Mobile App Design · Small business

What is the best way for a small business to go mobile?

Kerry Davis

January 26th, 2015

What is the best way for small businesses to go mobile?

A. Mobile Responsive Web Page the user finds and interacts with inside a mobile browser?
B. Native Mobile apps for the various mobile devices and if so is Android and IOS enough?
C. Hybrid Mobile apps playing off the aforementioned mobile responsive web page but with native (i.e. apple/google) stores and mobile screen branded icon
D. Location (broadcast and physical) driven beacon to mobile pairing (i.e. iBeacon, Shazam broadcast pairing)
E. Mobile is a waste of time for Small Busiiness
F. Something else

(certainly D could be a stand alone strategy or in combination with A,B or C)

And for what specific purpose? (Brand recognition, contact info/directions, product info, etc)?

For those not familiar with iBeacon and Bluetooth low energy or the recent licensing between Shazam and Apple, please google those topics. Shazam integrated into Siri is not just about "Name/Buy that Tune". They want to pair you to a broadcast venue so they can push relevant/targeted (or irrelevant spam depending on your opinion) content.

Katie Pang Financial Advisor at Aegon

January 26th, 2015

You can find out what others have to say about Mobile App. vs Mobile Web. here >> http://members.founderdating.com/discuss/2078/Mobile-App-vs-Mobile-Web

This discussion started several days ago and there's already really good insights. 
(Please check for your research topics in case it's already been answered)

Rob G

January 26th, 2015

For us, starting with A then adding C made the most sense, not because we did some exhaustive study, but because 1) "A" was the skill set we had and could afford at the time and 2) because we need to send a large number of alerts to mobile devices at absolute minimal cost ("C") and 3) we have a location-aware feature that we need to implement at low cost ("C" again) and 4) an important demographic for us is 13-18 year olds (not necessarily our ideal prospects, but an important user nonetheless) and we're not sure yet of the best way to engage with them, but mobile seemed a reasonable experiment.  Our mobile app is more than a wrapper, but less than a full-fledged, stand-alone application.  If not for our need to send a large number of alerts to mobile devices (from a few hundred to a few thousand) in certain geographic locations (not fixed geo locations) we could get by with SMS/MMS.  But SMS/MMS is slow and expensive even at $0.0075/ea. and at volume requires short codes (expensive) so push notifications makes more sense to us.  That being said, calling attention to an alert on a native app icon buried 3 screens deep on a 4-5" screen is not something we are looking forward to, but we will figure it out.  I could add a 5th reason:  responsive web seemed to us to be more 'forgiving' from a dev and design standpoint give our skill set.  That could be a double-edged sword... we'll see. 

Rob G

January 26th, 2015

@ Kerry, feel free to message me directly at:  Robg at PetHero dot org.   You ask several questions, but the short answer is:  we really need to send a large volume of alerts to mobile users in a reasonable time frame (not seconds, but minutes will do) at a very low cost which pushes us in the direction of push notifications.  Our geo-fenced feature and some other geo-aware features were not rev 1 must-haves, but given the financial and speed benefits of PN, they add to the benefits we can gain from native mobile.  

Kerry Davis

January 26th, 2015

Michael, 

Your missing what I am saying and I am not sure how many ways I can say this, I violently agree with you that there are too many mobile apps out there and you don't need to download 100 apps (or even 5 small business apps for that matter). Heck I would like to remove half my native apps if I could and just have my phone pop up what I need based on what I am doing or where I am. The latter being much more plausible than it reading my mind to see what I will be doing next.

But if you could download one app and that app could rebrand itself in real time based on location (i.e. where I am, what I am watching or listening too). And you can no longer think of a small business venue as being a brick and mortar physical location serving a local market. There are plenty of virtual businesses out there hosted in many and increasing ways. Just visit Fiverr.com for example.

Certainly not all of those need a web or mobile presence, but many do. Having a mobile / hybrid presence does not necessarily mean an app in a mobile app store that has to be downloaded. Don't dis the idea because of an assumption about how technology may or may not be able to reduce or even eliminate the user friction in the experience. If it is useful for a business to present its users with a mobile experience then it is useful. Now we just have to figure out how to make it happen and not get hung up because NFC or QR codes were not the answer. Having too many apps on your phone does not in itself remove the value of small businesses going mobile. it just means you have to remove that from the user experience if it is getting in the way.


