2016 was the first year that smart mobile devices were reportedly used more than desktop or laptop computers. This has been steadily reflected in business-to-customer relations, as well as our culture’s newfound innovation in terms of remote work. Let’s face it: The entire internet has been transformed by smartphone apps. Everything from our personal note-taking to our social lives to our business communications and transactions is completed and worked on from handheld devices. Twenty years ago, that would have been unimaginable.
This cultural shift means the business world is moving things that were once done in person, like meetings or acquiring important signatures, into the hands of digital and mobile platforms. Small businesses now need to take advantage of mobile apps more than they ever have in the past. They’re becoming a key part of the customer experience and boosting sales, as well as retargeting for new audiences. Beyond that, they’re used for employee and manager relations. It doesn’t look like a temporary trend, but a practice that has become commonplace and will continue to progress. If you’re interested in the app revolution and what your place is in it, here’s a little information to help you get started:
Apps used in-house
First, let’s cover apps used for everyday business activities. These are the kind of programs that keep your day running smoothly. Primarily, such apps are used for intercompany communication — whether that’s only between employees, higher-up staff to their subordinates, or in making arrangements within the company or with peer organizations you’re working with. Meetings,, as well as quicker and shorter communications and messages throughout the day, are done through these kinds of programs. It is possible that actual busywork — budgeting, writing, spreadsheets and the like — can be done through these apps as well.
The University of Alabama Birmingham put together a list of some of the best team collaboration apps recently, with many of them serving these exact purposes. Here are a few examples they used that you may have heard of, but there are many alternatives to these within the article and plenty that weren’t mentioned:
- Slack and Google Hangouts: Allow remote employees or those on the go to keep up with other employees, managers, and be a part of digital meetings.
- Trello: Allows you to check updates on your daily work tasks. The mobile app is good if you are in the middle of meetings or other work activities and gone from your desk.
- Mint: Allows those in charge of or working with finances and company credit cards to closely watch their spending.
Mobile apps like these are helpful (some would say necessary) for keeping your business in order during the times you’re unavailable in person. The chance of being completely unavailable due to extenuating circumstances is reduced with the use of mobile apps. Your competitors are undoubtedly using them too, so do yourself a favor and do the same to keep up!
Progress in the digital age has led to easier and more open communication not only between staff members, but between a brand and its consumers as well. According to an infographic put together by the University of Southern California Annenburg in 2014, 87 percent of businesses were using social networks and 53 percent used microblogs like Twitter. They also state that 62 percent of people online used social media — imagine those numbers now though! By not engaging in it, you’re missing a monumental opportunity to engage with potential customers and followers. All social networks thrive on mobile, especially in a world where mobile devices are so prevalent.
With so many social media channels, there’s wisdom needed in determining how to use each platform. For instance, Instagram’s customer engagement is 18 times greater than Facebook! Short video content like that of Instagram seems to be the best new form of attention-grabbing and brand awareness building. However, quick customer interactions are done best through Twitter. Facebook has the largest amount of members, with over 1 billion active users, so it’s important that you show up there and post regularly.
Social media is the forefront of your brand visibility, which means you need to relate to people differently from platform to platform. Longer personal posts may be better on Facebook. One-minute videos may work best on Instagram. Despite there being some overlap, it’s important you choose your content for each platform carefully.
Creating an App (for the users!)
Sometimes, companies opt to build their own apps to meet more specifically niched needs of their audience. The difficult part of building a small business mobile app, however, is ensuring that it’s both scalable and secure for the user. This goes for apps made for customers as well as your in-house apps. See, many smaller businesses don’t have the technological resources or budgets bigger companies have who develop their own apps.
Because of this, creating an app for your company calls for a bit of caution. It shouldn’t be distributed or used as a primary tool until it can surely meet the needs it’s created for. A great small business app should follow the guidelines listed in the guidelines listed here, “9 Tips to Build Scalable and Secure Enterprise Apps”:
- Service-Oriented Architecture to Divide the Functions
- Adding Shards to Prevent Bottlenecks
- Maintaining Redundancy
- Strategic Use of Cache to Enable Faster Services
- Proxies for Coordinating Multiple Server Requests
- Adding Indexes for Faster Reads
- Load Balancer Integral to Scalable Website Development
- Network Encryption for Data Transmission Security
- Manage Identification, Authentication, and Authorization Appropriately
If you’re able to check all nine of these off, then it should be ready to be distributed to the users it was made for.
It’s clear that for a business to take advantage of app culture is to streamline their processes into the future. That said, doing it properly still requires a lot of experimentation, so what has your experience been using apps in your business? Has your process gotten harder or easier? Do you like where apps are taking the future of business? Let us know in the comments.
by Frankie Wallace