Apps are the New Website

WideNet began 14 years after the first site hit the web. At that time, people still hadn’t totally caught on. Businesses, especially small businesses, didn’t see as much value in the internet as they do now. Even in 2005, websites were a hard sell.

Of course, not long after our company was founded, the digital world picked up a lot momentum (especially after the launch of the smartphone), and suddenly businesses were waking up to the impact of the World Wide Web.

What happened with websites is the same thing that’s happened time and time again throughout history: a new product comes along that has the potential to change the very nature of how we do business, but goes largely ignored (often in favor of the “traditional means” of business) until public usage skyrockets. It happened with the automobile, the radio, the television, and the website.

And it’s happening again. Except this time, it’s apps.

Untapped Potential

Much like the early days of the Internet, many businesses have yet to recognize the potential in mobile apps. They are still widely regarded as entertainment mediums or, at best, a personal utility for shopping, banking, or keeping up with your to-do list on the go.

To be fair, a handful of businesses (especially large chains and tech companies) have jumped on the app train and to great success. Of course, it’s not uncommon for big players in the market to start using new technology early on. But when we talk about apps being the next big thing for businesses, we mean all businesses, small to large.

Nearly every company alive today, from the big Fortune 500’s to the mom and pop shop down the street, has a website. It’s simply a necessity in this day and age. But technology is progressing rapidly towards a mobile society. You could even argue, with plenty of source material, that we’re already fully immersed in this new frontier.

Mobile phones have essentially evolved into portable, personal computers. You can handle nearly every aspect of your life from the palm of your hand: communication, business, finances, etc. Not to mention,mobile usage is through the roof:

  • 64% of Americans own a smartphone.
  • Mobile media time is at 51%, officially edging out desktop.
  • Worldwide, mobile internet traffic is at 33.5%
  • 89% of a person’s time on media is spent using an app.

Combine this with the fact that people officially spend more time on apps than watching television, and we’ve got a pretty solid case for apps in business.

So the next big question is, “How are businesses going to use apps?”

To answer, we can look at what the big chains are already doing. Companies like Hobby Lobby and Target use their apps to aid shopping, announce deals, and provide coupons to customers who’ve downloaded the app. Hotels.com lets users book hotels from their app. And the WholeFoods app provides users with great recipes and ideas for meals (using food from WholeFoods, of course).

Essentially, whatever your business does, your app can promote it, expand it, and engage your customer base. If you own a local restaurant, use your app to tell users, in real time, what’s fresh on the menu. Let customers build and order an arrangement from your flower shop. Or if you own a small town bank or lead a local credit union, you can offer mobile banking services.

The opportunities are huge and vary from business to business. Best of all, you have a 24/7 presence on the customer’s phone, something they’re virtually guaranteed to have with them everywhere they go. You can’t beat that level of exposure.

Not Just for Consumers

Of course, in all the growing excitement for apps in business, no one is really talking about the OTHER use for apps: internal communication and team management.

Apps don’t have to be a selling point to your consumers in order for them to be valuable to your business — especially if you’re B2B.

Apps geared towards internal management can allow all staff or team members to stay connected on multiple fronts. Managers can create to-do lists, delegate tasks, update employees on important deadlines, manage products, and more. And since you can communicate directly to the mobile phone, theses apps can help reduce breakdowns in communication, missed messages, etc.

Of course, the pitfall with internal apps is that all, or at least the large majority, of your employees would need to own a smartphone. But considering the stats above, it’s a safe bet that they do — even more so if you work in a tech based company.

Getting Started

So say you decide to get ahead of the crowd and jump on the bandwagon now, what do you do?

Just like your website, your app is going to have to be built. And unless you’ve got a tech wiz on hand, someone else will have to do it for you. And again, like websites, you have two general options: 1: the hack and slash, cheaply built, Angelfire route, or 2: the professionally made, high-quality, custom route.

Yes, option number one is cheaper, but it’s also low quality and will probably do more harm than good. If you’re going to get an app for your business, whether as a B2C tool or an internal manager, you need to put some money behind it. Invest in an app the way you would your website. You’ll thank us in 10 years.
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