When people find out I create custom iPhone and iPad apps for business, their first question is always about what kind of apps I’ve created. If they have a lead role in a small or medium sized business, they’re usually curious how my clients determine that it is worth investing in app development. Usually they expect something with a PR focus, which ESPN has done a fantastic job of with their Streak for the Cash app. It’s certainly true that for apps that are mainly marketing tools determining the potential ROI can be difficult, just like any other marketing effort. But there are numerous other roles that apps can play for a business that aren’t speculative marketing and can have an immediate positive impact. Automating tasks like filling out forms that would sit in a stack of papers or showing sales people who to visit next at a glance can significantly impact the bottom line.
The best app for your business really depends on your current challenges. If you’re looking to grow your customer base, then a lead generation app might be a solid investment. While these sometimes don’t differ much from the big name PR apps, the difference comes in the execution. With a lead generation app, the focus is purely on leading new customers to your products instead of just raising brand awareness or creating a positive image of your brand. For small and mid-sized businesses, this is generally a much better approach than pure branding. Nonetheless, it’s still somewhat speculative. At best you can determine the lifetime value of a new customer and approach this kind of app project as you would a website re-design. Solid analytics with relevant KPIs coupled with regular improvements to the app are key to success in this approach.
With process automation apps, it’s easy to see the impact of your investment. These apps replace a manual process that’s currently taking time that would be better spent elsewhere or where speeding it up can improve your profits. For example, if you’re a delivery companies, an app allowing customers to sign for their deliveries could save your delivery people from entering a large stack of receipts at the end of each day, when they’re likely to consider letting them pile up for a few days before getting around to it. There are thousands of the apps being used within companies but not publicly available on the App Store, so they tend to not get the attention they merit. These are probably the apps having the largest financial impact but yet they’re almost invisible to outsiders. If you’re looking for a project where you can easily determine the ROI before making the investment, this is the type of app you want. Process automation apps also make sense for companies selling software where a few tasks are often done while people are away from their computers.
If you have a sales force, helping them figure out how to spend their time can easily pay off. For example, imagine they show up for a sales call and the meeting is cancelled. A simple mapping app with data about other customers nearby can help them quickly see who’s due for a visit or whose sales volume has dropped off lately. Their time that previously would have been lost or at least not spent the in most effective way can now be put to good use. If you’d like to get more out of your existing sales force instead of increasing your headcount, start looking into how they spend their time and whether they ever find that they could use support in making any decisions or in having more sales material available than will fit in their briefcase. Apps like Selligy can provide some of this functionality, so you can try out the concept before pursuing a custom version tailored to your business. These kinds of solutions can be completely custom or built on top of existing platforms like a Salesforce CRM for easy back office integration.
Customer experiences can be improved with self-serve or informational apps. With something like Canada Post’s app that allows package tracking, you can reduce the number of calls that you need to handle. As a bonus, your customers will probably find your service more convenient than your competitors and be happy to come back again and again.
From Branding to Lead Generation to Process Automation, there’s a broad range of ways that mobile apps for can simplify internal processes or deepen offerings to customers. Even if your core business has nothing to do with mobile apps or technology, apps can provide value with dependable ROI as well as creating a modern and progressive image for your company.