The smartphone has already revolutionized the ways consumers engage with their digital world—and it’s rapidly transforming their shopping habits, too. According to Nielsen, consumers are now spending more time online via mobile devices than on desktops or laptops. And a survey by IDC found that 70 percent of smartphone owners plan to use their devices for shopping this year.What do these trends mean for small businesses? First of all, they indicate massive growth potential for those companies with a strong mobile presence—but they also pose an increased risk for those businesses not adapting to the mobile age. In order to thrive in today’s world, business owners need to examine how they engage the growing number of mobile consumers. While just a few years ago the limited resources of many small and midsize businesses made it difficult for them to publish high-quality mobile apps, today even the smallest SMB can successfully create and launch a professional-grade app. Here are five ways a mobile app can transform your small business:LifestyleConsumers will make 268 billion app downloads by 2017, according to Gartner. The reason for such astronomical numbers is simple: Mobile apps benefit publishers and users alike. Having a mobile app allows a business to fit more seamlessly into its customers’ lifestyle, as users turn to their smartphones to decide where to go for dinner or which florist to order flowers from on Valentine’s Day. The upshot for you? With a great, feature-filled app—particularly one that integrates updates via push notifications and social media pages—you can keep your customers engaged 24/7. Mobile ShoppingMobile shopping is a luxury that consumers have grown to expect from businesses, and an app offers that ease and convenience to customers anytime, anywhere. Enable customers to browse and purchase goods and services directly within your app. Incorporate sharing and interactive features for users, like allowing smartphone camera’s to capture virtual reality shots of users with a potential hairstyle from their favorite salon. By making it easier and more engaging for your customers to shop, discover and order, your mobile app can be a highway to increased sales and customer loyalty.DeliveryThe rise of delivery platforms in the past few years—Seamless and Amazon Prime, to name a few—has raised customers’ expectations about the accuracy and prompt delivery of their orders. While this functionality is already old news for major brands, now small businesses can offer their customers real-time delivery updates and let them contact their delivery people. These capabilities improve the customer experience and let the customers track deliveries, get service updates, and provide feedback on deliveries.Loyalty RewardsWhile the physical loyalty punch card may seem outdated in our digital era, customers continue to seek rewards for their loyalty. Rather than relying on the classic hole-puncher or stamp at the register, a mobile app offers your business a fun and contemporary way to promote customer loyalty. Just like its paper predecessor, the mobile loyalty card has great potential to encourage customers to come back time after time.SavingseMarketer research finds that 55% of adult U.S. Internet users will redeem digital coupons or codes via mobile at least once in 2014. As consumers seek deals and special promotions, a mobile app allows you to offer them more incentives. Coupons and other promotions offered through an app can also be tracked and analyzed with new tools. Additionally, with the analytics capabilities that larger companies have used for years, you can now see which offers are resonating with your audience—helping you make more informed decisions about upcoming promotions and calculate the return on investment (ROI) from your mobile offers.The world of mobile is constantly changing, and the features that are cutting-edge today may be old news next year. But given the impact of the mobile revolution—and the incredible spread of mobile technology—it’s hard to imagine a return to the ways people did business even a few years ago. Whatever your business does, makes, or says, chances are that you can learn a thing or two from the small businesses that are achieving unprecedented levels of user engagement via mobile. Li-at Karpel Gurwicz is Vice President of Marketing at Como™, one of the world’s leading do-it-yourself app-creation platforms.
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