steve jobs web apps

It’s official: smartphones are more popular when it comes to accessing the internet in the UK, and mobile app downloads number in the millions each year. For businesses this means increased access to work-related information and potential customers, and for customers this means greater access to businesses, product details and buying potential. So what can strengthen the links between the two, and make that bond more interactive? The answer – as you’ve discovered – is the app.

Know your apps and their unique points

Mobile apps are available only on mobile devices on which they’ve been installed. As you’d guess, ease of use, speed and high engagement are all-important. When they get this right, apps trump websites when customers want to research and compare products, and they can be linked to customer services and loyalty programs. Through their interactive nature, apps strengthen the relationship between businesses and buyers and make the whole experience more engaging.

In other examples, web apps are proving their worth on their own terms. Accessed through an internet browser, web apps are easy to use, available on tablets, mobiles and PCs, and require no effort to install as they can be bookmarked instead.  In addition to providing enhanced, interactive customer services, web apps can contribute to the internal running of a business by managing admin such as expense logging, and ensuring up-to-date customer information is available through daily data feeds.

Getting the word out

Web apps appear in the results pages of search engines, making them easier to discover than mobile apps which only feature in an app store. But with both types of apps, you’ll have to do some research to find out where your customers are gathering and what they are interested in. For this, social networks are key, so do your homework on Facebook, Twitter and other channels where people are discussing topics of interest. When your app first goes live, get the word out and make sure it’s good – have some positive reviews posted on your website and broadcast on social media as soon as possible. There are dedicated review websites and ‘app of the day’ services which can create a buzz of publicity, too.

If the budget stretches far enough, consider creating a promo video (or live streaming) showcasing your new app, its best features and any launch celebrations. Post the video on your website, social media and YouTube – and make sure the app itself produces shareable content to keep the momentum going. This will generate further interest and direct users to back your website, so include links wherever you can. Case studies, blog posts, fun Q&As and user review videos also provide attention-grabbing content, so feature them whenever you can in connection to the new app.

What’s new, what’s different?

The first thing to emphasise to potential users is how your app is not like a desktop or a mobile website. Don’t repeat the information and graphics that are already out there. If it’s a mobile app you’re marketing, try to truly capitalise on the mobile – show the user’s proximity to your business on a map or provide a route planner to get them there. Think of other businesses connected to what you offer and feature them on the map.

For instance, an organic ice cream vendor might pinpoint their shop, the location of the dairy farm where the cream is sourced and where to find the nearest beach or public park. Throw in a few facts about how vanilla beans are grown and a list of the 10 strangest ice cream flavours (fish and chips, garlic, chocolate wasabi peas, anyone?) and you’ll really engage with your audience. It might be a gimmick or it might be a practical and valuable service, but do focus on extra details for extra zing. (The chocolate wasabi pea zing is optional.)

How does the app add value?

Too many apps don’t continue to appeal past the first few uses. In fact, retention is the biggest app problem of all, with a large number of users abandoning them within 6 months. Don’t assume brand loyalty will win long-term devotion to your app. It’s the app’s usefulness that will keep customers coming back for more, not how much they like you or that the feeling is mutual. Find out what users want from an app, why they will use it and how they will use it. Keep them coming back for more with different ways to engage with the app – digital discounts and exclusive content are tried-and-tested ways of keeping interest going.

Avoid these 4 mistakes

  1. Don’t hide a web app at the bottom of your business’s website where the Terms and Conditions and other dull (i.e. unnoticed) features lurk. For mobile apps, find out the most common discovery paths (usually app stores) and make sure the essential details are all there as some app publishers neglect to include keywords, descriptions and sometimes even app names. Companies such as SearchMan and Appnique offer tools to improve app store optimisation (ASO).
  2. As previously mentioned, reviews can do wonders for publicity and sales. Don’t be frightened by the possibility of negative reviews, and do encourage satisfied users to post positive reviews. At the very least, a bad review will give you something to improve and show you’re listening to customers, and at the most, you’ll generate a huge increase in sales after some glowing words. You can even feature in-app prompts that remind users to post reviews.
  3. Don’t assume you know your customer base, and don’t think an initial positive reception means you can stop asking for feedback. Let users know they are valued and keep communication channels open for questions and suggestions. We’re living in a world of near-instant gratification, so not delivering good customer service (even just by acknowledging receipt of a comment) means app users may feel their involvement is irrelevant. Considering that you’re looking to develop a relationship, this is a disaster. But again, you can include feedback options in an app’s design, so do opt-in.
  4. Following on from knowing your customer base, don’t forget to target your advertising. Social advertising allows you to focus on specific demographics and areas of interest. This targeted approach is the exact opposite of sending leaflets through the door of every house in a neighbourhood, a method guaranteed to have them dropped in the rubbish without a glance. Maybe a blogger could feature your app in a post, and mobile apps themselves can even be posted on blogs. It doesn’t have to be all about the hard sell, either, just find a way to get people interested and talking about what you’re offering.
[Tweet “10 strangest ice cream flavours (fish and chips, garlic, chocolate wasabi peas, anyone?) “]