As global smartphone penetration keeps increasing exponentially, more and more people are now depending on mobile applications to complete a wide range of tasks. This explains why most people now spend a huge fraction of their day with their smartphones.
Now, what does that mean for small businesses?
A mobile app is now one of the most effective tools for reaching out to and interacting with customers. While some businesses have realized this and are already capitalizing on the trend, many others — especially small businesses — are yet to hop on the bandwagon.
If you own or manage a service business, then creating a blog, publishing a newsletter, building social media followership, and other commonly recommended strategies might be no longer enough to build relationships with potential and existing customers.
You need to develop a mobile app right now. You’re wondering why? Well, it might interest you to know that consumers now spend 85% of their time on smartphones using apps. And here are some compelling reasons you can deduce from that statistic:
- It strengthens brand awareness (since customers and prospects will see your app on their phones at all times)
- It enhances engagement and interaction with customers
- It promotes effective customer service and support
- It serves as a direct marketing channel for your business
- It boosts sales by enhancing convenience of purchase
- It spreads word about your business
- It helps you to stand out from the competition
- It helps to cultivate customer loyalty
With the above in mind, let’s now discuss the steps involved in creating a mobile app for your small business.
1. Define your goals
Developing a mobile app just because everyone else is doing it won’t yield positive results. Conversely, building a mobile app for the purpose of growing your business requires a lot of planning. So, your first step is to clearly define the purpose and mission of your mobile app.
What benefits will your app bring to your business? What features must be included in the app for it to bring those benefits? On what operating systems will the app be made available?
For example, if your business renders copywriting services, your goals for developing a mobile app could be the following:
- To tell customers more about your services and why they should hire you
- To make it easier for customers to order and pay for your services
- To ease streamline customer interactions through self-service features
Defining and outlining your goals this way will help you complete the app development project faster. However, you need to keep everything concise and functional. While it’s acceptable to have more than one goal, try to keep it to a maximum of three or four. You can always include additional features later on.
2. Sketch your app
Sketching means making a rough drawing of how you want your mobile app to look like on smartphone screens. Start with the user interface. Then sketch the opening screen, showing what has to be on it for users to understand your app. Sketch the various screens that will be displayed after the user taps certain buttons.
After sketching the various screens, render the whole process into a flow chart showing which screen leads to which, after each instruction by the user.
Critically check your flow chart for blind ends and incoherent components. And ensure that every component blends seamlessly with other components of the chart. Also, have the sketches and flow chart assessed by as many people as possible. Aside that this will help eliminate errors, it will also give room for better suggestions.
3. Hire an app developer
While the Internet abounds with DIY app development programs, it is strongly recommended that you hire a seasoned web developer when creating a mobile app for your service business. There are millions of mobile apps out there, and for your app to really stand out and be taken seriously, it must meet the following criteria:
- Must have a user-friendly interface
- Must be perfectly compatible with the mobile platform it was developed for
- Must be fast and spontaneous
- Must be perfectly tailored to your target market
- Must be beautiful and memorable
- Must be unique
- Must reflect your brand
Now, only a seasoned app developer can professionally factor in all these criteria while developing your mobile app. Though hiring one might be somewhat expensive, it’s an investment worth making.
You can hire seasoned app developers on outsourcing sites like Elance and Freelancer.
Before getting started with any developer, be sure to request that he (or she) sign an NDA (non-disclosure agreement) to protect your idea. Also, provide every detail about your project, so that the developer will understand what you want and will be able to deliver just that.
Remember that you will still have to contact the developer each time your app is due for an update. Such updates are necessitated by changing user needs, OS improvements, business expansion, and so on.
4. Test, test, and test
Once your developer is through with the first test-version of your app, test it thoroughly to ensure that there are no flaws. Start with the skins; do they look appealing enough? Does the user interface look exactly as you want? Does the app respond quickly to requests? Does it incorporate all the components of the flow-chart you drew earlier? Will the app provide users will all the intended benefits? Are there any malfunctions? Do the graphics and colors blend with your brand?
Be sure to test everything about the app. Ask as many other people as possible—including some of your existing customers—to also test the app from their ends. Report any flaws to the developer, so that they can be fixed. Then test and test again until you end up with the perfect mobile app.
5. Release your app
Once your app is good to go, then it’s time to unleash it to the public. This simply entails submitting it to the necessary app marketplaces. For example, if your app is available in Android, iOs, and BlackBerry versions, you’ll need to submit it to Google Play store, iOS app store, and BlackBerry World, respectively.
While Google Play will make your app available for download immediately after you submit it, iOS will have to review and approve it before allowing it to go live. This review process takes at least one week.
6. Market your app
Nobody will use your app if they don’t know it exists; if you want your existing and potential customers to download and use your mobile app, you need to tell them about it. So, once your mobile app is listed on the app stores of your choice, start making some noise.
Encourage your existing and potential customers to download and use the mobile app. You can even offer incentives such as discounts for the first fifty or hundred customers to place orders through the app or to give their feedback on it.
Mobile usage is exploding and businesses are depending more on mobile apps now than ever. Expectably, there is stiff competition in the app marketplace, so you need to really craft an app that will stand out.
By diligently following the steps in the post, you’ll be able to create a great app that will help grow your business service significantly.