These days most business owners acknowledge the importance of having a website that is mobile responsive - by which I mean that the content of the site displays correctly on all types of device. A large number of business owners also recognise the value of keeping their content fresh and may even be updating the company website themselves on a pretty regular basis. Web sites that are mobile friendly and have fresh content are popular with Google and so it makes sense to do these things. But if modern sites can be viewed and used perfectly well on mobile devices as well as desktop and laptop computers, what do Apps bring to the party that is so different?
In my opinion, the most often overlooked difference between the two platforms is their position in the customer journey.
One of the primary aims of your website will be to attract new clients and provide them with information - it will be optimised to be found easily on search engines and for many new customers it will be the beginning of their relationship with your firm.
By contrast, a mobile phone app seeks to retain existing clients and increase their loyalty as existing customers - the App, therefore, appears much further down the line for the majority of users. The two platforms serve different functions - in the main, one seeks to attract clients and the other seeks to retain them.
Yes, it’s true that there are mobile apps that can do little more than fetching content into the phone from your current web pages - but these are basic setups, devoid of the extended features that provide the real power of client retention.
Take for example just three features designed to keep clients locked into YOUR business.
App Loyalty Schemes.
Phone apps can be used generate a modern version of the ‘stamp and go’ loyalty card system that is so popular in cafes and food outlets. Client show the phone - staff enter a code and the app updates the card on the screen.
The app loyalty card benefits the customer - She gets a freebie when the card is full.
For the customer it means they get free stuff and never have to worry about finding their card to get it stamped- it’s right there on the phone, and who goes anywhere without their phone these days?
The app loyalty card also serves the business owner - She gets a customer added to her data.
Because in order to get the loyalty card, the customer needs to download the App from the app store. Once they have the app on their phones - the business owner can communicate with them directly - to send offers, information about upcoming dates, and more - using the free messaging system built into the app software.
Vouchers and offers can be sent directly to customers phones - they can only be redeemed by the business that sent them and can take many forms- time sensitive, multiple redemptions etc.
Smartphones are constantly connected to the network these days and that basically means a phone always knows it’s own location. GEO Fencing is a feature that utilises this to send messages to the phone’s owner whenever the phone is in a particular location - for example if the customer is travelling into town - the app can send them a message with an offer for that day, or invite them to visit the business. This feature can be set to trigger with multiple locations with different messages for each location. To avoid overuse, each location message would normally be restricted to one send per day!
Apps can actually perform very different functions to their mobile website counterparts, they have the power to encourage client loyalty, they help a business to lock in existing clients and can even be used by your customers to refer their friends to your business - in return for a loyalty voucher of course! The modern mobile phone app can literally put your business into a customer’s pocket where they will carry your messages with them, all day and every day.
Danger - Work Ahead
Unlike many websites - where many of the basic marketing tasks can be ‘set and forget’, or can be outsourced to other individuals or companies - using an app will probably require active participation from the business itself - The main task will be to actively encourage customers to download the App, because the larger the list the better the app can be deployed to increase revenue for the business. Most apps have software built-in that offers a reward for downloading from the app store - and some even feature a referral system - where a reward is given to a current user when they encourage a set number of their friends to download the app too.
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