NEW DELHI: Despite the global meltdown taking toll on the health of many economies, major technology vendors like Google and Apple are posting record sales. The big question which arises is that how the big players are able to maintain their stellar sales figures in the same business environment although the small and medium enterprises (SMEs) face problems to stay afloat? The answer is quite simple - they enhance their growth platforms by using innovative technology.
With changing time, the face of Internet is also evolving. The days of desktop and laptop computers are increasingly fading since more people are shifting to smartphones and smart pads, where information can be accessed at fingertips. Communicating with brands, purchasing products and services, and also making payments are increasingly becoming easier. Hence, for any SME business mulling to raise sales and expand their customer base, it is time to go mobile and go apps. As consumers prefer to access Internet through smartphones and tablet devices, it is also becoming inevitable for businesses to adapt the way they connect with their customers.
What are apps?
Mobile apps are considered as the functional programmes installed on smartphones and tablet devices. It varies from games such as the famous Angry Birds to messaging services such as WhatsApp messenger, travel guides and mobile newspapers.
Why do businesses need apps?
Apps help firms to proactively drive business via vouchers and loyalty schemes, which in turn makes it a valuable proposition as compared to the traditional, passive advertising and marketing methods. Consequently, it offers new opportunities for revenue generation.
Apps enjoy the potential to be used as research tools, allowing data collection on customers’ preferences and also shopping habits, which proves helpful for refining business strategies. Over the years, these platforms have proved helpful for the big players as they can act as innovative communication channels for the businesses allowing them instant contact with their customers. They also offer firms with valuable opportunity to develop the concept of brand loyalty by providing exclusive, app-only promotions and offers. It has been proved that it enhances footfall into physical stores and also allows businesses to create 'healthy' relations with customers.
Realising importance of apps
It is important that apps go in accordance with the other marketing efforts and activities, whether it’s the traditional methods like print advertising or the online digital avenues. The presence of continuity throughout platforms plays a vital role since it leads to jump in customer-confidence.
SMEs and start-ups can make their presence felt on the digital landscape with the help of services as they can return multiple lucrative benefits.
Since with every passing day, rising numbers of consumers prefer to use their smartphones for shopping purposes, it seems that embracing 'app' culture is the way forward for retail businesses, be it small or big. Analysts feel that apps are a sure-fire way to boost any company’s full potential.
Mobile marketing is considered as one of the most powerful marketing methods available today. Marketing gurus are of the opinion that if any business doesn't have an app, then a major opportunity to improve sales and bottom line gets missed.
It is known that larger brands and big multi-national companies (MNCs) presently dominate the digital landscape in India. Given this scenario, it becomes a daunting task for the smaller businesses to infiltrate the market and enhance their presence. Despite facing problems, many SMEs and start-ups are happy to embrace apps since the benefits of having a mobile presence are high.
Why Indian SMEs need apps
Over the past few years, the mobile users in India have evolved considerably. As per Nielsen survey, on an average Indian smartphone user spends about 72 minute per day for accessing Internet. Out of this 72 minutes, over 80% of time is spend for searching products and services. Nearly 30% of the time is spent on the social media platforms. Presently, India is home to about 137-million Internet users, out of this 70 million are mobile Internet users. Out of this 70 million, 20 million just access Internet only via mobile.
Reasons why successful businesses have decided to take the plunge of app world -
- Grabbing eyeballs
Although, apps are usually associated with the MNCs, but an SME can surprise and delight its customers by offering apps. Allowing customers to interact with products via an app can help an SME stand out from peers.
- Rising customers demand
Studies clearly prove that tablet and smartphone users mostly prefer apps over websites. The main reason is that websites are not very interactive as compared to apps are for mobile devices. Since apps are usually developed for the touch screens and are also optimised for fingers, it helps a mobile customer to access information about any products and services, without visiting the website.
With short shelf life of products, rising competitive pressure and changing economic conditions, maintaining product information and pricing can emerge as challenging tasks. An app can be updated continuously with the recent information.
- Direct contact
An app has potential to push content and information to the customers automatically. Apps allow the SMEs to hold direct interactions with the customers.
- Engaging with customers through apps
The interactive nature of an app is perfect for engaging customers and pushing them. Apps make it easier for transforming a prospect into a sale.
- Maintaining stickiness of any business
Putting products into an app can increase the visibility of any business. Detailed information and photos about products will be at the fingertips of any customer.
- Maintain competitiveness
Almost every big corporation presently provide mobile apps for the customers. Many SMEs are also slowly joining this game.
Is it possible to judge the effectiveness of an app for any business?
These are few steps that would prove helpful in deciding the productivity of any app -
- Known proper usage of any app
It is very important to know the main purpose of any app before proceeding with any development. These basic questions should be answered before creating an app:
· How will it help the customers/ users perform any task?
· Is it going to raise the brand awareness level?
· Will the app bring customer feedback?
· Is the app offering service or is it meant for just for entertainment?
· Is the app performing all of the above mentioned steps?
-Awareness about customer
Do the target customers use iPhone, Blackberry, or Android platform? A better picture of which platforms are helpful in resource planning. Offering apps are useless if the customer feels no need or want for it.
- Differentiate from the crowd
There are high chances that the apps provided by one company matches. Any app should have a unique feature or function that increases its uniqueness and also distinguishes it from the remaining.
- Timely updatation of apps
If any business need sending regular updates to the customers, then it is possible to send small, bite-sized chunks of readable content as compared to lengthy content or electronic direct mail.
Creating a completely new, custom-made application can emerge as costly option. SaaS applications like ‘ShoutEm’ and ‘AppMakr’ are best suited for SME businesses that have limited resources to develop basic applications at cheaper rates.
Apps market in India
Many global companies are looking at India to step up apps production. In fact, the domestic app market is also growing. The value of the Indian value added services industry, which comprises mobile apps, was projected at $3.4bn (£2.2bn) in 2011, said Deloitte. The mobile application industry in India alone is expected to reach $4bn by the year 2015, said Asia Pacific Research Group (APRG).
Few of the important players in this field are -
- Evernote -
It gives permission to snap a photo, take a screenshot, type in text, or speak note to capture information on the go.
– It helps in maintaining contact to keep in touch. It will offer update with what is happening in the professional network.
- Business Week mobile app and Wall Street Journal Mobile App - Many people stay awake to get information on the go. For business, which aim to keep track of International news in their respective domains, may create way for LIVE information throughout the day and also abreast about the recent happenings.
- Research In Motion India (RIM) – The BlackBerry maker feels India offers huge opportunities in the Indian mobile applications sector. RIM has more than 55 million BlackBerry subscribers and BlackBerry App World is available in more than 100 markets with 30,000-odd registered developers from India. The strong market with high adoptability rate has made India a rising mobile application centre since each year quite a few SMEs posts rapid growth in this area.
- Bizzhappy – It unveiled a new app for the SMEs that help them to commence their own mobile marketing campaign. It also allows small businesses to establish an app to solve to questions like business details, promotions, social media, GPS locator, analytics and tracking.
Recently, Industry body National Association of Software and Service Companies (NASSOCM) has stated that SMEs should leverage on sectors such as cloud computing and mobile application platforms. In fact, Google aims to position India as an 'online and mobile first' advertisement market.
The world of app enjoys immense potential to enhance growth prospects for any business. A successful app should aim to offer right goals and services. India's role in the growth of mobile apps is expected to be huge and its hunger for apps will only get bigger.