Has your small business grown to the point where you need a website but are unsure about how to make that happen? Do you wish someone else would just take it over for you? If so, you’re not alone. Many small business owners would like to be hands off when it comes to the online operations, and interestingly enough, some folks will seek the advice of the younger generation, sons and daughters, to help get them started!
This month, we’re here to help you understand the benefits of having a website, so you can be in the driver’s seat toward building your website versus coaxing your high schooler to help you understand what you need. First, grab a pen to jot down some answers to the following questions:
What is your goal for having a website?
If you simply want a website for the sake of saying you have one, please don’t put any money or energy into it. Your website is another medium, through which you will gain publicity and exposure; it’s another way to market your products or services. Define your goals before you get started.
Why should people browse your website?
Asking the Why questions will help you define your objectives for having a website. Why should people know your story? Why do people need to spend time on your website? The answers will help define your objectives and the direction you should go with your website.
What should be the “Call to action”?
Once you understand your objectives, how would you like potential customers to respond? Do you want them to submit an online form, sign up for a newsletter, purchase an item, or simply call your toll-free number? What would you like them to do once they are familiar with your company? That will determine the actual content, design, and structure of your site with a call to action in there somewhere.
What is the information people need from you?
Once you know the action you want your customers to take, you can populate the website with information needed for your site visitors. For example, if you want a potential customer to sign up for your newsletter, you might give an incentive to sign up like a coupon code for free shipping. If you would like them to purchase a product online, you’d better have good product information so they can make informed decisions before they buy.
Finally, structure your thoughts.
Spread your answers to those questions out on the table and let’s think of the most logical way to structure your website. Depending on the information you wish to provide, and the call to action, you may want certain web pages and menu items for different products or services. Imagine the customer walking through your store or getting to know your business on a phone call, and think the same way for your website. The customer needs to be able to “walk through” your website, easily understating where to go and what action to take next.
According to statista.com, there were close to 150 billion downloads of mobile apps in 2016. The world population in 2017 is 7.5 billion so we humans downloaded about 20 apps per person, on average.
Wow! That’s a lot of apps being downloaded in cyberspace. According to research, that number will more than double to be 300 - 350 billion in 5 years. Between video and music streaming, and app downloads, our internet traffic will increase a massive amount. The revenue is predicted to be $75 - $80 billion in 2017. All these numbers are in billions, not in millions.
With more devices and smart appliances at our finger tips, we all need mobile apps to manage and control things. So what are the newer trends in 2017? Here’s what’s becoming more popular:
More apps will become smarter with GPS technology so they can locate you where you are and provide information you’re seeking more readily. Knowing where users are will empower businesses with more accurate and useful information at hand.
Virtual and Augmented Realities
Snapchat is a good example of Augmented Reality. While Virtual Reality is totally virtual, Augmented Reality gives you some sense of a virtual world on top of your real world. Don’t be surprised if one day soon an app exists where your camera can scan a piece of clothing in store and send you other comparative items to look at.
At-Home Security and Appliances
Many of us already have a home security camera, doorbell, or other appliances at home which can be controlled via an app on our phone. This technology will only increase in coming years. We will eventually be connected to and able to control all of our stuff over the internet!
With the help of A.I., more and more apps will predict your next steps, making your information search and decision-making faster. A.I. will also likely grow to benefit businesses as well and enable us to utilize our apps for running our business more efficiently.
Currently there are about 2.2 million apps for Android users, and 2 million apps for Apple users, and app development is growing at the rate of 50% increase over the past 3 years. Many of them are the same across the two major platforms, so it is probably safe to say there are a couple million apps out there. With that many apps existing and even more in development, how do you get the word out about your mobile app?
One obvious place for you to get the word out is thru social media. If you post interesting and intriguing information about it, people will share and spread the word about your mobile app. Of course, don’t forget to include a link to your app right on your website homepage. It has to be easy for people to download if you want them to install it. Linking to your apps from your website or social media will encourage users to try it out. Sometimes a banner on your Facebook or homepage will remind them about your apps.
