Did you wonder whether a mobile website or mobile application (app) is the right choice for your small business? Like most other business decisions, answers should be found within your strategy. A short answer relates to if your strategy is that of customer acquisition or that of customer retention.
CUSTOMER ACQUISITION AND MOBILE WEBSITES
In a previous post we mentioned an optimized mobile website provides good search engine optimization (SEO) on the search engines that can result in free traffic flowing to your mobile website from the prolific amount of people searching for the products or services your business offers. Free mobile website traffic could result in a few prospects or a prolific amount of prospects becoming new customers when you get found from good SEO techniques. Similar results could occur from your paid search campaigns such as pay-per-click marketing campaigns when you identify where your potential new customers are and what ad campaigns would best reach those prospects who are searching for products or services like yours. This can be accomplished by deliberately basing your ads keywords on actual and relevant search queries on search engines related to your products and services. You will have defined the specific products or services they are seeking similar to yours and then you can provide prospects with your targeted ad offers so they click on your ads and hopefully convert to customers. These are two examples of tactics for your customer acquisition strategy. Customer acquisition strategies are useful when you are growing your business.
CUSTOMER RETENTION AND MOBILE APPLICATIONS (APPS)
Customer retention strategies targets existing customers and are useful for keeping existing customers engaged and coming back for more, such as discounts, special offers and loyalty programs QR or GPS coupon system, video and podcast distributions, blogs, shopping carts, menus, and other tactics that keep customers coming back. You should have some idea of how much usage you can expect from the customer with retention from engagement tactics. Mobile apps, short for mobile applications, allows you to engage your existing customers 24 hours a day, seven days a week, whether they are home or on-the-go. However, new customers can also be acquired through app distribution channels such as an app store search (SEO) or when linked with a website. Also, Pay-Per-Click (PPC) opportunities exists to market your apps, as well. Most prospects would want to be familiar with your products and services before they download your app though, whereas your existing customers are already familiar with your products and services and are much more likely to download your app.
MOBILE APPLICATION DESIGN FACTORS
Large businesses have found other ideal internal uses for apps such as using apps as Software as a Service (SaaS) processes to handle routine tasks such as bill payments, invoicing, and accounting, or Platform as a Service (PaaS) for employee productivity and process improvements, as examples.
Small businesses need to take into consideration that mobile application development is not necessarily any less expensive than mobile website development because even though icons are used it still requires expertise in design layout, appearance and content, especially if you want your app approved in Apple’s iTunes. The app may pull content and data from the Internet, in similar fashion to a website, or it may download the content so that it can be accessed without an Internet connection. Even though the cloud may take care of the technical back-end processes, from secure mobile architectures, including client-servers and databases to secure mobile infrastructures, including primary functions, components, connection, and communications methods of device types, development costs may be more expensive when the requirements call for providing interfaces, design and content to multiple operating systems (iOS, Android, Windows, Blackberry) or multiple device types. The iTunes mobile application development process has strict approval guidelines for determining if your app interface and design provides a good user experience and adds value so an alternative may be designing an Android app.
MOBILE-FRIENDLY WEBSITE DESIGN FACTORS
Alternative to apps, responsive website design can eliminate the complexity of having to create separate mobile website versions of your website because it automatically adjusts the layout to suit the device being used. Although responsive website design is a Google preferred solution for website design, it is not the only Google accepted solution for websites as your requirements will help determine the design solution. For example, if your business already has a website that is working for you but is not mobile-friendly, then a separate dedicated mobile-friendly website or dynamically streamlined content and graphics-specific versions of your website may be the solution for smartphones and tablets.
MOBILE WEBSITE OR MOBILE APP?
Ideally, every business, large and small, should have customer acquisition and customer retention strategies, so both a mobile website and an app may be the solution. Your business strategy and goals should determine the tools and tactics used for growing your business whether through SEO and marketing campaigns or whether retaining current customers through engagements that keep them coming back which you will already know by the amount of current traffic coming to your website. Mobile websites can be developed as database-driven web applications that act very much like native apps. Mobile apps would be a no-brainer for heavily-trafficked websites. With the right marketing campaigns your small business can grow with mobile apps, as well. Keep in mind that maintaining an app with upgrades, including resolving compatibility issues will be more expensive and involved than maintaining a mobile website over time, therefore an attractive return on investment (ROI) for dollars spent should be a consideration with your chosen decision.
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