At one point in time, it was more cost effective to develop a mobile version or mobile-friendly site and call it a day. That is to say, dedicated mobile apps were seen as a costly endeavor, reserved for the biggest brands out there like Amazon, Wal-Mart, Best Buy and many others.
That is no longer the case. In fact, many businesses big and small — B2C and B2B alike — now have official apps. It’s a modern form of marketing that also enhances the customer experience.
Mobile-friendly sites are still around, and they always will be, but dedicated mobile apps are the next leap forward in terms of usability and marketing. There are actually features you can take advantage of via mobile apps that you cannot utilize through conventional mobile sites. Real-time location services and GPS, push notifications, always-on communications and a plethora of custom datasets are all at your disposal thanks to mobile apps.
In 2017, consumers downloaded 178 billion apps, and that number continues to climb higher and higher.
Today’s consumers want everything more relevant and personalized which isn’t possible past a certain extent with conventional websites. Mobile apps afford this not just for the customer, but also for the business through a variety of functionalities. You can send push notifications at any time, for example, triggered by a series of events or actions. When a customer walks by your store, you might send a promotion or deal alert to bring them inside.
The average American spends over two hours per day on their mobile device or 162 minutes, with 86 percent of that time dedicated to apps.
Apps are instant, always-on and remain accessible from anywhere even while offline. They also allow businesses to dive deeper into customer and client personas. You can learn things like what locations they visited, how often, what they did and even browsing or purchase histories. More importantly, with mobile apps, any communications can sync up with additional channels to allow conversations to continue, picking up right from where they left off.
Say a customer is looking for a particular product or service, so they reach out to an online brand rep through the company’s mobile app. That rep can answer questions, suggest various models and even direct them to a local store. Then, when the customer visits a location, all that information passes on to another representative who can begin working with the very same customer, only armed with the previous data. It improves the entire customer experience but also furthers the sales process.
And this is just one example of how mobile apps can be used. People use apps for everything these days from shopping and communication to entertainment. In the business world, apps are even used to facilitate business conferences and live events.
Apps Foster Community and User Engagement
Mobile apps also help generate a community around a brand and its offerings. More importantly, this provides incredibly useful feedback for the business as to what customers think, how their experiences play out and the overall sentiment.
Consider how most users rely on a brand’s mobile app. Before making a purchase, they might check user reviews which includes ratings, lengthy write-ups or even simple comments. They might also browse a forum to see potential errors or problems they might encounter. Other times, they’ll share product information to social media to see what their peers think.
After online shopping, 42 percent of customers will turn to a shopping or communication app to continue their browsing.
This can all be done on a website, of course, but mobile apps foster the kind of community and culture that helps a brand thrive. They also build user engagement, which is something that the business can take advantage of, as well.
Content marketing channels can be deployed via mobile apps to deliver company and product news, user guides and tips, or promotional offers. This encourages customers and users to check back regularly, especially if the content is providing value. For B2B customers it becomes a source of valuable information and insights.
Apps Help Develop Brand Loyalty
The intimate, personalized experiences vastly improve the customer experience building faith and trust in the brand. That’s why people return two times faster to a mobile app in a span of 30 days than they do a mobile website. They also spend twice as much money on mobile apps than they do desktop or mobile-friendly sites.
Need more proof? Customers spend three to four times longer in mobile apps than websites. Furthermore, mobile apps have the lowest shopping cart abandonment rates at 20 percent compared to 68 percent for desktop and 97 percent for mobile sites.
Okay, so people spend a lot more time and money on mobile apps — that much is clear. But it shows that people prefer apps over site-based experiences, and it’s not difficult to discern why. The personalization, direct communication, active community and convenience of a mobile app is far beyond anything you’d find elsewhere.
All of its services retention and customer loyalty builds a stronger relationship between a brand and its audience. If and when they do start to drift away, you can send out push notifications and mobile alerts to draw them back in.
When Designed Properly, Mobile Apps Are Superior
In the end, mobile apps are far superior to alternate experiences you might deliver customers, be it desktop or mobile-friendly sites. You can use them for just about anything too. You can build an e-commerce platform within your app, deliver content and brand updates, build a social community, and much more. With the right developers, you get to decide what the app provides customers and what’s available in terms of functionality.
It’s worth noting that you must invest the time and resources into building a unique, native app. Don’t simply copy and paste the website experience into an app form, because that’s lazy and people will respond negatively.
With a mobile app you are highly competitive, and more likely to stand above your rivals. That is unless, of course, they already beat you to the punch and published an excellent mobile app. In which case, what are you still doing here?
Nathan Sykes is the editor of Finding an Outlet, where he writes about the latest in technology and business. Be sure to follow Nathan on Twitter @nathansykestech.