Does Your Small Business Need an iPhone or Android App?

Mobile phone apps offer an exciting new avenue for small business owners to reach consumers. Businesses in just about every industry are developing innovative applications based on iPhone and Android mobile technology.

These apps span a vast range of categories, and they take advantage of mobile smartphone features such as GPS, camera, data and interactive graphics capabilities. By investing in a mobile app, your business can forge new opportunities for engaging and interacting with customers.

Mobile Marketing for the Smartphone Generation

Smartphone sales have surged through 2010, bringing mobile apps into the hands of more and more people. According to IDC’s quarterly report released September 2010, “the worldwide market for converged mobile devices is expected to grow 55.4 percent compared to 2009.”

Google’s Android and Apple’s iOs mobile operating systems will continue to dominate the mobile smartphone market, with Android growing 51.2 percent between 2010 and 2014. Android currently commands 16.3 percent and Apple’s iPhone 14.7 percent of the market, reports IDC; by 2014, nearly one in four smartphones will run the Android operating system.

App development on either of these consumer-focused mobile platforms holds vast opportunity for public outreach. Businesses are finding innovative ways to harness the handheld devices for consumer marketing, relationship building, and mobile services. Examples include:

  • Car insurance companies, which utilize mobile technology to extend bill pay and insurance claims reporting services
  • Retail stores such as Walmart, which help shoppers find products and organize their shopping lists
  • Real estate services such as Redfin, which lets people search local houses for sale using their phone’s GPS function

The possibilities are endless for iPhone and Android app development. For example, Maureen Porter, a site admin for (Small Business Computing and are both owned by QuinStreet Inc.), envisions the possibilities for her site’s app:

“Our site offers a lot of information on vinyl siding. With a mobile app, we could allow consumers to view a siding color sample and hold it up to the side of their house.” Future development could allow consumers to scan an existing color and call up the closest vinyl siding match from the company’s database.

Investing in a Mobile Phone App

According to industry analysts, apps for mobile phones and tablet devices are well worth the investment. In addition to the surging popularity of smartphones and tablets, marketers point to the interactivity and attention-commanding media of mobile devices. People who use smartphone apps are “15 times more active” than feature phone owners, and more engaged than traditional Web viewers.

Businesses that invest in a mobile phone app access a powerful tool to engage customers in their daily lives, building relationships and driving product loyalty.

Dr. Clare Kaufman is a freelance writer who covers business and education topics.

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