Smart apps for your customers

Along with the explosion of smartphones, there's a similar storm about business apps. As GrowthBusiness's sister magazine Business XL launches its own app, we report on how other businesses are benefiting.

Along with the explosion of smartphones, there’s a similar storm about business apps. As GrowthBusiness‘s sister magazine Business XL launches its own app, we report on how other businesses are benefiting.

Along with the explosion in popularity of smartphones there’s a corresponding storm of hype about apps. But for some entrepreneurs, they have brought tangible business benefits, not just an opportunity to show they’re ahead of the curve.

Justin Stone, MD of clothing retailer Surfdome, explains what prompted the development of the company’s free app.

‘We’d seen a lot of sales come through on moabile devices, so with the growth of the iPhone we felt that it was appropriate to develop a specific iPhone app,’ he says.

Launched in October 2010, the app has had 5,000 downloads and mirrors the Surfdome website in terms of functionality, while featuring as many as 99 per cent of the brands sold on the main site. ‘It’s good to show brands that we have another way of targeting additional customers that some of the other online retailers don’t,’ he explains.

Recreating the website’s secure payment system on the app was key to its take-up.

While Stone believes the app has helped build awareness of the company, he adds that Surfdome currently takes more mobile web orders than iPhone app orders. Consumers tend to use the app to browse before making a purchase through the site.

Customer focused

Parking provider NCP conducted a survey in March 2010 and found a gap in the market for an app that located car parks. For Alison Sams, brand and creative manager, it was important to create an app that was relevant to its customers.

The NCP app was launched in October last year and has had over 35,000 downloads, becoming the second most downloaded free navigational app, claims Sams. She believes its success is down to the fact that the app offers more than one service.

In addition to locating the nearest NCP car park and providing real-time information, it has a built-in route planner and a ‘remember where I’ve parked’ function that provides users with directions back to the car.

NCP plans to launch an Android version in a few months to keep up with growth in this sector. ‘We are the brand leader but I think the app has helped bring NCP to a younger audience as a brand that’s trying new technology,’ says Sams.

Play it straight

Ben Trewhella, CTO of smartphone and iPhone app developer Mubaloo, agrees that apps are an effective way for companies to engage with a younger generation.

However, he warns that it is possible to create poor app experiences. ‘We steer companies away from novelty apps. The reason is, if the application is completely trivial, you can disappoint customers,’ he explains.

He believes the most successful apps are those that provide customers with a service that aligns with its brand. Trewhella concludes, ‘Identify what the customer is after and build it in an engaging way.’

Business XL, the sister magazine to GrowthBusiness, has launched the Business XL App for iPad and iPhone, which is now available to download. Provided in a convenient and easy-to-use format, the app gives you access to the magazine wherever and whenever you want.

The app provides access to interactive content, links and videos as well as current and archived issues.  download the Business XL App today.

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