Branding Your Business with Mobile Apps
About The Author:Joe Devine is the CEO of Cloud 8 Sixteen, Inc. Big Momma Apps is a division of Cloud 8 Sixteen, Inc. Big Momma Apps provides customized iPhone and Android mobile applications for law firms, restaurants, bars, and other businesses. For more information about Big Momma, visit http://www.bigmommaapps.com/.
Since the launch of the Apple App Store in July 2008, the popularity of mobile apps has skyrocketed as a new, innovative way for users to interact online. For many people, apps are becoming the most popular means to use the internet, whether for email, games, reference, or other uses. App downloads for the Apple iPhone, Google Android, and BlackBerry have all grown rapidly since their launch, with Apple reporting over 10 billion iPhone app downloads to date in January 2011. Other companies, including e-retailer giant Amazon, are also seeking to profit from the popularity of custom mobile apps with their own smartphone app markets.
Many businesses are beginning to recognize the value of mobile app technology as a marketing tool to attract customers. With the mobile app market growing so rapidly, it is becoming increasingly important to know how to make your app stand out among the rest. To get the most out of apps as effective marketing tools, your app must resonate with potential clients by offering three outstanding qualities: functionality, creativity, and searchability.
What makes mobile apps so attractive to many is that they offer a more personalized internet experience. Instead of having to open a web browser and type in a specific web address, apps give you access to the site or application of your choice at the touch of a button. What sets great apps apart from the rest, however, is the level of functionality. In order to catch on with users, an app has to be able to do something that is useful or interesting to the customer. With so many to choose from it is easy for potential users to overlook apps that don't offer some direct benefit. Before taking the time and money to develop an app for your company, ask yourself: What service can your business offer through a mobile app that would make it valuable to users?
The restaurant industry is a great example of an industry that is poised to benefit greatly from mobile apps. A custom restaurant app can allow users to instantly view the venue's full menu, hours, and location. An interactive map could offer turn by turn directions, all accessible instantly from the user's phone. Some smartphones allow users to instantly scan QR barcodes to access all types of encoded information directly on their phones. All of these details make an app functional and worthwhile for current and potential customers, giving users the ability to instantly access key information about your business.
In the increasingly competitive world of mobile apps, another important part of making your app functional and relevant is providing regular updates. Just as a website will languish if it is not updated from time to time, an app can easily lose its appeal if it remains stagnant. The potential uses for mobile apps seem to be constantly growing and evolving, and staying on top of current trends is crucial to successfully marketing your business to app users. The app should regularly update and share new information with the online community, gaining new capabilities and uses over time. For restaurants, this could mean using your app to regularly share seasonal menu items, promote special events or daily deals, release happy hour specials, and more. An update on your website requires users to access your site through a browser, while a downloadable app puts your updates directly at your customers' fingertips.
Equally important as function is the design of your mobile app. If the look and feel of your app does not appeal to customers, it may not attract many users. Perhaps most importantly, an app icon should be visually appealing and identifiable, acting as an extension of your company's brand. An attractive, well-designed app that has the “cool factor” can draw in potential customers and convince them to learn more about your business and what you offer. When considering a design for your app icon and app, consider how the appearance and layout will help to present a positive and appropriate image for your business.
One of the greatest advantages of a creative and intuitive app is its potential to go viral. The “viral effect” is a powerful phenomenon among mobile apps, videos, and other free or low-cost media. If you are able to develop an app that provides some sort of appeal or entertainment that inspires users to share it with others, your business could benefit greatly from the widespread exposure created by a viral app. Instant connection to a broader customer base is one of the powerful benefits of creating an app for your business.
In addition to the direct customer contacts that you make through a mobile app, just having a creative and interesting app can indirectly benefit your company. Many customers today are interested in finding businesses that are in tune with their customers, their interests, and how they communicate. Having a mobile app not only gives your business one more way to connect with customers but also shows that your business is keeping up with the latest trends or even leading the way.
As important as functionality and creativity may be to getting the most out of your app, these qualities will matter little if your app cannot easily be found among the millions of other apps available. As of now, the Apple App Store is designed so that mobile app names are exclusive. Once someone makes an app for “New York Chinese restaurant”, for example, no other business will be able to use the same title. Those who do not reserve a mobile app name early may be forced to choose from titles that are overly specific or that do not accurately describe their business. Choosing a relevant name that includes keywords for your geographic location and business type could be a wise investment as mobile apps increase in popularity. This type of keyword-based title also makes it easier for new customers to find you, even if they have never heard of your particular business.
As the number of apps increase and more people become accustomed to using apps, turning to the app store to conduct searches for businesses and services may become as commonplace as using search engines like Google. Those businesses that have been quick to act to develop a functional, creative custom app are poised to benefit the most from this transition. Even if apps never entirely overtake web browsing as the most popular way to access the internet, a mobile app will still be a valuable tool that provides one more way for a business to connect with its customer base.