The Question Remains – Does Your Business Need A Mobile App?

When it comes to mobile apps, the year is ending the way it began – with some marketers saying they need one, but without even a half-decent reason why.

Several weeks ago in Las Vegas, I was approached following a Mobilized Marketing book presentation by a small business marketer. Much to the chagrin of a “more sophisticated” marketing colleague, the gentlemen pushed for approval from me for moving forward on creating an app.

But when I gently asked whether he knew what type of mobile devices his customers carry, and whether he was prepared to build for more than one operating system (iOS for Apple devices, Android for Google, etc.), he realized that he hadn’t done enough homework on the subject of apps.

That scenario happened to me several times this year – and actually every year since 2007.

In a recent PC World article called Does your small business need a mobile app to stay competitive? http://news.idg.no/cw/art.cfm?id=A0025B28-C30F-D9C1-1529706063D17C87 author Christopher Null wrote that many small and medium size business owners believe that everyone has an app but them.

The Question Remains – Does Your Business Need A Mobile App?

“As a small-business owner, choosing whether to join the app-development club can be a difficult decision,” Null wrote. “You may feel like you have to build an app and go mobile to stay competitive, but you’ve probably heard that apps are expensive and time-consuming to develop. More and more users are dumping desktops and laptops for tablets and cell phones, so it makes sense to optimize the online experience for them. But is it really worth the effort? Cant they just use their smartphones to access the website you already have?

“Its a tricky problem with no single cut-and-dried solution.”

Null correctly pointed out that while mobile websites work on all smartphones, “an app gives you much more presence on the phone than a bookmark on that phones browser does. Rather than forcing the user to launch the browser and find your URL, an app is always there, front and center on the mobile desktop. Your business is constantly in mind, whether the person is using the app or not.”

I’m in the camp that says build a mobile website before an app (if you need an app at all) because it is more inclusive.

There were some who believed that the “duel” between the mobile web and apps would be won by the end of 2012 and that only one would be left standing. That won’t happen. Both have a place. It behooves small and medium size business owners and marketers to understand their customers and provide the best solution for them.

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This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business http://goo.gl/S6P7m program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet.

The Question Remains – Does Your Business Need A Mobile App?

Rethinking Customer Expectations

Three years ago nearly to the day, I had one of the least satisfying shopping experiences of my life. Ironically, it was with a luxury car dealership backed by a customer service promise that it badly broke.

The salesperson treated me rudely, telling me that the invoice information that I was accessing on my smartphone was wrong. Of course, I was looking at the mobile version of Consumer Reports data that has proven to be a cost-saver for years. But this guy could not acknowledge the new reality created by real-time connectivity.

Now, with nearly all customers carrying and using mobile devices to make buying decisions, businesses of all sizes need to react to the new reality.

“We have to rethink how consumers are accessing information, communicating with others, and the expectations they now have on brands,” says Denny Suh, digital brand manager, Capital One. “It’s no longer mobile versus not mobile. They want immediately and in real time, and in whatever format is most convenient.” 

Rethinking Customer Expectations
Suh predicts even more consumer expectation in 2013, setting up opportunity for small and medium-size businesses to compete and win.

“I believe the mobile adoption rate will continue to follow a hockey-stick-like curve,” Suh says. “I also believe that consumers will demand brands and retailers to deliver a great mobile experience – and they will vote with their taps and swipes or lack thereof. “

Suh’s advice for marketers and business owners?

“First of all, do not opt out (of using mobile),” he says. “Next, there is no need to continue to test the water, because mobile is here to stay. The third thing not to do is to have your eye so far out ahead that you forget what has worked in the past.

“Finally, do not treat your mobile campaigns just like your online campaigns. They are distinct channels, they have distinct user paths and distinct sets of consumer expectations from brands. And the KPIs (key performance indicators) can vary- that is OK. “

Capital One is expanding its mobile initiatives in the coming year. It certainly isn’t the only business to follow this route.

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This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business http://goo.gl/S6P7m program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet.

Rethinking Customer Expectations

Service Is The Killer App On Black Friday and Every Other Day

By Saturday, we knew from the likes of comScore, PayPal and IBM approximately how many dollars were spent on Black Friday.

 Service Is The Killer App On Black Friday and Every Other Day
It is a bit more difficult to gauge the activity around Small Business Saturday, an “event” American Express created in 2010 to bring shoppers to small and medium size business.

To encourage consumers to shop locally, Americann Express offered 100,000 cardmembers a $25 credit for shopping locally. The National Federation of Independent Business reported that about 500,000 small businesses around the country participated, bringing in approximately 100,000 million consumers.

Beyond that, American Express will not discuss incremental revenue generated by the promotion.

