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How to create a mobile app for a small business

Regularly updated mobile applications are becoming essential for small businesses. The first step for SMBs is knowing all the options for building and maintaining mobile apps.

In the digital age, mobile app development and maintenance present challenges for SMBs.

SMBs have many reasons to create a mobile platform. A regularly updated mobile app can help SMB owners attract more clientele, address bigger markets and increase brand visibility. The challenges of developing an app within a small organization often come down to a lack of dedicated programmers and IT support staff, combined with a shortage of cash upfront.

However, the rising popularity of no-code and low-code development presents new opportunities. A 2021 Gartner report stated that low-code development is a growing trend, with the COVID-19 pandemic further driving a move to non-IT app developers.

Still, coding is only the first stage of creating an organization's mobile presence. As an SMB owner or IT administrator, you must regularly update the app with new company and product data to keep customers engaged.

Regular app updates can help SMBs connect with customers. Push notifications after program updates can also help maintain your digital presence and increase brand awareness.

Building the application for an SMB

After deciding to create a mobile app, you might use an app builder that offers a simplified template for building. You could also hire an outside programmer or development team to create a dedicated program.

You should know how you want the app to look before you select a template or app builder. Make sure to select an app builder or template that can support features your business needs.

In general, SMBs should keep the app and UI simple.

You should also consider what mobile platforms a template builder supports. Some templates only support Apple's iOS or Google's Android mobile OS, while others support both. Unless you want to create an app that caters to iPhone or Android audiences individually, your app should accommodate both flavors of mobile OSes.

Also, SMBs should evaluate the template builder's technical support. You need a template provider that answers queries promptly and effectively.

If you need a simple mobile app, such as a digital menu for a café that gets regular updates or a salon appointment book that smartphone users can easily alter, a cheap or free template builder should meet your needs.

In general, SMBs should keep the app and UI simple. Once you roll out the app, you don't need many features to make it a success. In fact, customers generally prefer an uncomplicated, uncluttered look for mobile apps. The platform should simply deliver the information users need.

On the other hand, you should consider security if your application requires customers to enter passwords to access financial records or other secure information. In these cases, you need a programmer or team of programmers to build the mobile platform and strengthen cybersecurity for your SMB. Maintain a technical staff in-house, if possible. A third-party app builder or template provider that does not regularly update its security protocols could leave you -- and your customers -- vulnerable to data breaches.

If your SMB plans to regularly change the template's design, update the code or transfer specific features from your mobile-responsive website, you should hire a programmer to develop the app. Third-party mobile app building programs may lack rapid, dynamic and flexible service for mobile app creation.

Supporting the application as an SMB

Unlike a mobile-responsive website, a dedicated app requires a customer to download it from an app store, so you may want to reward users for choosing to download your app. You could offer points toward purchases made on the mobile app, organize events on the app or offer discounts on users' birthdays. Simple actions can help create a dedicated customer base.

You should also check app store user comments on competitors' mobile apps. A rival's customer comments -- whether good or bad -- can provide major pointers and flag potential pitfalls to avoid before rolling out your app.

When your SMB's mobile app is live, you or your team should set up mechanisms for in-app customer service, including prepared customer support responses, in-app chat support or an email address for customer inquiries.

Key takeaways for SMB owners

A decade ago, a small business owner may have dismissed the idea of building a mobile application. The cost and time involved would have been too great.

Now, third-party mobile templates make app development simpler. And with the omnipresence of mobile app stores, customers can easily search for any mobile app. Likewise, it's easier for an SMB to know what its customers want. With a mobile app, an organization can reach and serve its customers more efficiently than ever before. Knowing how to properly build a secure, effective mobile app makes it possible for even small organizations with limited resources to utilize this tool.

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Unified Communications