Here’s why every business needs a mobile app (and why they ought to choose carefully)

The growth of mobile apps has been so meteoric in recent years that it’s worth taking a step back and taking a broad view of both the diversity and range of functionality – from advanced augmented reality maps to mobile document centers – as well as the narrower concept of whether or not these apps can add value to whatever it is you’re doing.

One example: many smaller suburban take-away restaurants have adopted templated, white-labeled e-commerce apps that theoretically offer their regular customers a way to purchase food directly from the phone (or tablet) without even having to place a call.

The problem encountered here, however, is that the end user has grown so used to the convenience of aggregation (that is, all storefronts or products being offered from within a single framework) that a single branded app for a single restaurant seems constrictive. As a result, while adoption has been relatively widespread, the success of such mobile applications remains to be seen. Besides, the utility gained from installing an app and then inputting card details on a phone keyboard versus checking the menu online or within a brochure and then simply calling is questionable.

The point here is that the advantages of mobile apps to businesses both large and small are not always underscored by the most functional and high-tech apps. Virtually every business has some kind of workflow that can either be revolutionized or simply improved and made more efficient through the introduction of a mobile application. The key is identifying this area – it’s not always as obvious as it seems!

Key point: Every business has a potential value-add

We’ve developed hundreds of apps here at YUDU since the release of the iPhone and iPad. Most are centered around some sort of document center, and in spite of the rather dry-sounding name, the range of potential applications here is enormous. Those documents could be digital travel brochures, for example, enabling tour operators to offer reference material to prospective customers on mobile devices in a way that can be downloaded and viewed offline. Alternatively, it could refer to a massive repository of engineering change documents and datasheets, or training manuals for new starters at a firm.

As a result, we’ve built up a range of ancillary features and functionality around this. Little things here and there like enabling specific registered user groups to access particular kinds of content that only they can see (or not see), or the ability to share various pages which get compiled as a mini-PDF.

These sorts of features, on the face of it, wouldn’t lead to a huge productivity boost. But in our experience, the most value is added through these sorts of incremental improvements to existing workflows, and every business, from a sole proprietorship to a large multi-national, has these sorts of processes: managing documentation, distributing and disseminating marketing materials, communicating with customers, stakeholders and prospects along already established channels, and more.

Apps as ways to improve existing processes

It’s primarily in the field of communication (an admittedly broad term) where workforces are being made more productive by apps. Where services like Dropbox are giving absent-minded plant-inspectors travelling to Nepal, who may have forgotten crucial materials at the office, ways of retrieving those documents that don’t involve postal services or e-mail. Take the above example of the widespread proliferation of branded e-commerce apps for restaurants – how many times have you and others asked the question: “Do we have a menu for that place?” In place of a branded delivery app, an app that aggregates the menus of all submitted restaurants in a given region would surely be of far more use to the consumer.

That’s not to say apps can’t and shouldn’t attempt to re-invent the wheel where possible. Capital-intensive, massive development projects like Google Maps have shown that web services really can change lives for the better. But it’s important to understand that apps can help enterprises of all sizes become more efficient and more effective at delivering their goods and services to their customers. But there is a lot to be said for the ways in which fairly simply functionality, like well written push notifications, can help engage customers.

Apps as vehicles for brand exposure

As anyone employed in a serious, KPI-driven marketing field knows, “brand exposure” is a vague term and often simply acts as an excuse for why say, ROI wasn’t delivered on a particular project or campaign. In this case however, it is meaningful. App store discoverability, despite being subverted by multi-service apps like Uber, is still an important piece of a brand’s overall exposure to the marketplace. Having your company’s app sitting in a customer/client facing way on the app store, regardless of the role, acts as a sort of signpost of dependability – especially for small businesses. It says you are literally invested in the mobile future, and to some extent, that you can afford to be trusted.

Apps as a way of delivering copy

We’ve already talked about apps as channels for communicating with all sorts of stakeholders. One aspect of this that is somewhat under sung in the tech press, given how intimately mobile devices are tied up with the growth in multimedia streaming, is the way in which mobile devices encourage users to read text, both shortform and longform. Smartphones and especially tablets are ideally suited as e-reading devices given their form-factor and touchscreen functionality and the fact that copy has become more readable as a result of this has seemingly come along incidentally. But it’s something to exploit if you have significant amounts of client-facing literature. Reading responsive text on a smartphone or tablet is simply more pleasant than doing it on a desktop or laptop.

YUDU are an app developer specializing in document centers. Email them to find out more: enquiries@yudu.com

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