Make the benefit of your mobile app clear to customers. Be sure to state your reasons for developing the app and how it can make life easier for your them. If your app is worth trying, people will usually try it out as long as it's free. Some basic apps are free to everyone but may require a fee or subscription to unlock all the features once it’s downloaded. You might be able to use this to your benefit, allowing potential customers to download the app and try you out or see what you have to offer before they commit to the full version of your app (or commit to becoming a customer).
Offer people a special discount or promote an incentive campaign. Depending on your business, you might want to consider giving an extra incentive for downloading your mobile app. This will encourage users to take the extra step to download your app. But remember, ultimately your app needs to be helpful and beneficial to the user in order to entice user downloads.
Obviously your App Store Optimization (ASO) could bring some traffic to your app if you have the right keywords and the product/service users are looking for, but you the bottom line is you will still need to take advantage of all the media and marketing you have in your power to bring attention to your company’s new mobile app.
Once you’ve developed and launched a new mobile app for your business, how do you attract users to it?
First, you want to tell all of your existing customers about the availability of your mobile app, be it social media or newsletter or home page banner, but you should also be aware of “ASO” - yet another abbreviated term to learn which means App Store Optimization.
Here is how wikipedia.org defines ASO:
“App store optimization (ASO) is the process of improving the visibility of a mobile app (such as an iPhone, iPad, Android, BlackBerry or Windows Phone app) in an app store (such as iTunes for iOS, Google Play for Android, Windows Store for Windows Phone or BlackBerry World for BlackBerry). Just like search engine optimization (SEO) is for websites, app store optimization is for mobile apps.”
Just like your website SEO, the higher your app in search results, the more likely you will have more downloads. App reviews are important for this reason, because they provide keyword-rich content and make your app appear more popular and relevant than others like it. So, you might ask customers to review your app, and get some good critical feedback for improving the interface as well.
Think of your mobile app as another way, besides your website or Facebook page, to be noticed and get more market exposure. It's another tool in your marketing strategy. Through the app stores, and by consumer searches, your business and products will be more visible – even if your app was developed for existing customers only.
Each mobile app platform requires you to register your app. For example, you will need to belong to Apple Developer’s Network in order to apply for your app to go live and be available for download. Naming and categorizing your app with the correct terms will help you get exposed to potential users. Just like your homepage needs keyword-rich content, your mobile app also needs the right keywords included in its description so you can take advantage of the app store as another marketing platform.
Change your thinking about app stores. Rather than thinking about it as just another place to download programs for your mobile devices, think of it as a virtual marketplace to show off your products or services. This might help you devise a plan for your mobile business app if you’re still in the idea/development phase.
Building a mobile app for your company can be an effective and engaging tool for your target users. Whether you need one for your in-house team to use, or for your customers, a mobile app can be advantageous for business. As of now, if you’re providing information to your employees or customers via web browsers, building a mobile app to engage them easier is a smart strategy to consider. First, you should note a few things before investing in any development costs:
Define your goal and objectives.
Whether you’re building a mobile app or a new website, it’s always important to have goals and objectives in mind. Is your goal to have customers come back and use your service on a regular basis? Is it for your employees in the field to more efficiently provide a service to your clients? Know your end goal so you can plan accordingly and make your investment in design and function worthwhile.
Draw what you envision.
Grab a pen and a paper and simply draw what you would like to see in the mobile app. This is your initial blueprint for your app. Maybe you can draw some interfaces. If you haven’t used many apps before, go and download some free ones to see how they work and get ideas. Search for some that may be relevant to your business. Discover what you like and don’t like about those samples.
List the functions you want.
What are the functions you must have in your app? Oftentimes, apps are not the only means to access the information, and many people will use PCs for more intense input and usability. So, how will the app help complement your website or PC software and make it mobile-friendly? Don’t forget - users will access the app via phones, tablet, or both depending on how you define the program. Be careful not to clutter the app screen or make it too complicated.
Research the cost.
After you design the blueprint and define the functions of your app, seek out a few vendors who can build it for you. You also need to specify what platform (i.e. iPhone or Android, or both; smart phones, tablets, or both) you want to target when you present your idea. See if you can obtain 3 quotes for the app buildout. And always remember, when it comes to development costs, cheaper is not always better. Be sure you get references from past customers. Finally, make sure the vendor you choose to build your app can help you sustain the development because operating systems and devices may change the specs and you may have to update your app at some point.
