8 July 2016

Is A Mobile App Right For My B2B Business?

Ged Leigh
Written by Ged Leigh

Ged Leigh is Regional Director for The Marketing Centre and specialises in working with small and mid-size businesses. He has over 30 years’ experience working in Private Equity backed and family owned SME companies including technical textiles, construction, engineering, recycling, waste management and paper.

https://blog.themarketingcentre.com/is-seo-right-for-my-business-2018Convenient, valuable, immediate: being available in the palm of customers' hands is a powerful prospect for any business. A mobile-first approach to marketing is now increasingly important if B2B businesses want to stay relevant. Once the preserve of B2C, many B2B organisations are making the ultimate investment in mobile technology – building an app.

But developing an app isn’t for all businesses, not least because of the cost of development. What questions should an organisation ask itself before taking the plunge and investing in their own mobile software?

Would a mobile website be better?

It is highly likely that the business already has a website, which is probably the first port-of-call for customers and prospects – but is this website mobile-ready?

According to Google, 42% of B2B purchasers use a mobile device at some point during their purchasing process, so it is important that businesses create mobile-ready websites, irrespective of the type of business they are in or whether they are also pursuing app technology. If a business simply wants an app to put information in the hands of a customer, a mobile-ready website will certainly be a cheaper and easier solution.

The costs of mobile-ready websites are lower, they work across all platforms and they are easier to update. An app that simply re-hashes web content to fit on a small screen offers no advantage to customers and will certainly not deliver ROI. An app should solve a specific, repeated problem that is beyond the reach of a mobile website.

Can an app improve engagement with customers and prospects?

One advantage that apps have over the mobile web is interactivity. Whilst interactions with traditional websites are generally through a keyboard; the cameras, microphones, gyroscopes, altimeters and GPS on a smartphone can offer new ways for customers and leads to engage with an organisation.

Depending on the nature of the business, the ability to track location, scan barcodes or ping beacons could offer functionality that will enrich the B2B client relationships. Well thought-out apps with a compelling feature-set can improve both conversion (think interactive product catalogues) and retention (interactive support portals), but the key here is to be very clear about what your customer’s requirements are and how they are reflected in your app specification.

Who is going to build my app?

Whilst some B2B SMEs may have internal web-design resource, it is less likely that the necessary app design skills will be available in-house. Recruiting an app development agency is no different to recruiting a web design firm, although it is advantageous to work with a team that has some experience of the appropriate industry sector. It is also important to select a developer that can work across multiple mobile platforms, as producing an iOS app, but not an Android versions (or vice versa) will immediately alienate a portion of the customer base.

How do I know what to include in my app?

If a business does not have a clear idea of what it wants from an app, there is a good chance that they are not yet ready for one. However, a good agency (with sector experience) will be able to tease out requirements. Looking at what competitors are doing is a start, but looking outside of the sector for innovative ideas should also be considered. A good agency will also have one eye on the future. Recent advances in smartphone software are putting apps within other apps, presenting a seamless experience for users.

For example, clicking on your office location in a map app could present the user with an option to book an appointment with your sales team, or a client could view their recent orders (and place new ones) whilst chatting with your customer service team in a messaging app. For more ideas, click here.

Can my business commit to supporting an app in the long term?

As well as the initial effort to design, build, test and deploy an app, long-term support implications should also be considered. If users report bugs or suggest improvements, there needs to be resource in place (either internal or external) to act upon this feedback. Similarly, mobile operating systems do not stand still, usually being updated on an annual basis. Each update can cause compatibility issues, which must be fixed.

A broken, unsupported and unloved app can seriously undermine the image of a business. If an external agency has been tasked with building an app, it is vital to undertake the necessary due diligence work to ensure that they are solvent, sustainable and likely to be around for the long-haul, otherwise the app could be left high and dry. Be prepared to pay a retainer to a reputable development agency to avoid such a risk.

Do my competitors have apps?

It might be tempting to jump on the bandwagon if similar businesses are already using apps, but it is important to understand what they are using them for. If competitors have pursued app development for the sake of it and have fallen foul of some of the issues discussed above, it would be wise to avoid making the same mistakes.

An app will only give a business competitive advantage if it is actually fulfilling a customer need. However, if competing businesses have apps that are compelling, useful and innovative, this may be an indication that the sector is embracing mobile and that any business that fails to adapt may be left behind.

Finally, it is important to remember that the app cannot sit in isolation - unless it gets into the hands of customers and prospects, it does not add any value. This is why it must be an integral part of a business’ SEO and content marketing strategy, as an app can both deliver high value content to customers and drive web traffic, adding a powerful extra string to the marketing bow.

Want to know how your marketing efforts stack up before committing to an app? Take our  Marketing 360 Healthcheck.


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