In a report from Inc. Magazine http://www.inc.com/eric-markowitz/graphing-out-small-business-saturday-succes..., store owners in Wichita, Kansas, and Athens, Alabama, for instance, saw an increase in foot traffic firsthand because of Small Business Saturday. 

Also, the magazine said that there were about 200,000 mentions of Small Business Saturday on Twitter. By comparison, there were just under one million mentions of Black Friday on Twitter.

Regular readers of this blog know how I believe that small and medium size businesses need to provide the mobile experiences their customers and prospects expect. From payment to wi-fi to deals, mobile makes these entities competitive.

I still believe the killer app is customer service. It can’t be matched via a mobile phone or computer. Over the long weekend, our family frequented a small restaurant. The waitress treated us like royalty, so much so that we asked to speak to the manager to make sure that he knew what he had in his help.

Sure, we could’ve ordered food in via mobile app. While that has it’s own cool factor, it is nothing like a superb experience delivered by a service pro.

According to a survey by Ipswitch’s Network Management Division, online shoppers have no patience for poor website experiences – 92 percent surveyed said they have abandoned a website because of a disappointing experience.

Contrast that with in-person quality service – and the customer will come back often.

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This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business http://goo.gl/S6P7m program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet.

 Service Is The Killer App On Black Friday and Every Other Day

Will Square’s Success Make Other Businesses Pay?

Will Square’s Success Make Other Businesses Pay?

News that Square is processing $10 billion in payments annually has ramifications for small to medium sized businesses everywhere.

Visitors to this blog know I’m hardly in the business of hype. I’m not suggesting that every SMB go all in on mobile immediately.  What I am saying is that the $10 billion shows that there is enough activity to push to the forefront the need to determine whether any business has customers that may choose to go elsewhere if the option is not offered.

To review, Square offers a card reader that turns a mobile phones into payment devices. It charges businesses $2.75 per transaction and splits the fees with Visa, MasterCard, and banks.

Square isn’t the only game in town. As Reuters reported this week, in recent months, eBay Inc's PayPal and Intuit have both released their own card readers, while retail giants including Wal-Mart and Target have announced a joint venture to develop their own mobile payment offering. According to Reuters, Visa and AT&T also have projects in the works as does Google, which is focusing on its Google Wallet product.

Beyond current consumer expectations from small to medium sized businesses, the urgency to figure out a mobile payment solution is heightened with the news that Square and Starbucks teamed up to offer customers Square’s mobile payment application. The companies are giving Starbucks patrons in 7,000 U.S. stores the ability to use the mobile payment application, Square Wallet, a way to quickly and seamlessly pay for lattes, cappuccinos and more.

Customers simply download Square Wallet to their iOS or Android device to set up an account. Square Wallet is linked to their debit or credit card, so there is no need to reload a balance. Customers tap “pay here” and scan their QR code – similar to the customer experience on the existing Starbucks mobile payment applications. Their digital receipt appears instantly.

What does Starbucks have to do with small to medium sized businesses in a category other than coffee? With more consumer experiences will come more pressure on SMB to serve the shopper just as efficiently.

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This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business http://goo.gl/S6P7m program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet.

 

Will Square’s Success Make Other Businesses Pay?

 

Notes From A Mobilized Marketer - The "Suckers For Apple Products" Edition

Jimmy Kimmel called consumers "suckers" for buying so many similar Apple products. Parody but how true for you? Or me?

Meanwhile, Apple has doubled its ad budget to $1 billion a year.  What's the value of "free" pre-product launch buzz unique to the company?

According to multiple reports, Microsoft is testing its own brand smartphone. There are risks in pissing off their partners, but too much is at stake not to make a run under full Microsoft control.

Speaking of Microsoft, Oprah said this about the Surface tablet: It “feels like a Mercedes-Benz to me, people!” Her stock isn’t what it once was, but what’s the worth of her comment in terms of sales?

Mobile giving could account for 20 percent of Sandy relief efforts. Text REDCROSS at 90999 to donate $10 to the relief efforts. As a reminder, more than 90 percent of those who contributed via mobile to Haiti relief were new Red Cross donors.

Teens who use smartphones may engage in more sex, according to a researcher who doesn't blame the technology.

IDC says the share of users accessing social networks on PCs will drop from 66 percent in 2012 to 52 percent in 2016. Mobile disruption.

You thought it was tough now getting a table at Starbucks - just wait. The company is testing wireless charging for devices.

Free mobile apps are four times more likely to track location, says security company Juniper Networks.

How cool is this? Given tablets but no teachers, Ethiopian kids are teaching themselves.

Neither Siri nor Maps would lead you to the executive shuffle at Apple. Siri would think you said dapple.