Ask the end users.
It’s a good idea to get some feedback from your end users about the app to see if your idea makes sense and will be helpful. After all, without users engaging it, your app is wasted. Before you build it, you can describe the functions and show your initial drawings to a focus group and get some feedback. Maybe you’ll hear a good idea you never considered. Hopefully, this activity will help solidify a great app and ensure you get a return on your investment.
If it makes sense for your company to build an app, try it! But remember, much like your website, having a mobile app is only the beginning of your journey. You will want to track its downloads and usage and get customer feedback periodically.
Whether for business or pleasure, when you’re traveling you’ll no doubt need information on where to eat, what to do for fun, how the public transit works, and where to go during that 2-hour window of time you have in-between meetings…
You’ve probably heard of the more popular travel apps like Google Maps, TripAdvisor and Uber, but there are many other free apps to make planning for your trip a breeze, including apps that can help you in the moment when you’re in an unfamiliar city.
Google Trips will help you explore your destination. It can be a bit intimidating when traveling to a new area, but Google can organize your trip info into the app from your Gmail account and be your personal travel guide. You can find things to do, places to eat and drink, and sightsee like a pro. You can save the points of interest from your browser after you’ve logged in with your Gmail account, then pull it up later in the app to find directions easily, even without wifi if necessary.
Figuring out when to leave for the airport before a flight can be tricky these days, especially due to the unpredictably long lines to get through the security checkpoint. The MyTSA app will show you the checkpoint wait time and TSA pre-checkpoint availability, so you can plan your departure accordingly.
If you like to walk instead of ride, the best trip planner for you is Sidekix, an urban route planner with walkers in mind. It will find the best routes for you to stroll to your next destination in most major cities. Sidekix can help you plan your trip taking into account your interests as well as distance.
Want to keep track of your travel expenses and easily submit them to your accounting team? It’s easy with the Expensify app. You take a photo of your receipt and submit your expenses to your accounting team through the app. You can also generate expense reports very easily so you can come back to the office, worry free.
Mile Log + offers a mileage tracking program, so you can easily submit your miles for reimbursement. Instead of writing it all down and potentially losing the data somewhere, this app logs it for you so you can quickly generate a report for a tax deduction or reimbursement.
To find the best apps, do a web search online or within the app store (marketplace). Many of them can be installed for free so you can try it out risk free and delete it later if it doesn’t work for you.
If you’re wondering where to start when it comes to downloading mobile apps for your business, the following list of categories might be useful:
Accounting and Expenses
Check with your accounting software company to see if they offer a mobile app. Most major accounting and ERP software solutions include mobile capabilities through their own app. You may not get the full functionality of the software system via the app, but it may come in handy to be able to pull high-level information while you’re away from your office.
Online storage and file managers are useful apps to consider. Remember, these apps run in the cloud and can provide remote access to your files. It allows you to manage your files and data remotely much easier than trying to use the small web browser on your phone or tablet. Apps such as Dropbox give you the option to login to your files from the app or on your PC's browser.
If business requires you to travel a lot, you will find several apps to make life easier. You can download airline or hotel apps to help book your stay. You can download Uber or Lyft apps to get transportation in a new city. You can also find several apps to help you do anything from manage travel expenses to locate a place to eat when you’re in unfamiliar territory.
Some recruitment services offer mobile apps so you can continue your efforts to hire someone while you are away from your office. Other features may include tracking time sheets or managing payroll and a variety of other HR functions.
Many phone systems now have correlating mobile apps that allow you take calls to your office line, even if you’re working remotely. If your office has an IP based PBX, you should check to see if they can provide you with an app for that. If you do not own a PBX, look for an IP based telephone service that offers this mobile feature. With the mobile app, you no longer need to be tied to your office location. You can check your messages, answer your calls, participate in a conference call, and work from home seamlessly.
