Why the heck would a small business need an app?
I know that question may seem a bit silly if you already have an app and know all the amazing things it can do for your business. But many small business owners still haven’t discovered how a mobile app can be a game changer.
And what about those small businesses that have created apps? Why the heck did they decide to build an app?
Clutch, a leading app development research company, recently surveyed small business (SMB) owners on their primary motivations for building a mobile app. The survey found that SMB owners’ top three reasons for building apps are to improve customer service, to boost sales, and to successfully compete with other businesses.
How can you make sure your app helps your business achieve all three of these goals? We’ve found that many small businesses have created Como apps for these same reasons. The ways those businesses successfully use their apps can teach the rest of us a thing or two about making a winning small business app.
Reason 1: to improve customer service
Improving customer service is the number one reason small businesses are building apps, cited by 76% of companies in Clutch’s survey. Apps can be used to connect with your on-the-go customers and open a direct two-way line of communication. You can also reward your customers with coupons and loyalty programs through your app, keeping them coming back for more.
Dr. Marnita Sandifer, owner of Tampa’s Spa Cafe, uses her app to make it easier for her customers to book appointments. She explains, “My clients are on the go and, a lot of times, they’re not at a computer. The app gives them an opportunity to get in touch with me wherever they are. I didn’t have that accessibility before.” Her business’ online bookings have increased 20% since creating the app.
Another small business owner, Greg DiRenzo of the Lakeside Fitness Center near New York City, uses Lakeside’s mobile app to notify members of important news. “Last winter, we had it rough in the Northeast, a lot of snow, ice, and power outages. Our app was a way to communicate with our members on the status of the gym as far as whether we were open or delayed for the day,” he says.
Additionally, Lakeside rewards their frequent customers with an in-app loyalty program for the fitness club’s juice bar. “Our juice bar sales have grown with the implementation of the drink card and the ‘buy 10, get one free’ offer,” Greg notes.
Reason 2: to boost sales
The next biggest reason small businesses are getting into the app game, mentioned by 37% of respondents in Clutch’s survey, is to get more sales.
One way businesses are increasing sales is by offering potential new customers real incentives to download their apps, such as special offers or contests. For example, Dr. Robert Lofsky uses his veterinary clinic’s app to attract new clients with exclusive offers such as free exams. “I have a relatively new practice and am currently building my client base,” Dr. Lofsky explains. “The app helps people discover my clinic and makes my practice stand out.”
Being accessible and top of mind to your customers is another crucial element of increasing sales through a mobile app. Missouri’s REMIX Coffee Co. uses push notifications to let customers know the REMIX coffee truck’s current location. “With our truck being mobile, we knew we needed an app that told our customers constantly where we are since we don’t have one set location,” owner Kate Burton explains. “Through push notifications, we are able to let our customers know where we are and what deals we have going on.”
The REMIX Coffee Co. also uses another popular mobile tool for boosting sales: a loyalty program that rewards repeat customers. “We’ve gained a lot of regulars due to our Como app. Our loyalty card option is probably the biggest hit with our customers. Every 10th drink they purchase, they get one free,” Kate says.
Reason 3: to run with the big dogs
Finally, Clutch’s survey found that 35% of small businesses with apps created those apps in order to be competitive in the market.
Given the affordability of DIY solutions like Como, today more and more small businesses are able to build apps that help them level the playing field with their larger competitors. For instance, the Clubhouse sportswear retailer regularly uses its Como app to attract users through raffles and contests, typically receiving 150 to 200 new app downloads per contest.
These incentives have been critical in growing the Clubhouse’s user base in a competitive market. “Como makes mobile technology more accessible to small businesses, which allows them to compete—in real time—with large competitors,” explains owner Chris Torti.
Mobile apps are also a means to gain visibility in particular markets. New Jersey’s Mount Royal Bagel Company, for example, regularly runs in-app promotions to connect with its younger customers. “With our younger audience being totally mobile, the app was one of our means to connect with the market we were aiming to reach,” says Andrew Cantor, Mount Royal’s Creative Director, adding that “as a result, our younger audience has grown.”
Are these 3 reasons really separate?
Small businesses rely on their loyal customers more than their larger competitors do. Cafés, fitness centers, and retailers all have the opportunity to become familiar, meaningful meeting places within their communities. The upshot for small businesses? These three goals all work together: Having great customer service can help you to drive sales, thus helping you to fare better in a competitive market.
Regardless of their initial reasons for building them, most small businesses with apps will agree that their apps provide a unique way to build brand loyalty by building one-on-one customer relationships.
“The most successful small businesses know that the single deciding factor for them as a competitor is making sure that their loyal customers are treated well and want to keep coming back,” explains Shira Anderson, Marketing Manager here at Como. “That is what mobile apps do best. Mobile apps allow you to really reward your loyal customers with a certain exclusivity and intimacy that isn’t available on any other channel.”