As a business strategist, I’m trained to notice and understand emerging trends in the external world. Emerging trends are a source of both emerging threats, and emerging opportunities.
And then there are the special trends which are transformational - creating new business/marketing models as they disrupt the old.
I now see a trend which creates perhaps the greatest marketing opportunity for small and local businesses in the past 50 years. The trend: customer migration from desktop to mobile computing.
When I look at the staggering statistics for smartphone adoption and usage, I don’t see evolution at work. I see explosive, painful and disruptive REVOLUTION. Like a tsunami, the transition to mobile violently changes everything in its path.
And as it the case for all disruptive external change – those who ignore the early signs will find themselves swept up in the wake and playing catchup to those who seized opportunities early.
The opportunity I’ve focused on here is mobile apps. Mobile apps combine the strengths of most direct marketing tools we currently use - print media, email, social media – and put them on a platform that encourages real time customer engagement. A mobile app innovates a company’s marketing strategy, branding, customer experience, business channels, and networking.
I’ve crafted five compelling reasons every local business should consider getting a branded mobile app.
REASON 1 - Over 90 percent of smartphone owners keep their phones with them or at arm’s length ALL THE TIME (The Smartphone Consumer 2012 Report)
Smartphones are considered indispensible by most of their owners. They text, they Tweet, they check Facebook, they Pin. This means a communication targeted to a smartphone will be received and acted upon in real time. And the personal nature of the smartphone experience lends itself to social interaction and engagement. For example – you’re at a bar watching a football game and your home team wins. Seconds later you get a message from the bar, via its branded mobile app, that announces special happy hour victory 2-for1 deals on all draft beer for the next three hours. Or a special GPS-based deal for a free appetizer with the purchase of dinner.
REASON 2 – Smartphone owners prefer to access infomation via mobile apps vs. the mobile web BY A FACTOR OF FOUR (AllThingsD)
Smartphone owners use the phone to access their social networks, play games, and get information via apps. Apps are to smartphones what browsers are to desktops and laptops. The main reasons? I think that business owners have been slow to update their websites to be mobile-responsive. As a result, their websites don’t look good on mobile browers. And we know that once customers have a bad mobile web experience, they aren’t likely to return. If you offer a mobile app, you control the experience and can make it 100% positive via app design. The smart app developer will focus app functionality on the stuff customers will use the most – one touch calling, messaging, integration with their social networks, sharing, QR code scanning, and discounts.
REASON 3 - SEVENTY percent of smart phone owners use their phone while shopping in-store (Google)
Customers want to use their smartphone while they are in your store. And smartphones are GPS capable – which means they know where they are located. Think of the opportunities this creates. First off, you can make it easy to download your app in the store by posting QR codes on the walls. Then you can offer GPS-based discounts, to give customers incentive to use the app once in the store. Mobile apps facilitate real-time social engagement.
REASON 4 – A whopping 98 percent of all messages received on a smartphone are read (Mashable)
This is the true ‘game changer’ for mobile marketing. Traditionally lead lists are email or social media based. But email message opens are notoriously low, on the order of 10-15 %. And social methods like Facebook fan pages can be even lower. If you send a message through a mobile app, the message will be read. The more messages are read, the more they will be acted upon. This fact can transform how you view marketing altogether. Send a message just before dinnertime on Friday announcing the weekend specials at your restaurant and more customers will act on the information. Send a message when you get a new, highly anticipated model in your car dealership on Friday afternoon and you’ll have a bunch of people in your lot to see it the next day. And if you use this feature mainly for special offers not available to those who haven’t downloaded your app, you create an ‘inner circle’ feeling amongst your app users.
REASON 5 - Mobile apps ultimately eliminate the need for mobile searches (as far as you’re concerned)
More specifically, mobile apps allow you to get AHEAD of the need for mobile searches in your niche. Why do people search for information? Because they don’t have it already. The mobile app allows you to give customers information WHEN or BEFORE they actually need it. Simply put: if customers have a pizza restaurant’s app on their smartphones, and get a coupon for 50% off a large deluxe pizza via the app, who will they call when it’s time to order pizza? This has profound implications on branding and business channel innovation.
You can see that these five reasons are really just five interconnected parts of one BIG reason. If a customer downloads your mobile app, you have a distinct, overwhelming advantage over all of your competitors. As long as your app is on their phone, you can market to them directly- in real time – the things they value the most. And you will transform them from customers to clients, and from clients to relationships.