Finally, when choosing an app within the app store (or marketplace), be sure to see the reviews and comments from other users. Those will help you determine the quality of the app. Also, apps with a higher volume of reviews means more people are using them, which is a good indicator of their popularity.
Besides the fact that you install apps on your mobile devices (such as iPhone, Android, iPad, and Microsoft Surface), have you thought about how they actually work?
Unlike downloading software via your web browser, you access and download mobile apps from your mobile device’s store (or marketplace). The app store is the distribution center that gives you access to the correct versions of each app as well as tracks your purchases. It also empowers Google, Apple and other distributors to collect the usage fees accordingly. For example, if you want to distribute a mobile app over iPhones, you have to register for the Apple Developer Program
to do so. Apple controls the applications that can be distributed and they can monitor your app distribution as well.
Some apps can be downloaded free of charge because they may charge you a subscription for the service the app provides, or charge you later to upgrade to the “full” version of the app, or they advertise within the app. Other apps are extensions of your PC software that allow you to go mobile, such as your online banking apps.
Many of these apps communicate with servers in the cloud each time you load them. They communicate with servers for several possible reasons: to sync content, to grab data from the server, to upload data from the mobile device to the server, to stream video or music to the mobile device, to backup data, etc.
If you do not kill the app when you’re done working or playing in it, you should expect that it’s still running behind the scenes (even if you’ve switched to a new app) and could be using up the data on your cellular plan.
Learn how to shut down your apps:
On the iPhone:
Double-click the home button to see your most recently used apps. Swipe right or left to see all open apps. Find your app to close and swipe up on the preview of it to close it down.
On the Android:
Open the settings app and choose apps. Touch the running tab to see what’s open. Tap the app you want to close and tap “stop” or “force stop.”
Keep tabs on your data usage -- if you have limited data coverage on your device, you may be shocked to receive the extra data usage fee.
You guessed it – “app” is the abbreviation for “applications,” and nowadays, you’ll also hear it referred to as “mobile apps.” When you combine the multi-function use of apps with the smart and powerful technology of our modern cell phones, it’s almost like working on our desktop or laptop computers. We generally have all the same features in hand that we do at our desk.
To show just how far we’ve come with our phones, the original iPhone had a 3.5 inch display with 320 x 480 resolution, and today the smaller iPhone 7 has a 4.7 inch display with 1334 x 750 resolution, making the visual much clearer. Now, the iPhone 7 can process information at 50 times the speed of the original iPhone. In every single way, including display, camera quality, speed, storage and battery life, the original iPhone, which was once seen as revolutionary, almost appears archaic next to the advanced technology of the newest model only 10 years later.
Because of such advancements in phone technology, it has allowed us to be mobile and figuratively carry our PCs in hand. But where phones fall short is when it comes to working in the cloud. Since 1993, web browsers have evolved to the point where they support HTML5, the latest technology for creating web pages, user interfaces and web/mobile applications. Because of this new technology, our interaction with software programs in the cloud has improved significantly. But when it comes to the browsers on your phone or tablet, the cloud technology is still limited. Companies like Microsoft with Windows, Apple for Mac OS and iOS, and Google Android, are still trying to get their mobile and PC platforms to function the same.
For now, with the help of more powerful mobile devices, mobile apps have grown to be the platform for doing business in the cloud from your smartphone. With mobile apps, software developers can design user-friendly screens, more interactive responses, and better security enhancements than what you'll find in a mobile browser.
This month I’ll cover more about mobile apps, giving you reviews and insights that could benefit your business.
As part of our continuing efforts to diversify our culture here at Pacific Software Publishing, Inc. we have a big announcement concerning our next office expansion. Our CEO, Mayumi Nakamura, recently spent some time in South America visiting the indigenous Amazon Nanao tribe. She met with tribal leaders and soon felt the immense need to bring the wonders of the 21st century to the tribe.
After long talks and hours of planning, we can finally announce our newest office expansion in the Nanao tribe of South America. Bringing technology and the internet to this tribe will help PSPinc expand past our borders and into the hearts and minds of the Nanao people. The expansion is expected to take place within the calendar year, stay tuned for more updates.
- If you are a bloguru member, please login.
- If you are not a bloguru member, you may request a free account here: