Who is building mobile apps?

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With all of the materials facing ecommerce merchants about the effectiveness of mobile commerce apps, it has become apparent that these apps are quickly becoming an indispensable addition to a marketers tool kit.

However, it may not be as readily apparent exactly who is creating these apps for merchants. Surely, all of these ecommerce sites cannot have a dedicated iOS and Android developer on staff programming these apps? Also, it should be obvious that the $10,000+ development fee that private shops charge for custom app development is out of reach for all but the largest ecommerce merchants.

In fact, both of these thoughts are correct. It turns out that the majority of mobile apps are not owned by the IT department in most organizations, but rather by marketing departments or scattered throughout multiple departments. Even at higher levels, it is rare that an app is owned or managed by developers or IT professionals.

For ecommerce merchants, that means that the playing field is far more level than might have been previously thought. You are competing not with professional developers and coders, but rather with other marketing professionals and small business owners. Apptive was built specifically to appeal to precisely this demographic: forward-thinking ecommerce merchants who do not necessarily have advanced coding capabilities or technical knowledge.

Our focus on simplification allows ecommerce merchants to quickly build an attractive app for their business without overcomplicating the process.

Increase Content Exposure with a Mobile App

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Excellent content is a prerequisite for effective business engagement nowadays. However, anyone who has dipped their toe in the pool of content marketing knows that the content itself is only one part of the battle. Content exposure is equally, if not more important to great content. After all, the most eloquent and helpful guide in the world is useless to you if no one ever reads it!

In the past, email and social marketing were the primary ways to spread content. Let me state up front, these methods are the standard for a reason. They can be incredibly effective assuming you have a large audience. However, in terms of raw efficiency they can not match a mobile app.

You can reach users who have downloaded a mobile app through push notifications, which completely change the game where engagement is concerned. Consider the fact that a 20-25% open rate for emails is generally considered very good. Now, compare that to push notification views. Because push notifications appear directly on a customers smartphone, views of 40% or higher are not at all uncommon. An app allows you to cut through the clutter and reach your customers directly.

Mobile Content Marketing

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The days of the sale circular, inbox flooding and even purely SEO-focused marketing are over. Content marketing reigns supreme. And, honestly, aren’t we all collectively breathing a sigh of relief? How many times did we stumble on a page that was just blatantly loaded with keywords? How many thousands of pointless messages have we had to delete from our inboxes, throw away when they were delivered to our door, or exasperatedly decline when the telemarketer refused to remove you from the call list?

Ant it isn’t just good for us as a collective customer base. Businesses also gain so much from the transition. The soul-crushing tedium of mindless keyword stuffing, of email after email and call after call getting rejected was loathed by many. Of course, this hasn’t ended completely, but for the first time in recent memory there is a shining alternative that actually works so much better. We can be rewarded for having interesting ideas and a fascinating company culture.

It is important to embrace this new trend, and to embrace it intelligently. Crafting excellent content is significantly more challenging (and more interesting/more rewarding) than phoning it in. However, it is just as important to present your content where people are most likely to engage with it. For many businesses, that means taking it mobile.

The fact is, people are engaging more with mobile devices than ever before, and in fact the chosen engagement medium is expected to shift from PCs to tablets in the next four years. They spend more time on mobile apps than they do the desktop and mobile web. You can read many more facts in this excellent post.

The world is moving much faster, and people’s lives are becoming far more dynamic. They crave genuine interaction, and they demand it immediately. Take your content marketing mobile and you will capture imagination, interest and ultimately, sales.

Mobile App as Testing Ground

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Mobile apps give you a direct line to your customers, meaning they can serve as an excellent ground for testing innovative new ideas when you want an immediate response. We’ve put together a list of several ideas for tests you can perform with your mobile app to get immediate feedback for new products, business strategies, and beyond!

1. Branding – Because you can always edit the design of your mobile app it is possible to introduce new branding elements to a mobile audience first to gauge reaction and easily tweak before making them wide-scale.

2. Product Interest – Send a direct message to your fans with some basic info on a new product and link them to the pre-order or info page. You can get immediate feedback on the interest level your product generates.

3. Audience – As we’ve mentioned, a mobile audience is incredibly diverse. So, if you want to determine the type of services or products that appeal to your audience, or even if you want to get an idea of what percentage of your audience has an interest in a new direction your business is taking, a mobile app gives numerous direct opportunities for discovering that info.

4. Limited Release – Setting up a deal for a “limited time offer” of a new product and service on a recurring basis can let you know what customers are excited about. based on redemption, you can then turn a limited release into a full-fledged offering with the knowledge that there is significant demand for it!

5. Messaging – Some of the previous suggestions here involve sending a message to an audience, but what about testing alterations to the messaging itself? Trying out new communication styles, talking points, and focus can lead to fascinating new discoveries about your mobile customers.

