February 9, 2016

Don’t Be a Fool: Use 3rd Party Apps for your Small Business!

Image from Financial Crisis Net

By Lauren H.

How many apps do you have on your smartphone? Twenty, maybe thirty? How many of those apps are for a small business in your area? Probably none of them.

Hopefully! Hopefully, there is not a small local business attempting this impossible mission; gaining local customers through one teeny tiny app they have created.

The truth is, no one downloads a small business app and keeps it on their smartphone for very long. What is the gain for the customer? A few coupons? Your app is not worth the megabytes. And will they even use it? The average smartphone user spends over 95% of their time on their top 10 apps. As a small business owner, you want to get the word around about your company – get some foot traffic! But your own app will not help you.

There are apps such as Yelp that customers already trust, and those who would actually download your app most likely already know you exist. Plus, the money, time and complicated steps it takes to create an app are a headache and a half.

Let’s just touch on how complicated it would be, in case you are still considering it. One, are you going to make this app for iPhones, Androids or Windows? Because it will cost you to do all three. Most app/web developers are paid between $100 and $120 per hour and each project takes anywhere between fifty hours to eighty. There are some alternatives that are cheaper (AppAnnie and AppTrace), but they still cost you a decent amount of money per month. Once you’ve developed your app, now you get to see if it will even be accepted by Apple, Windows, etc.

Then, the final step should scare you even more. Throw your teeny tiny app into a deep, dark, endless sea of large competitor apps! Do you see it floating?

Thankfully, small business owners can use third-party apps to gain foot traffic! Yes! Thank goodness. Search Engine Land has come up with, “7 Ways Small Businesses Can Leverage Third-Party Apps for Local Search & Marketing.” Let’s see how easy and effective these steps are.

1.  Google is Key

Google Search is still a leading search engine app for information, as it remains the #1 search engine in the world. When it comes to local searches, Google Maps is ranked #6 and Google+ is ranked in the top 20 apps on smartphones, according to comScore. Remember how Google owns YouTube, Waze and countless other kinds of companies that help business’ findability?

Make sure your business is always up to date on Google-related apps and websites. You can use the Google My Business app to make sure your company is always up-to-date. Too easy and too important. The cross-media influence that Google boasts is unique and should be taken advantage of.

2.  Facebook

According to comScore, Facebook is the #1 app downloaded by unique visitors. Did you know more than 70% of smartphone users download it? And, it is used 50% of the time a user is on any app! It naturally has home screen advantage – users want to see all notifications immediately.

Wow. That’s a popular app. A way of life, if you will. 

If we know that potential customers are on this app multiple times throughout the day – why not take advantage? You can post all kinds of information (and photos) about your business, including notifying Facebook users of specials, products, and all basic information they would like to know about your business.

There is a special interaction between the users and small businesses through Facebook as well. They can comment on your profile, and you can respond. This is a chance to make your business more personal.

Let’s just say Facebook is a no-brainer. Your small business needs a Facebook page!

3.  Messaging = Familiar and Comfortable Communication

Messaging is clearly very comfortable for unique visitors and they will expect businesses to communicate effectively with them this way. According to comScore, 91% of instant messaging happens through apps.

Guess who has already begun making advertisements message-able. Just guess.
Yep! Facebook. Aren’t they just always ahead of the game? Facebook will soon start letting businesses privately message their customers through the posts those customers make on the business’ Facebook page.

What about Snapchat? Snapchat is ranked #17 when it comes to messaging. How does it work? There are two platforms they use to share content; Discover and Live. Discover showcases content by popular publishers, like Buzzfeed. Live is content that is created by the users themselves when they are in a specific location or at an event.

Snapchat is a truly unique and widely used messaging platform for advertising. Where else can you post a video of your store, event or products and have it seen so quickly?

4.  Directory Directory Directory

All leading directories have an app. From Yellow Pages to Yelp, there is an app for finding just what potential customers want. And they all have the beloved “nearby” feature. There are even successful apps that are more specific, such as Seamless, which specializes in takeout and delivery. If you own a restaurant, these are the apps to consider getting involved with.

5.  That Looks Good

There is no app competition when it comes to social media. It is the victorious app category in terms of overall time spent on apps. Being active on social media makes small businesses more discoverable, and it certainly adds to their reputation.

If your product is food or retail, having aesthetically pleasing images of product on your social media profiles can be quite helpful. Many restaurants and clothing stores have Instagram or Pinterest accounts in order to stay relevant and provide an enticing visual for potential customers. Instagram and Pinterest are in the Top 15 of comScore’s app rankings for unique visitors.

6.  Beacons (Not bacon?) Coming Soon

Beacon technology allows mobile apps that run with iOS or Android to essentially listen for signals in the physical world. These apps react by letting the smartphone user know of specific information when they are nearby certain stores, airports, etc. (but you must have your Bluetooth and location sharing on).

Unfortunately, this seems to only be helpful if you are a business owner with your own app. Yes, I know I have been advising against that! Hold on.

Third-party apps are beginning to expand their functionality in beacon technology. Facebook has already caught on (of course) with “Place Tips.” While small businesses cannot use beacon tech directly yet, using apps such as Facebook can make it possible to take advantage of this technological advance.

7.  Google Search is Taking it a Step Further

Google Search now, includes an app-only content! Finally! The search engine can even stream some of these apps directly.

This feature has a few new effects:
  • Search engine optimization will have to account for app content competing with websites. This will change the criteria of PageRank.
  • App developers will optimize app content for search algorithms.
  • Some small businesses may find it worthwhile to invest in their own app since it is more easily accessible now.
  • App content on popular pages such as Facebook is even more important now.

The Web has two and a half times the audience of apps, but app audiences are growing twice as fast. Apps are incredibly significant in today’s world, and app users are loyal. Small businesses need a website, but they truly need to stay relevant by staying up to date through third-party apps.

Have you tried to create your own app for your small business or have you used third-party apps? Let us know about your experience in the comment section below!

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