Let’s face it. Mobile apps are hot. More than 60 percent of adults in the U.S. have smart phones, and their use of apps is on the rise. Some might argue that in the B2B market, apps are not as “sexy” as in the B2C market. While not necessarily used to make online purchases, their importance and impact can be just as powerful. Like B2C apps, they offer a 24/7 connection with the marketplace. Plus, they provide a platform to support key functions including (but not limited to):
- Making presentations
- Improving internal processes
- Distributing product information
- Enhancing customer support
- Accessing sales CRM
- Monitoring inventory
- Managing projects.
What does this mean for B2B companies? It means, it’s time to evaluate the potential benefits of a mobile app for your business. And, if appropriate, it’s time to develop a “use” strategy, along with a design, testing and implementation framework.
The Framework for Developing Mobile Apps
Strategy: Before investing a dime, consider the target audience, whether it is internal or external. How do they like to receive information? What is the real goal of a mobile app? How will it make a difference in your business operations? Is it a core issue? Do you have the resources to develop and implement it? If internal developers are not available, what external options exist?
Design: Do your research. Does a similar app already exist? Can it be customized, or do you need to start from scratch? Involve potential users in the design process. Create a storyboard where you can see frame by frame what the app will do and how it will look. Make sure the end product is consistent with your brand. Develop code documentation and have it peer reviewed during the process. Build in analytics for future data gathering. At the same time, keep the end product simple and easy to understand to ensure maximum use.
Testing: Even the most competent designers will find bugs in their newly created apps. What works in the lab doesn’t always work in the field. Test it with a variety of users and find out where the bugs are and how to eliminate them. Use this part of the process to create documentation for training and implementation purposes.
Implementation: One of the biggest mistakes in app development is the lack of a defined implementation process. According to Rich Foreman, CEO of Apptology, “One costly error businesses make is developing an app that no one uses.” Companies can reduce the likelihood of this occurrence by doing their homework upfront and creating a well-defined and shared marketing and communications plan to introduce and support the app. Remember to measure user experience and feedback, and respond accordingly.
In the end, it’s not just whether or not you jump on the mobile apps bandwagon. It’s how well you do it that counts.