Does your small business have or plan to build a mobile app?  While mobile app adoption among small businesses has been slow; it’s beginning to pick up, reports B2B research firm Clutch.  In its recent survey “Mobile Apps and Small Business in 2016,” Clutch found that small businesses are beginning to get on board with mobile apps for customer engagement and to streamline operations, owing to the availability of app development software, and more specifically app builders, which lowers app-building cost and complexity.

The survey found “Currently less than a quarter of small businesses have a mobile app and nearly a third are unlikely to build one. However, 27% plan to build a mobile app in the near future, and 22% are unsure, but still could be convinced to build a mobile app in the future.”

Consumer-facing industries such as restaurants, realtors, and other professional services (carpet cleaners, for example) have moved quicker to develop mobile apps. Improved customer engagement to: increase sales (55%), improve the customer experience (50%) and become competitive in the market (50%) are key drivers and the app features deemed most valuable to do so include:

  • 21% customer loyalty features
  • 18% social network features
  • 17% push notification
  • 14% personalization

While customer engagement is the primary driver behind small business mobile app development, another 17% of respondents said they used the app to organize tactical processes to boost productivity.

Maximize the potential for customer-engagement

With a small business mobile app, customers can check inventory, make a purchase, schedule an appointment or make payments. There are other ways an app can help improve the customer engagement:

Customer support:  Provide instant assistance, including support that might otherwise not be possible or convenient. For example, a customer could snap a photo of a problem they have with your product, send it to you in an Instant Message and you could immediately reply with a text or call them.

Feedback: Your mobile app is a good resource to find out how your customers are using your products and services and what they like or don’t like about them. You also can use your app to get demographic information about customers and prospects – location, age, jobs, etc.

Mobile geo-targeting: By integrating geo-location technology into a mobile app, a small business can send text messages to customers that are in the vicinity.  You could send a message to someone who is near your restaurant around the noon hour with a special lunch promotion. Or send a text with a special coupon to someone near your store or salon.

Assure a satisfying experience

Keep it simple: Don’t overcrowd your app with too much functionality or require too many clicks to accomplish a task.  Use your mobile app to enable your customers to easily perform a few select functions.

Make the experience special: You need to balance the needs of your customers who are on the go yet are looking for a highly satisfying experience. Consider offering content customers can’t get on your traditional site, such as short articles,  or offer a special promotion or reward for using the site.

Also consider adding video. The popularity of video can’t be denied. Last year, US adults spent 5 ½ hours watching video every day, says eMarketer. Today using a smartphone and aided by a headset to cancel out any background noise, a prospect or customer can get information about your small business even while they are on the go with a short video.  You can use a video to showcase a new product and include a demonstration; share moments from an industry event or highlight a customer application of your service offering.

Appeal visually: An unattractive app will discourage users from engaging. An app should feature colors and other design elements of your brand and also be simple to use. A cluttered design on your mobile app will discourage use.

Connecting with customers via mobile apps is creating stronger ties that lead to increased customer loyalty and sales. Maybe it’s time to see what an app can do for your small business.