In the early days of the iPhone, Apple developed an advertising campaign for the iPhone 3g and Apple’s newest (and possibly most lucrative) product, the iOS App Store. It was self-explanatory and deceptively simple: “There’s an app for that.”
Fast-forward several years (and generations of iPhones) later and the App Store is perhaps more important now than it has ever been, branching from simple smartphone apps to apps for your computer, streaming box and tablet. And, obviously, Apple isn’t the only company who is taking advantage of the boom in app sales – the Google Play Store has a huge selection of apps, and starting with Windows 8, despite doomsday prophecies concerning its longevity, even Microsoft has made great strides toward producing a Microsoft Store.
Put simply, apps are the future, and if you’re running a business and you don’t have an app, there’s a good chance that you’re missing out.
A mobile-optimized website isn’t enough
In the past few years, websites that are optimized for mobile devices (phones or tablets) have proven to be extremely important for businesses. As bigger smartphones and tablets become more ubiquitous, for most businesses, a huge percentage of their website traffic comes from mobile devices.
Sure, making sure that your website looks great and works well on smaller screens is important, but well-designed apps having a staying power than mobile-optimized websites simply don’t have.
Making the experience personal
Having an app on your smartphone or tablet is much different than occasionally visiting a website – an app makes the connection between consumer and company personal. Being one of the apps on a customer’s phone or tablet is a privilege, and with it comes a very intimate connection.
Rather than being just one of the thousand websites that your customers visit in the browser, your app can live right there on their device. And if you spend time designing an attractive icon for the app, it’ll be something that catches their eye when they flip through their apps.
Using push notifications effectively
Part of the closeness that comes through having an app on your customer’s phone or tablet is the fact that you have access to them almost instantly through push notifications. Now, you have to be extremely careful when using push notifications – too many and your customers will delete your app and ignore your company, but the occasional notification can be a helpful reminder of any specials you’re running or any other information that’s important for your business to get to your customers quickly.
If you own a clothing company, pushing out a notification at the beginning of winter about your new sweaters could be just the push that your customers need to swipe their debit card. Be strategic about your use of push notifications and your customers will reward you.
Push notifications are much different than updates to your website or Facebook updates. Your customers don’t have to actively seek out information from your company; instead, it comes to them directly. They don’t have to think about it. It’s just there, right when they need it.
Understanding how people use apps
A well-designed app is not just an interactive brochure for your company. You need to give your customers something. People use apps differently than they use websites. Instead of simply selling something, your app has to offer an experience. Give them a reason to come back over and over.
Going back to my clothing example, one of the thing that a clothing app might do is let customers mix and match clothing on a model so that they can see what a certain sweater looks like with a certain pair of pants.
Does your business have an app? What sorts of things are your customers able to do on your app? Let us know in the comments below.