We may not be experiencing a “mobile app crisis.” But there’s no doubt that among small businesses, there’s a serious mobile app deficit out there. While no one has done an exhaustive survey—small businesses still don’t get the attention they deserve—I agree with a recent Forbes contributor that the “vast majority” of small businesses don’t have a mobile app. After all, a study last year found that more than half of them don’t even have a website.
With the universal move to mobile—and considering all the profound, competitive challenges SMBs face—it’s hard to understand why so many smart and aggressive entrepreneurs are acting against their best interests by staying on the mobile sidelines.
What’s the reason for this? I believe a combination of sheer misunderstanding and psychological barriers produced this sorry state of affairs. (Actually, isn’t that the reason behind most of mankind’s problems?)
After spending some time talking to small business owners and reviewing social media sentiment and comments on blogs, I’ve identified five of the most pervasive myths that are getting in the way of broader SMB adoption of mobile apps. While we don’t expect to change the world with this one post (unless Justin Bieber decides to retweet it, perhaps), one has to start somewhere.
Myth #1: “A mobile app? Yeah, like I can code something. I can barely remember my zip code.”
It’s true that a few years ago, at the beginning of the mobile revolution, it wasn’t easy to create a mobile app. Sadly, too many small businesses are still trapped in that false assumption.
I can understand why. Those of you who are busy building your businesses don’t have time to keep up with tech trends, so you may not realize how simple do-it-yourself (DIY) mobile app-creation has become.
DIY platforms, like Como and others, are built for small businesspeople without computer science degrees. Como actually turns out more than 4,500 mobile apps every day.
Myth #2: “Why do I need an app? I know it’s cool and trendy, but my customers know where to find me.”
They may know where to find you, but that doesn’t mean they will find you. Awareness doesn’t mean your brand is forefront in your customers’ mind. Say you’re a pizza restaurant, or a nail salon, or a liquor store. Your customers are familiar with you, but that doesn’t mean they’re totally loyal. They may walk by a competitor, or discover a new option by searching online, or they may get a coupon or offer from a service like Groupon or Living Social.
That happens millions of times every day. Small businesses lose valuable customers because they’re not top of mind. I recently read a piece that included a term I quite like, describing what every small business must do: get into their “customers’ app cognition silo.”
Your customers are looking at their smartphones dozens of times a day. Don’t you want to be there? Enter that cognition silo! Your small business will benefit, I assure you.
Myth #3: “I’m already on Facebook and Twitter. Isn’t that enough?”
No, not really. First of all, it’s dangerous to assume that your customers are paying attention to your updates all the time. Of course, it is important to be there, but that’s not enough. In fact, a mobile app actually amplifies the value of your social channels, because it connects them in one seamless experience for your customers. For example, you can use your Facebook page to encourage downloads of your app, and your app can in turn push consumers to your Facebook page.
Every business—whether it’s a local vet or Wal-Mart—needs to cultivate and nourish their existing customers, and expand their business at the same time. It’s an irrevocable truth. And a mobile app does both.
Myth #4: “What can I deliver through an app, other than my location and phone number?”
Ah, that’s where the magic lies. You’d be amazed what you can accomplish with today’s mobile apps using DIY app-makers like Como. You can set up a reservation or booking system, deliver coupons, generate a QR code, share photos, announce specials, and so much more. It’s a whole mobile business operating system.
Myth #5: “I’m too busy to update an app.”
Are you? We don’t think so. The best mobile apps are designed so you can keep it fresh and lively every day, in just a few minutes. Updating your content and offerings needs to be an everyday habit—like turning on the lights or throwing out the trash—but those updates can be delivered seamlessly to your customers, so when you update your website or Facebook, your app also updates automatically. In fact, it takes far less time to make sure that your customers have an updated app on their smartphones than it does to complain about business being slower than you’d like.
Those are the rational arguments against stepping into App World. But there’s also a psychological barrier. Change is always difficult. We want to believe things will be the same tomorrow as they are today, even when all evidence points to the contrary. As a small business owner, you need to look reality in the eye, and triumph over it.
Another emotional hurdle? Many small business owners feel resigned to the fact that technology is a force that enables big businesses to compete, but that doesn’t truly empower the SMB. Nothing could be further from the truth. Technology is the great leveler; it’s a digital slingshot that gives David ammunition against Goliath. You’re fortunate to live in an era when the gap between big and small businesses—in terms of the tools available to them—has never been smaller.
A small business app can be every bit as powerful, effective, and flexible as an app that a Fortune 500 company can build. So seize the moment! Don’t stand in the way of your own success. That would be simply, well… appsurd.