When WideNet first opened its doors in 2005 as a website design firm, people still hadn't totally caught on to the benefits that websites were offering. Even in the new millennium, websites were a hard sell. Businesses, especially small businesses, weren't quite ready to take that step into the virtual realm.
Of course, not long after our company was founded, the digital revolution picked up a lot of momentum (thanks, Smartphone), and everyone started waking up to the impact of the World Wide Web. Flash-forward 10 years later and websites are basically selling themselves.
What happened with websites is the same thing that's happened time and time again throughout history: a new "thing" comes along that has the potential to change the very nature of how we do business but goes largely ignored (often in favor of the "traditional means" of business) until everyone realizes that this new "thing" is actually quite profitable.
And it's happening again. Except this time, it's apps.
Much like the early days of the Internet, many businesses have yet to recognize the potential in mobile apps. For many, apps are still widely regarded as entertainment mediums or, at best, a personal utility for shopping, banking, or keeping up with your to-do list on the go.
To be fair, a number of businesses (especially banks, large chains, and tech companies) have jumped on the app train--and to great success. (Of course, it's not uncommon for big players in the market to start using new technology early on.) But when we talk about apps being the next big thing for businesses, we mean all businesses, small to large.
Nearly every company alive today, from the big Fortune 500's to the mom and pop shop down the street, has a website. It's simply a necessity in this day and age. But technology is progressing rapidly towards a mobile society. You could even argue, with plenty of source material, that we're already fully immersed in this new frontier.
Mobile phones have evolved into portable, personal computers. You can handle nearly every aspect of your life from the palm of your hand: communication, business, finances, etc. Plus, they feed our growing need for instant gratification. Combine this with the fact that people officially spend more time on apps than watching television, and we've got a pretty solid case for apps in business.
So the next big question is, "How do businesses utilize apps?"
To answer, we can look at what the big chains are already doing. Companies like Hobby Lobby and Target use their apps to aid shopping, announce deals, and provide coupons to customers who've downloaded the app. Hotels.com lets users book hotels from their app. And the WholeFoods app provides users with great recipes and ideas for meals (using food from WholeFoods, of course).
But it can go further. With a good programmer, your options are virtually limitless. Whatever your business does, a custom app can promote it, expand it, and engage your customer base on an entirely different, and effective, level. Best of all, you have a 24/7 presence on the customer's phone, something they're virtually guaranteed to have with them everywhere they go. Every time they open it up, your logo and brand are right in front of them. You can't beat that level of exposure.
Not Just for Consumers
Of course, in all the growing excitement for apps in business, no one is really talking about the OTHER use for apps: internal communication and team management.
Apps don't have to be a selling point to your consumers in order for them to be valuable to your business--especially if you're B2B.
Apps geared towards internal management can allow all staff or team members to stay connected on multiple fronts. Managers can create to-do lists, delegate tasks, update employees on important deadlines, manage products, and more. And since you can communicate directly to the mobile phone, these apps can help reduce breakdowns in communication, missed messages, etc.
At the end of the day, how you decide to use it is up to you. The point is that in 10 years, apps will be second nature to businesses. If they don't totally overtake websites, they'll be just as crucial.
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