How to Build a Mobile App for Your Business

Mobile applications are no longer an option for small businesses–they’re a necessity. With over 60% of the Zimbabwean population having smart phones, and with people  spending more than 3 hours of their  productive day behind a mobile phone screen, the mobile phone and mobile apps are the new brand canvases.

The fundamental appeal of branded, business-centric mobile applications is clear: Whatever your company does online can also be done on smartphones, which adds portability, location targeting and other cutting-edge technological enhancements to the mix.

The potential of mobile apps extends far beyond marketing. Sure, companies can leverage applications to promote their products and services, reaching on-the-go consumers looking for compelling places to shop or grab lunch. But mobile apps can also support online purchase transactions, customer loyalty programs, turn-by-turn directions and social media interactions.

Even so, more than three years after Apple first opened its App Store and two years after Google responded with its Android Market, the majority of branded apps available for download promote large, Fortune 500 businesses–not the local small to medium businesses who stand to benefit most.

In the event that as a business you come to realize the benefits of have a mobile app in an increasingly mobile world, here are a few steps that you can follow in order to come up with a mobile app that meets your business needs.

1. Know what message you want to send. “Before you contract a mobile app developer to start working on your app, make sure you know what you’re selling, what you’re about and the look and feel you want, like your logo colors and font and most importantly you need to know what content you want to put in. You can integrate your app with your blog or your YouTube channel, but that only works if you have existing content.

2. Understand your audience. “Mobile applications are where people are going to interact with their favorite brands, but you have to know what your customers are interested in. Apps allow for new kinds of user experiences and a different community feel than the web, which results in real engagement and commerce opportunities. Fans and users spend more money in apps compared to websites, and they come back more. But you have to drive loyalty, whether that’s by pushing messages or having visual content.

3. Clarify what you want your app to achieve. “Whether or not an app is successful depends on the goal. Is it the total number of downloads, or how often people are coming back? How responsive are customers when offers are pushed out? How viral is your content? Or is it how many people are opting in and giving you their e-mail address? This has to be clear as this is a basic and clear tool for measuring you mobile apps performance.

4. Forget about BlackBerry, Win-dows Phone and Palm. As of June, Android controlled 40.1 percent of the U.S. smartphone market, and Apple’s iOS captured 26.6 percent market share. Both are growing each month. Their rivals are fading fast. “iPhone and Android are all that matters. Everything else is irrelevant.

5. Fasten your seat belt. “Small businesses can really take advantage of the perception that apps are only for large companies. Mobile app set your company apart from the crowd, and it puts you on the same playing field as the big boys. There are no barriers to entry, no rules and regulations and restrictions. Only the opportunity to reach out to an ever increasing mobile market.

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