Perspective: Twelve+ years ago most businesses asked the question, “Does my business need a website?”

Daniel Cristo sat in a college class for web design. A classmate approached Cristo, complemented his designs, said he knew a business owner who was looking for someone to build a website, and the two soon started a web design boutique shop. After the job was completed successfully, the two web designers decided to go door to door to local businesses. 100 businesses later, no one was interested in having a website. Novice sales experience aside, businesses didn’t recognize any importance in having a website. I quote: “We have a sign. We don’t need a website.”

Cristo says it clearly:

“I can look back today and chuckle at the owner’s ignorance. Of course he needed a website — he just didn’t know he needed one, because he didn’t understand the potential that a website held.

“In all fairness, it was 2002. There was no Yelp. There was no Facebook, Groupon or YouTube. Digital photography was not readily available to the average person; so, most websites looked bad and functionality was worse. But, even so, most savvy business owners knew that having website was a good move.

“My point is that while businesses in 2002 didn’t depend on websites and the internet as they do today, those that saw the potential and started building a web presence early benefited the most when consumers finally shifted their behavior to be more digital.

“This is exactly where we stand today with mobile apps.”

Unnecessary Redundancy?

But my site is mobile-friendly, you say. An app would be redundant and unnecessary. Hmmm. You could be missing the point –and potential– of what a mobile app can do for your business. These questions from Cristo might answer some of your thoughts on “What can a mobile app do for my business?”

 

  • When was the last time a customer took a picture of your product with your website?
  • When was the last time your website notified a potential customer of a sale as they walked by your shop?
  • When was the last time your website told you how a customer felt when they saw your product for the first time?
  • When was the last time your site told you the name of that customer who just walked through your shop’s door?
  • When was the last time your site adjusted the price of an item based on a customer’s social influence?
  • When was the last time a customer tried your product on, virtually on your site?

“Biometrics, geo-location, cameras, sensors, augmented reality, 3D gaming… these are potential game-changers that already exist natively in mobile apps — features you won’t find on a traditional website. Not only that, but new functionality that we haven’t really thought of is going to be available to apps much sooner than they are for an HTML-based site, if ever,” urges Cristo. “Even if you don’t take advantage of those features today, just being on the right platform gets you 80% there.”

I’ll Get To That Tomorrow

Technology is changing so fast, a new one will pop up tomorrow and I’ll build an app then. Suppose you don’t need a mobile app to do anything fancy, and it is really much like your website. Why waste the time building a (so-called) “duplicate”? I cant say it better than Cristo: “Let me ask you a question: Which is easier? Getting 100,000 new people to find, download and sign up for your app, or getting 100,000 people who have already downloaded your app to update it? I hope that you would say it’s easier to update your app. After all, you already have their email address, and the platforms themselves prompt people to keep their apps up to date.”

The least you can do is start building your app’s “install base” now. “And with that install base will come ratings, comments, feedback and usage metrics that build trust and credibility with the platforms in the same way that aged links do with older websites.” Can we say “important marketing platform”, anyone? So when the killer new feature mobile app technology comes along, all you do is update your app. Everything else is in place. No need to start from scratch.

Important Part of Your Business Marketing Strategy

Cristo warns that building an app isn’t all roses and bunnies. “It takes a significant amount of time, money and energy to build an app that people want to download and use. Even after you build the app it will need to be marketed and supported by your company.” Your business still needs to plan, budget and allocate marketing manpower. “Look at it this way,” states Cristo (with eyes leveled, I imagine) “If you can’t set aside the budget and resources for an app today, will you be able to do so when your sales are declining because customers ‘all of a sudden’ decided that they prefer using your competitor’s app over your old website?”

This isn’t a question of whether a set amount of funds gets better ROI in current website improvement rather than app development. Are you going to strategically “invest in a platform that can support the business infrastructure of tomorrow’s generation in the same way your website has supported your business for the last generation?” Well said, Cristo.

The Competition Principle

It still comes down to the same concept, the business that is striving with innovation to be better than the competition is going to have an advantage. Seen another way, delaying your business’ progress to the point where, when you need to, you can no longer catch up to the competition… That’s a place I don’t wish for any business.

Coming soon: How to Best Market Your Business Mobile App

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Content and Image Sources: http://marketingland.com/really-need-app-119528, www.mobileappsyourway.com and http://istrategylabs.com/2013/03/all-about-apps-infographic-highlights-usage-downloads-and-economic-impact-from-mobile-marketplace/

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