mobile apps

Mobile apps becoming a key focus for small businesses

One-third of small businesses currently have mobile apps, but 41 per cent plan to build one to support future business growth

The way in which small business operators run their businesses is changing fast, and mobile apps could be the next big thing.

Technological change was already well underway before the COVID-19 pandemic, of course. But one thing we have seen is that the last year has accelerated that trend.

Companies are increasingly relying on digital solutions to sustain and advance their business, retain their customer base, and offer the flexibility needed to survive in these tough times.

Digital loyalty programs, modern point-of-sale offerings, and other technological advancements are becoming more important than ever. In fact, they’re key to profitability and success in the foodservice and hospitality industry.

The allure of going mobile

Small businesses have struggled desperately in the pandemic climate. For many, mobile apps are the next step.

Mobile phone owners collectively downloaded 130 billion apps in 2020 alone, and counting. The rise of off-premise consumption and the temporary evaporation of the physical lived experience means mobile technology is well and truly established as the primary tool of day-to-day life.

Top Design Firms recently surveyed 500 small business owners and managers in the U.S. about their experience with mobile apps.

Key among the findings was that while 32 per cent of small businesses already have a mobile app, 42 per cent now plan to build one in the future. The primary motivations for doing so are improving customer service (34 per cent) and boost branding efforts (32 per cent).

The need for a mobile app varies from business to business depending on factors such as industry, services offered, target audience, competitors, and the age of the business itself. Apps can help with sales growth, brand building, marketing and communications, data collection, and more.

Boosting customer service

A leading consideration is boosting customer service. Mobile apps offer the most-used and most-timely channel for businesses to communicate directly with customers.

Over one-third (34 per cent) of small businesses created a mobile app to improve customer service efforts or streamline the purchasing process for users. Many mobile apps have contact features that allow customers to receive timely and helpful customer service, resulting in a more positive impression of the business.

Enhanced branding

Branding is essential to small businesses looking to scale, and a mobile app can be a huge plus on that front. 32 per cent have invested in a mobile app to further develop their brand or build customer loyalty.

A strongly branded and high-quality mobile app can extend a company’s positive image by increasing brand awareness and helping it to stand out from the crowd of competitors.

Weigh up the costs

However, there are myriad factors to consider when considering the adoption or development of a mobile app. These range from the financial cost to the time spent managing the new platform. Particularly during COVID-19, when margins are razor-thin and profit simply doesn’t exist for many operators, careful deliberation is needed.

Indeed, some small business owners don’t find mobile apps necessary for their business strategy. Just over a quarter (26 per cent) of small businesses say they are unlikely to ever release a mobile app.

Mobile apps require a huge financial investment, and those costs must be assessed carefully against the potential benefits. Mobile apps don’t necessarily fit well into every business model.

A world of opportunity

Overall, though, mobile apps are definitely a technological avenue worth considering. If it fits into your business model and doesn’t represent too much of a short-term risk, a mobile app can open up a world of opportunity for a small business.

As consumer dependence on mobile devices grows, small businesses are taking advantage of mobile apps to support their objectives, scale up their operations, boost branding, and remain in constant touch with their customer base.