Michael Brill Technology startup exec focused on AI-driven products

January 27th, 2015

Got it... yeah, that's a big thing, right? You want to be some sort of location/event-based application content delivery mechanism. Conceptually a little bit like Google Now, except with open-ish access and deeper interactions?

Kerry Davis

January 26th, 2015

FYI: I just finished reading the 19 or so comments from the thread Katie pointed to and I think the first response (which was basically that it depends) was the most correct because the question was not very specific.

Most people on that thread seemed to point towards Native and given the way the question was worded (making some of the same assumptions most responders made) I would agree.

However, I am specifically interested in answering this question for small businesses and even novelty or hobbyist sites. And I don't think anyone would say that Native is the way to go there, although there could be some business cases I have not thought of so I would certainly like to hear one if it exists.

Kerry Davis

January 26th, 2015

I guess we have different definitions of small business. To say a business is small no longer means they serve a local market. That day passed several years ago when apple opened the smart phone door (and probably before to a lesser degree). Artists, Musicians, online specialty stores and now even software widget developers and specialty app developers like PetHero. For me those are all small businesses and there are quite literally millions of them worldwide.

I agree (I think) that this sort of app, or even a relatively simple hybrid app should not be created (without help) BY a small business. But neither should their responsive web site. That's why Wix.com has 58 million world wide customers, mostly small business and hobbyist, many without a physical footprint but nonetheless small businesses. And the number 4 guy in the online web app builder market has over 10M customers. But when a small business can create a hybrid native app as easily and cheaply as they can put together a drag and drop web site then that is another story.

Kerry Davis

January 26th, 2015

"Most iPhone suggested apps are GPS geofenced, not beacon-based (although as of iOS 8, the latter is now possible). I guess it's marginally faster than swipe/pull down/type s/press Starbucks app... but imagine it's now Larbucks - a Danish guy who sells coffee. He plainly shouldn't be building an app. "

I somewhat disagree. Both with the idea that it is not about Hybrid vs Native mobile apps and also whether the Danish coffee guy should have a mobilepresence. Yes, if it costs him $10K for each mobile device and he has to maintain the cost of ownership across IOS/Android/Web. Then certainly it makes no sense for him to have an app or a mobile presence. However, if he can use his existing responsive web site and he can place that into a free hybrid platform that allows him to not only interact with his mobile visitors (with targeted and real time content, brand awareness and Loyalty), and there was no ongoing cost of ownership (because he is using his own existing web page inside a native wrapper anyway)...then why wouldn't Dan the Danish guy want a mobilepresence for his customers?

Kerry Davis

January 26th, 2015

Rob, good answer and thanks for the response!

Is your location aware feature satisfied via GPS, BLE beacon, QR, wifi or something else?

So geo-fence (GPS coordinates based) alerts via SMS/MMS would be too expensive and not cover all your use cases. Correct? How fine is the location resolution radius you need in order for the user to receive a particular alert? Miles? few blocks? building? aisle in a store?

Can you point to your existing app? or your website where I can find a link to your app?

http://www.pethero.org?

Kerry Davis

January 26th, 2015

I did not see the post atmembers.founderdating.com/discuss/2078/Mobile-App-vs-Mobile-Web
however, that question is a bit too general. I was looking for more specific suggestions like Hybrid and even specifics about which hybrid path (there are many apparently). In particular, the concept of extensions. Browsers have extensions to extend a browsers functionality by feature or function. Why not native apps that could extend themselves by location? Certainly pairing a mobile user to a physical or broadcast venue by location could result in the ability to extend a native app to the identified venue (i.e. the existing responsive web page for that location being visited placed inside the hybrid native app in real time based on the users newly discovered pairing (aka location) to the venue)

In answer to Michaels question about naming one type of existing SMALL business where it makes sense to build an app...I can not...But I was hoping that someone could if there is one out there that justifies the expense and ongoing costs (time and money) of going native mobile for a small business. So it is a good question.

As for beacon pairing (not necessarily iBeacon but location based pairing in general) to a mobile device to a physical location, I think there are plenty of useful scenarios that do exist today. I experienced one just yesterday when my iPhone automagically popped up the Starbucks app when I came in proximity of my local store. I always have trouble finding that app in the maze of apps on my phone (of course Starbuck is any thing but a small business however, the scenario still applies to any small coffee shop that might have a hybrid app for example or even a web app)