Mobile app, flat design with bubble icons representing mobile apps on a phone.

What is a mobile App?

A lot of people go to “How to improve the marketing of your business” talks and presentations and they hear a lot about using a website and a mobile app to make life easier for them and for their potential clients. After the presentations a lot of people think “Wow, this App thing sound like a wonderful idea and I’m considering using one to promote my business… yet I still don’t know what an App actually is?” When you are not in the business of developing, using and managing Apps the idea sounds wonderful, yet the understanding is limited. With this blog I would like to share knowledge about what a mobile App is and how mobile business Apps can be beneficial to a business whether small, medium or large.

Did you know that the average person spends about 90-120 minutes per day on their phones/tablets? When I talk to people about using smartphones and tablets they always tell me about Apps and how useful it is to them. But “What is an App?”A lot of us use mobile Apps all the time, we are just not aware of the fact that we are using themDo you have “Facebook” or “Gmail” on your smartphone or tablet, to quickly check in on your posts and emails? They are your shortcuts to quickly log into your social networks or emails to make sure that you stay informed, especially when you are not near a computer. These are called Applications!!!

In breaking it down, the term “App” is short for “application software”. An App is a type of computer or mobile software that allows you to perform certain tasks on your desktop, tablet or smartphone. A mobile App is a program that is specifically created to perform certain tasks on a smartphone or tablet. A mobile App can only be used on a smartphone or tablet and allows you quick access to information that you might need or information that you would like to share. Most smartphones and tablets have pre-installed Apps like “Calendars”, “Email” and “Web browsers”. Some of these Apps can be removed to make space for more desired Apps. Apps that are not pre-installed can usually be found in application distribution platforms such as “Appstore”, “Google Play Store” and “Blackberry App World”. Some Apps are free, some Apps you need to pay for. In the past mobile Apps use to be expensive to develop, but presently there are mobile App developing companies that are affordable to develop an app for smaller businesses. Most of the mobile Apps can be downloaded directly from the distribution platform (Appstore/Google Playstore) unto a smartphone or tablet – making it easy for a user to obtain (and if you are like me, easy is a necessity).

But did you know that there are two different types of mobile Apps? They are called Native and Web Apps. The two may seem very similar but they provide very different experiences for users.

Native apps are designed for a specific device and needs to be downloaded directly to a smartphone or tablet. Most people interact with native mobile Apps on a daily basis. They tap into a user’s smartphone or tablet’s native functionality, allowing a more interactive experience for users like accessing their device’s camera, receive push notes or share their location through these Apps. Native apps are also very convenient as they are on the home screen of a smartphone or tablet making it easily accessible for users.

Web Apps are mobile apps that are accessed through the browser on your mobile device (smartphone or tablet). This makes it a great option for businesses if their potential client base includes Blackberries, Windows phone, Android and iPhone users. While web Apps allows you to reach a wider audience, their functionality can be limited, as they have limited abilities (known as informative apps and not interactive apps).

Using mobile business Apps to promote a business

Once you really start to understand what a mobile App is, the business benefits of having one becomes more clear. Why not use a mobile business App to promote a business by giving current and potential clients easy access to information (fees, schedules, articles) regarding the business? But how do you get your business colleagues to also buy into the idea of getting a mobile business App? The first step is to help them understand what a mobile business App is and which type of mobile App to consider. The second step is to understand the possible benefits that having these mobile business Apps will bring to your business. I’ve always believed that understanding creates awareness. Awareness motivates change and that change goes into action.

So what are the benefits of having a mobile business App? Thinking about how easy and convenient it is for you to use your mobile Apps to gain information quickly, just think how convenient it might be for potential clients to do the same to get your business information. They can do this without having to browse around and without needing to use a computer. With your very own mobile business App your clients can have easy and convenient access to all your business information. In short, using a mobile business App is an easier way to connect you to your clients. It’s less time consuming, it’s more convenient and 24/7 information access, anywhere and efficiently.

A mobile business App can give your business a more credible outlook, which keeps you ahead of your competition (and in a “cut throat” world, staying ahead of your competition is essential).

Because of all the changes in technology it has also become more cost effective for small business owners to obtain a mobile business App. The cost involved, if you choose the right company to develop and manage this App for you, has become much less. The costs of paper based advertising (posters, pamphlets and cards) have increased and are much less effective and maintainable. A mobile business App can thus also save your business money in long term marketing and is easier to maintain. Saving time and money is essential for most business owners thus making is a more effective marketing strategy.

Choosing and making use of the right company to create and maintain your mobile business App

Very few marketing companies offer affordable mobile business App development for business owners in South Africa, making it difficult to find a reliable, affordable company to develop a mobile business App for a business. The costs in developing and running a mobile business App will differ, depending on the time spent on the development and the management of the App. The effectiveness of a mobile business App will however greatly depend on the people who develop and manage it for the business. It is very important to find the right company that consider the business’s mobile App needs, while still not costing the business an arm or a leg.