We hope you find these suggestions useful. Try them out, and let us know what they reveal about your customers. Also, be sure to let us know any creative ways you’ve tested things through your mobile presence!

Three Creative Uses for a Mobile App

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Mobile apps are a versatile platform to interact with your customers. Indeed, one of the most common uses for a mobile app is that of a “mobile hub,” which collects and redistributes all of a company’s information and features through a mobile platform. This general usage is very effective (it’s common for a reason), but it is not the only way to use your mobile app. The following are three suggestions for alternative ways to use your app.

1. Mobile App as Business Card

Even as we abandon paper products in almost every area of our business lives, the business card remains a common way to organize and remember contacts. As a result of their ubiquitous nature, people continue to try more and more intriguing ways to make them stand out. Enter the mobile app. Apps can be used either in lieu of a business card (if you are in a particularly high-tech field) or to supplement one. By structuring the app to include significant amounts of information about your company, your team, and your product, colleagues will be able to get much more information from you than on a card. A simple QR code printed on a standard card will allow you to share your app easily.

2. Mobile App as Event Organizer

Large events such as conferences or trade shows can be confusing for attendees. With so much to see and do, they may miss out on important panels that may be of interest to them, or might have trouble knowing what’s going on in the first place. A mobile app structured around a specific event can alleviate many of these issues entirely. Attendees can view up to date schedules (particularly handy if you have flakey or sick speakers at the last minute). In addition, push notifications are a great way to update a large crowd of upcoming activities.

3. Mobile App as Hype Generator

First, what the heck do I mean by “hype generator”? If you want to drum up excitement about an upcoming product, event, or service, you’ll need to generate content that gets people pumped. A “hype generator” is the platform that users check to, you guessed it, generate hype. Most people like to give bite size tidbits, alluring one-off photos, or brief messages about their upcoming big thing. Mobile apps are perfectly geared to showcase exactly this kind of short-form content, and allows a mass audience to all be kept on the same page so when your release date arrives you’ll have a legion of fans ready.

We’d love to hear what you think of these uses for an app, as well as your own! What are some creative ways you would use an app?

Small Messages, Big Ideas

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In one of our recent video blog posts Apptive co-founder Jason Jaynes discussed some push notification strategies. One of his main points was keeping the message concise so customers could receive a great amount of value from a small amount of data. It occurred to me that some people might struggle with the idea of creating incredibly dense messages. Any career writer will tell you that writing short, value-laden material is often much more challenging than writing lengthy or even technical documents. Therefore, I propose that often the most effective use of direct messages is as a supplement within a larger context of understanding, rather than as a standalone piece of material.

Context is, of course, everything when it comes to using a push notification as a “seed” message. However, the good news is that most all businesses already have excellent context in place. Remember, a mobile app is often best used to reach loyal customers who likely already have some idea of what you’re about. Therefore, they likely have a good idea of your other products, services or outreach channels that you can leverage to maximize the value of short messages.

For example, if you are a venue that commonly features bands from a specific genre, you can use a message to alert members of a specific upcoming group that caters to that genre’s specific fanbase. Since they already have a good idea of the genre and your location, you don’t have to explain the band’s background, the type of music they play, or even the specifics of your location. Just a short message triggers all of the knowledge that your customers have about your venue and the music they are interested in hearing.

That example is pretty direct, but there are lots of ways to send messages that don’t require extensive word-smithing to generate interest and thus profits and an excited mobile community for you.

 

Deals Module Best Practices

 

Stephen Panico discusses some strategies to maximize the value of the Apptive deals module both for you and your customers.

The Smartphone Impulse

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Let’s get something out of the way right off the bat: impulse buying has sort of become a dirty term. It needn’t be. That is because impulse buying, a neutral term, is often associated with feelings of regret when an unplanned purchase tends to not live up to the value that was immediately associated with it upon purchase. We also tend to think of negative impulse purchases with far more clarity than positive ones. That time you bought an awesome bracelet on the fly and wore it for a full summer? Positive buy. The time you bought an animal shaped hat at a theme-park and relegated it to the back of your closet a week later? Not so much.

Interestingly, it seems that impulse purchases in physical retail stores are actually down in recent years. While it would be nice to think that we are just getting more careful as consumers overall, some have posited that in reality the reason for this decrease is due to a phenomena known as “mobile blinders.” This refers to those situations where consumers pay attention to their smartphones rather than the tasty treats and knick-knacks that surround them when they aren’t in an active buy mode.

However, while smartphones are decreasing the number of physical impulse purchases, they may actually be increasing impulse purchases overall. According to a study conducted by PayPal, smartphones lead to something that I’ll describe as an intelligent impulse purchase. Essentially, rather than simply buying an object on the fly, a smartphone enables a user to go through the desire > research > purchase cycle in minutes rather than hours or days. That way, a user is both more likely to buy a product that find interesting while simultaneously increasing the likelihood that they will be satisfied with the purchase overall.

