Business apps can be customer-facing apps which help you make more money, or they can be internal apps which help boost productivity or save you money in the long term. They aren’t for every business, but they’re certainly becoming more popular—and for good reason.
Using Customer-Facing Apps
For over a decade, online marketers have known that the single most powerful marketing tool on the Internet is the opt-in email list. Getting customers to agree to let you send them occasional marketing messages lets businesses generate sales and, more importantly, get repeat sales which are typically the most profitable sales in any business.
But as more businesses realize the power of email marketing and as vendors make it easier to outsource the most difficult parts of email marketing (list management), the number of businesses competing for each customer’s email opt-ins has skyrocketed. The result is that it’s getting harder to get customers and potential customers to agree to sign up for your mailing list.
(You should still probably try to do it, as the costs are low and the benefits high, but don’t expect it to be as easy as a marketing book from five years ago says it is.)
Happily, technology has given forward-thinking businesses another way to create opt-in marketing opportunities—the mobile app. When a customer or potential customer installs your app, you have the ability to send them custom marketing messages. It’s better than email because you get a lot more control over the message and how it’s displayed, plus you can track very specifically how much attention the user pays to the message.
Of course, nobody signs up for a mailing list or installs an app just to receive marketing messages. Your list or your app has to deliver value—but if you can do that, you’ll have an opportunity to keep customers coming back to your business over and over.
Simple apps, such as an app which tells your customers what sales you currently have running, can cost between $2,000 and $10,000 to develop. If you already have all of the content you want to deliver to the app online using an open source content management system (such as WordPress or Drupal), you can probably cut your app development costs in half.
Internal Business Apps
Do important people in your business spend a significant amount of time away from their desks? If so, a mobile app could significantly boost their productivity. The key factor is whether or not they need to make decisions while they’re away from their computers.
Salespeople know that the faster they respond to a potential customer, the greater the likelihood of the sale. Salespeople in some businesses also spend a lot of time away from the office, making them the perfect target for an app which helps them stay in touch with customers.
Businesses whose staff never sit at a traditional desk can sometimes replace expensive proprietary systems with an in-house app. Think of warehouses which do constant inventory management using special devices or a transportation company which pays high fees to track each driver with a special GPS device. Both systems could probably be replaced with generic smartphones or tablets and a custom app.
Internal business app prices vary greatly depending on how complicated the process you want to automate and how many resources are already available for the programmer to use.
How To Get Started
Most custom app development companies will offer a free consultation, so sketch a few ideas on the back of an envelope and give two or three different companies a call to ask what’s possible and how much it will cost.
On thing most app development companies neglect to mention is on-going app maintenance costs. Even if the app they write you is perfect and you business never changes, mobile operating systems do change all the time and apps need to be updated on a regular basis, so be sure to ask prospective developers about maintenance costs so you can factor it into your budget.
Apps aren’t right for every business, but more and more businesses are discovering the benefits of custom apps every day.