, and an easy to use preview feature allows you to view your changes instantly.
2. Push Notification keeps your customers well informed – This feature allows you to send graphically attractive, instantaneous messages to your customers with offers to encourage their immediate or future attendance in your facility. The geo-fencing targeting option within this feature makes targeting your customers more like using a scalpel then a sledge hammer. Strategically used, push notification can keep your customers well informed, connected to your business and continually coming back.