So what does this mean for small business or ecommerce owners with a mobile app? With creative messaging and communication channels, you have the ability to directly target products to customers with a high likelihood that they will buy on the spot. It also means that cultivating both an engaged and happy customer base (they will likely try and see what others have said about your stuff, after all) will provide exponential returns.

If you own an app already, what is your strategy for triggering the impulse buy? If you don’t how would you use it to make that happen?

Fostering a Mobile Community

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Mobile strategies are highly valuable because of their ability to directly reach customers. It is tempting, then to make the majority of your messages direct-sales focused. Unfortunately, there is almost no better way to have your mobile message undermined and eventually ignored.

A far better strategy for most businesses is to create a mobile community. Imagine the value for you brand if customers actually look forward to receiving direct messages from you on their mobile devices? Fortunately, this goal is not out of reach, and a few simple steps can help you create a thriving mobile fan base.

1. Focus on Human Contact

Do you like being talked to by a robot? Loooove getting an automated message instead of a real human on the phone? Neither do your customers, and the feeling translates even more so to the direct messaging capabilities of a mobile offering. Messages without human elements come across as annoying and eventually downright obtrusive. On the other hand, messages and offers that read like they’re coming from a human being with a personality will foster real connections with your customers. Don’t be afraid to toss in some humor, opinions or excitement in your mobile messaging. Your customers will thank you for it.

2. Reduce Frequency, Increase Value

Unlike a presence on a social network, mobile communities do not thrive on constant interaction. Rather, they appreciate the knowledge that whenever they receive a message it will include some particularly exciting or valuable piece of information. How much is too much? That depends on how much real value your business has to offer. For “promotion” type deals that generally amounts to just a few messages per week. However, if you regularly feature events, contests, or other interactive types of engagement then you should definitely update your mobile audience as often as needed!

3. Capitalize on Real Time

It is tricky to layout a blueprint for a real-time engagement strategy, primarily because the very nature of real-time is ever-changing! Still, it is important to remember this: you have a direct line to your customers that will let you reach them in real time. Use that to your advantage whenever possible. Obviously, great times to do this are when you have a festival or other major event that lends itself to time-based promotion. However, that is just the tip of the iceberg. The more creative your real-time engagement, the more excited your customers will be, and the more value you can derive from your direct messaging and promos.

These steps will help you to begin down the journey of creating a community that will exponentially increase the value of your mobile strategy. These tips are fairly general, so we would love to hear your comments about some of your specific strategies that you’ve used to connect with your customers!

Think Mobile, Act Local

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The term “mobile strategy” instantly brings to mind the jetset traveler, suitcase in hand, ready to embark upon some great adventure armed with a repertoire of tablets, smartphones and laptops. So, when you discuss a “local mobile” strategy, it almost sounds like an oxymoron. However, most interactions with small business comes from local customers, and your greatest chance of long term success revolves around creating a tribe of loyal local customers.

But how does this ultimately affect your mobile strategy, and how should you structure your app interactions to engage with a local audience? The answer can be broken down into two primary goals, consistency and value. In the same way that businesses want consistent revenue from customer, so too do customers want consistent experiences with a business (note that consistent does not mean boring, it means being consistently remarkable).

The good news is that many small businesses already meet that criteria in their personal interactions with customers. You likely see some familiar faces who frequently visit your business, and have built a rapport with them. The trick is to build the same kind of rapport through your mobile strategy. This sounds easy, but there are a few common areas where small businesses tend to fail.

For one thing, mobile strategies for small businesses are a relatively new development. Only recently have apps and other mobile engagement tools become affordable and functional enough for them. In one sense this is excellent, because companies who act quickly will have a serious advantage over competitors while the strategy is not yet commonplace. The flip side of this, though, is that many small businesses have only been exposed to mobile messaging from large corporate and tech-focused apps. Because of that, businesses sometimes feel that their app messaging and interactions needs to be somewhat detached in order to lend validity. Nothing could be further from the truth. Customers will always gravitate towards technology that reflects a businesses personal, human elements.

Small businesses also encounter difficulty determining the types of deals and advertisements to run. Often they turn to simple, low-cost deals that they believe will draw in more customers due to the immediate value and ease of redemption. However, while someone may very well redeem a deal for a “free soft drink with any purchase” if they are already in the restaurant, such basic offerings are not powerful enough to pull customers in. Offering real value, even if the redemption process is more involved (“Bring in a friend and get two free desserts,” etc.) will intrigue local customers and give them a reason to check out your business.

There are many other local mobile strategies we could discuss, but we’d like to hear from you! How do you generate interest locally, how can you/would you translate that to a mobile strategy? Sound off in the comments!