technology(1) Apps have become increasingly relevant, from the vantage point of consumers as well as businesses. Noah Elkin, an eMarketer analyst, told NYTimes.com that apps are now as important as search results ranking. He said, “if you don’t get any [app] results for a brand, that brand doesn’t exist.”

Apps have become just another essential digital marketing tool that businesses feel pressured to adopt. Because consumers are heavily reliant on their mobile devices, appearing in all marketable digital spaces puts or keeps a business on the map. In addition to acquiring a strong presence on the Internet and in social media, are organizations required to publish an app in order to stay ahead of the game or rather, just keep up?

A Self Evaluation

Before you jump the gun on building an app, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What is my business trying to achieve with an app? (e.g., increase in sales, new clients, brand reinforcement)
    NYTimes.com explains how the consulting firm PrimeGenesis uses their app as a marketing tool to promote the firm’s book. The app serves as a how-to guide for executives that want to carry out an action plan in 100 days. As a result, the app draws consumer attention to the book.
  • How will an app meet customer needs or enhance their experience with my business? (e.g. products updates, faster and easier services, discounts and sweepstakes)
    American Express offers a mobile app that encourages people to claim offers and access rewards earned from using an American Express business credit card; mobile app users can also schedule payments and view charges while on-the-go.
  • Do you know what to expect by adopting a company app?
    Designing and deploying an app is only the beginning. An app can require updates, responses to customer questions and feature requests, and promotion, which can be costly and time-consuming, as suggested by SmashingMagazine.com on Mobile. You’ll need to evaluate how much your business can invest before wasting time and money.
Building Your Mobile App

After an evaluation and thorough research, if you’re ready to move forward with building an app, decide whether you’ll build a native app, which is designed for specific operating systems and installed on a device — or a mobile Web app, which is accessed on a Web browser. App platforms such as Tiggzi, Titanium and EachScape are app-builder programs and mobile-development platforms that are accessible to small businesses and entrepreneurs. NYTimes.com explains that app development platforms provide various levels of usability and additional features for alerts and social networking. To help with the design process, visit iplotz.com for digital mockups and prototyping.

Whether you’re creating an app using tools from a program or outsourcing to a developer, you’ll want to know about the following research beforehand:

  • Competing businesses and apps
  • Technical limitations
  • Profitability vs. costs of production
  • Targeted niche
  • Brand representation in visual design and aesthetics
  • User engagement and interactive operation
  • Budget for production and marketing

Smashing Magazine recommends odesk.com and theymakeapps.com to find a programming expert if you prefer to use a contractor. Then you’ll need to register for a developer account at the iOS Development Center at the App Store. This ensures that your app is securely published under your company. After your app is built and submitted to the App Store, you can start to promote. Market your app by using social media and sharing its launch through PR and professional connections.

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