These days, there are a multitude of apps, or to be more precise software applications, created by businesses for their customers to use on a smartphone or tablet. There are apps to order takeaway food, apps to find properties, apps to find jobs, apps to make a doctor’s appointment – the list goes on and on.

It appears that business has embraced the concept of the app for the benefit of their current customers and potentially to nurture future customers. As a business owner, there’s a very compelling argument that if every other business has an app so should you. But before you jump headfirst into the wonderful world of software applications, here are some top tips for developing an effective business app that should put you on the path towards app success.

An app is not just your website mobilised

There’s a misconception that all you have to do is load your website to the App Store, Google Play or Windows Phone Store and, voilà, you’ve created an app. Your website should operate in tandem with your app – but they’re not the same thing.

The most effective way to mobilise the desktop version of your website is to make it “responsive” – so that your website automatically responds to the size of the screen that it’s being viewed on.

Once you’ve optimised your website for a mobile device, the next step would be strategising as to what would be the most appropriate content for the app – so that it would complement your responsive website.

A good question to pose would be, “What are the practical elements that will help my customers?”

You could conduct user research to hear directly from your customers about what would be useful to them if they had access to an app for your business to use on their mobile phone.

Here at Vodafone, our app is called My Vodafone, and it gives our customers easy access to their monthly usage, the ability to manage international roaming and they can also see their bill. These are all practical, interactive tools that give our customers specific information relating to them.

Stick to your core business

Once you’ve determined the appropriate strategic approach for the app, it’s important to always remain true to your business. In the same way that you wouldn’t load your website up with extraneous information, so too should you resist adding functionality or features to the app simply because you can.

Customers respect simplicity and ease of use.

If they sense that you’re being disingenuous to what they know your business offers, then the app that you’ve created will become an Achilles heel and counter-productive.

Jose Barea is the Head of Product Sales and Service in Digital for Vodafone.

“When we develop new functionality for My Vodafone we undertake a significant discovery and inception phase that includes user research and analysis so that we only create features that our customers want to use.” said Jose.

Regularly refine and optimise

The days of a set and forget are over for everything that’s digital – including apps. Engage a skilled user experience expert who can create a seamless app experience for your customers and then re-engage them to monitor the data and track how your customers engage with the app through specific user testing. The more intuitive the app and the easier it is to use, the more your customers will respond positively to your brand – because every piece of collateral that features your brand should be exceptional. Every month or so, Facebook deploys an update to the app and to Facebook Messenger. The development team at Facebook understand that’s essential to keep refining the functionality to streamline the experience for their users.

Incentivise customers to download the app

While your app might be an overnight success with significant downloads by your customer base, chances are it will be a more lengthy process to encourage your customers to start using the app.

This is where your marketing team need to be engaged. They’ll be your experts to offer advice on how to encourage the take-up at a faster pace. It’s best to devise a digital marketing strategy, potentially offering some sort of incentive that will encourage customers to use the app. If you’ve included the appropriate features and functionality for your customers in the app, then there should be a snowball effect propelled by word of mouth also.

Uber does this particularly well, with incentives to encourage their customer’s friends and family to use the service. It’s also a good idea to include some ‘onboard’ messaging for customers who use the app for the first time. If it’s well-designed, the app should be intuitive, however, there’s never any harm providing short micro-copy that guides the user through an interface.

Keep customers returning to the app

If customers see the value in using the app, then they should enjoy returning time and time again. However, don’t be afraid to develop customer retention marketing strategies specifically for the app. You could present, for example, a discount on their next purchase that’s only advertised in the app. Not only will this encourage customers to keep coming back to use the app, but it will boost your sales and discourage customers from going to the competition.

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Lyndon Barnett

Senior Digital Content and SEO Manager

Lyndon Barnett,
Senior Digital Content and SEO Manager

As the Senior Digital Content and SEO Manager at Vodafone, Lyndon is an expert in using digital content strategically to drive organic traffic and online conversions. When not optimising websites, he travels widely and has explored more than 70 countries.