Consider the importance of mobile apps to small business these days. As we point out in Plantronics guide on How to Get the Most from Apps and Devices for your business, mobile devices are having a major impact on small businesses as employees opt for more flexible work arrangements. As a result, apps that enable work across a range of mobile devices are increasingly important to business operations.

Now put yourself in your customers’ shoes. If mobile devices and apps are becoming more and more critical to your small business, your customers too are seeking the most convenient and flexible way to interact with your company wherever they are and whenever they choose. That’s why having a mobile app and not only a website optimized for mobile devices is becoming increasingly important to the marketing efforts of many small businesses these days.

If you’re not sure why having a mobile app is for you, Melanie Haselmayr, CEO of Mevvy, points to the range of benefits in “7 Reasons Why Your Business Needs a Mobile App.”  Among them, mobile apps:

Create a direct marketing channel: All the information you want to provide your customers, including sales and promotions, is literally at their fingertips, says Haselmayr. Using push notifications, you’re getting even closer to direct interaction to easily remind customers about your products and services to support your marketing efforts.

Provide customer value: If you have a loyalty program, customers can conveniently collect their rewards via a mobile app. This capability results in more downloads and more return customers, Haselmayr points out.

Improve customer engagement: Mobile device messaging integrated with your mobile app makes it convenient for customers to reach you whether the issue is about customer service, ordering a product or booking a service.  And it’s not only text messaging that can help improve customer engagement. Other mobile messaging chat apps enable you to share videos and photos to promote your brand or host a discussion online. If you are going to host an online discussion, recommend users have a headset handy since background noise can seriously degrade the experience.

Tips for creating your mobile app

Keep it simple: Your customers don’t necessarily need all the capabilities that app development enables. They need to be able to connect your small business in a way that is useful and as interactive as possible. Stick with the essentials. Don’t overload the app with features and content that make the experience cumbersome.

Convey your brand:  Your app should feature colors and other design elements of your brand.  You also should feature content from your other marketing channels, in addition to offering an article or video that they can’t get on your traditional site.

Add share-ability: Add social media ‘share’ features on your app so your customers can post to Facebook or Twitter and other social media channels and comment to help your app go viral.

Enable feedback: Make sure your mobile app provides a feedback mechanism so customers can submit a complaint, ask a question or offer a suggestion for future product features or capabilities.

Outsourcing: If you decide you want to outsource the work to developer, find out if the candidates know your market and have created apps for businesses similar to yours. Get references and take a look at their portfolio to make sure you like their design work.

Design for multiple platforms: Get the most out of your mobile app development by creating an app that runs on multiple mobile platforms. This way, you’ll be sure to get your small business in front of more buyers and prospects.

When your app is ready, get out the word. Include a download link in emails, on your website and in other marketing materials and promote your app through your social networking sites.