INSIGHT ON: Technology Innovations – Does your company need a mobile app?

Posted on Mar 1, 2014 :: Insight On , Technology Innovations
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Posted by , Insight on Business Staff Writer

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Handling hundreds of product pages, each in need of constant updates, recently pushed one business in the New North region to find a different way for dealing with the daily time and expense of changing its hard copy.

“So much of our marketing budget was being spent on keeping our paper sales binders and catalogs up to date,” says Gretchen Gilbertson, chief executive officer and co-founder of Séura in Green Bay. The company manufactures specialty visual entertainment items like waterproof or outdoor televisions. Serving both residential and hospitality customers means Séura’s products have to be cutting edge.

“Our brand is built on being at the forefront of this industry,” Gilbertson says. “And we have to get it right when it comes to the newest specs, pricing and pictures. The idea of moving all of our product pages to a mobile, easily responsive app seemed to make sense for both the future of the business itself, and our bottom line. Now most of our dealers have the latest information right at their fingertips, which has to be much better than those bulky old binders. So we think our Séura app is much simpler to use, and it’s pretty trendy.”

An “app” is a software application accessed on a computer while online, but most apps refer to those designed to run on a smartphone, tablet, or other mobile device and are also called “mobile apps.”

Optimal Digital Marketing President Brandon Wentland believes apps are hot, especially for mobile devices, and has many clients asking for one these days. Yet, he says his Appleton company’s response is always the same – why do you think your business needs an app?

“It can be very useful in certain situations, and we try to understand if a client truly needs an app and then work to determine how it would best be used,” Wentland says. He describes a bank or credit union as a good example, where an app is a tool allowing the user to come back again and again with just one tap.

But Wentland also says, “Through our discussions we’ll end up learning they want to share their services in a mobile-friendly, responsively designed format, yet what they are really wanting is the full website experience for a tablet or phone. So we’ll work on upgrading that instead of asking them to spend a lot of money to develop an app.”

Brad DePasse, owner and creative director of Menasha-based Ark Media Group, estimates developing a simple professionally designed and tested app can cost between $20,000 and $40,000, while a sophisticated app may run close to $100,000. “You get what you pay for,” DePasse says.

“An app should offer a valuable, focused, unique experience which gives the user a compelling reason to return to it,” DePasse says. “You want it to be a direct connection to the consumer without any other links, keeping all eyes on the app’s particular content. Plus, the name, icon, color and shape needs to be relevant to your business.”

But DePasse says a business can also struggle to update content, sometimes allowing the app to become a stagnant digital brochure. “Bad comments about your app can end up being bad PR for your business,” says DePasse, who believes apps are currently in a cycle of change and says “the dust is going to start to settle after the last five years of so many apps being developed.

“The basic, engaging apps will survive, and consumers will also want to use apps connecting them directly to valuable interaction from the particular businesses they may use,” he says. “The business owner will also see a boost with more apps being programmed to perform functions specific to the workplace, like service or sales calls.”

At Séura, the company’s app is already providing a boost to sales. Many of its dealers are actively using it as a tool to show residential clients the most up-to-date product information.

The hospitality sector of its business has been a bit slower to try the technical platform, with some still wanting product samples and an actual catalog binder for their customers. But Gilbertson has done the research and knows using the app is saving enough money on one side to justify printing product pages for the other side of the business. And there’s an unexpected bonus being revealed.

“We like to offer new, solution-based products. We’re finding many of the dealers consider our app as also in these categories (new, solution-based) and are now asking other manufacturers they work with to develop a similar sales tool in the near future.”