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Considering an App for your business?

Apps give customers more time to meaningfully engage with your business - image
Apps give customers more time to meaningfully engage with your business - image courtesy of Stuart Miles-FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Bmobile’s rollout of its 4G network and the widespread access customers now have to some of the world’s leading smart devices represents a new chapter in the way organisations and the public can directly communicate with each other. Customised business apps, already very popular in more developed markets, is still a relatively new frontier locally for the public, businesses and even state agencies to engage each other in a more direct way that can ultimately make life easier for all involved.

For some businesses however, an “App” is either a bad three letter word or a fanciful indulgence. But it need not be if you see an App as an extension of everyone in your business. What can a business App do? Can a taxi cab App be of any use? If you were the Addison Lee minicab company in London, the answer would be a resounding “Yes”. In an article by David Howell on Techradar.com, Howell reported that Addison Lee, London's largest minicab company, released its own App in 2011 to allow customers to book minicabs from their iPhones. Since doing that, Addison Lee reportedly took 75,000 bookings in a single month. This drew in revenues in excess of £1.4 million and it was estimated that the company grossed over £20 million from its iPhone App alone in 2011.

So how do you determine if an App is right for your business? A simple starting point would be to ask –

•    Can your business benefit from being accessible 24/7/365?  One of the things an App can provide is a full time, always ready and willing receptionist and information centre.
•    Does your service offer relatively fixed options that can be pre-programmed but still be modified to fit peculiar needs? Chances are, since people come to your business when they have a peculiar need, its more than possible to create many but still finite service options. We don’t go to mechanics for spa treatments and we don’t go to groceries for insurance policies.
•    Is there a consistent demand for your service? If you are you dealing with scores of customers everyday then it is safe to say that you have something that they want.
•    Do you care to make life easier for you and your customers? Seems like a ridiculous question until you spend 30 minutes getting to and walking through a supermarket only to realise they don’t have what you came for, at that branch. Or you stand in line for 20 minutes and wonder why you couldn’t use an App to select items and place an order that you can just pass by the grocery to pay and pick-up.

The Toronto-based Xtreme Labs produced a Retail Apps Report that looked at how customers rated the top 100 United States retail mobile Apps on both iOS and Android platforms. The sheer variety of businesses included speaks volumes about what is possible for T&T entrepreneurs. The companies in the report are involved with clothing, coffee, pharmaceuticals, fast food,  home, office and garden supplies, books and much more.  Some of the key issues coming out of that report were:

•    Invest in creating an App that truly enhances the customer experience.
•    Focus on delivering a high quality and customer-centric experience
•    utility Apps that fulfil everyday customer needs are highly valued by consumers
•    the time to get retail Apps right is now as analysts have estimated there could be as much as US $689 billion of mobile -influenced spending by 2016
•    Use App developers that have proven, high quality standards
•    Apps should have less focus on marketing and more focus on customer experience.
In subsequent articles we will look in more detail at tools available for developing your App and evaluating its effectiveness.