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Mobile Apps Uncategorized

Holiday 2020: Bringing the Stores to You

The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has touched every aspect of our lives.  Businesses have shut down, families hunkered down, and the economy slowed down. 

Concurrently, the way we shop has also changed.  If eCommerce was a slow-moving, if inevitable, train before the pandemic, today it’s a runaway freight train.  The result has been retail bankruptcies as consumers have been reluctant to leave their homes, preferring to pick up packages from their front porch.

But now businesses are re-opening, and with the holiday shopping season rapidly approaching, consumers are tired of being at home.  But they need information about what this new shopping experience is going to be like: What stores are open?  What are the new business hours?  Is there online ordering?  Curbside pickup?  What events are happening, and what health and safety protocols are in place?  And based on the past few months, the answers to these questions and others could change several times in the next few months.

Our partner company, Jacobs Media, just completed a survey of over 27,000 listeners of 355 radio stations across the US and Canada.  “Radio’s 2020 Holiday Road Map” provides the answers to these questions, and clearly shows retail customers are placing a high priority on safety (this is especially true among women).

So how do retailers communicate this to their customers, especially when advertising and marketing budgets are pinched?

We believe in the power of aggregation – bringing all of the businesses in a downtown or shopping district together to collaborate on a mobile app that answers all of the questions posed above, and provides even more.  This is a cost-efficient solution that’s in-tune with what consumers need, and puts it conveniently on their smartphone, which has become their “go to” device for shopping information.

The Covid-19 pandemic is re-writing all of the rules, and the old ways of marketing won’t be as effective – or cost-effective – as before.  Nearly every customer a retailer are trying to attract has a smartphone, so it makes sense to provide a solution where everyone in the community benefits, and your re-opening can be successful.

For this and lots of other reasons, it makes sense for merchant associations, chambers of commerce or downtown development authorities to bring all of the local merchants together into a single, easy-to-use way to find out what’s happening in your area.

The last thing a tentative, concerned consumer wants to do is venture out without the information to make their trip safe and productive for themselves and their families. Merchants can make their life easier by putting the information for all of your local businesses into one handy mobile application that can create a real connection between merchants and consumers.  And if the situation changes, push messaging will provide a fast and effective way of communication, improving your relationship with your customers in the process.

This holiday shopping season won’t be like any other – make sure your business and shopping district’s marketing plans are in-line with the “new normal.”

Wishing you a happy, healthy, and profitable holiday season.

If you would like more information from our Covid shopping study, contact Paul Jacobs at paul@jacobsmedia.com

Categories
Mobile Apps Streaming

Streaming: The Essential Worker for Radio

When jācapps introduced its first mobile app for radio close to a dozen years ago, most people thought we were nuts.  In late 2008 apps were a novelty. The two leading apps in the iTunes App Store were the Zippo Lighter and iFart.  You can imagine the questions we got from broadcasters.

At the time that mobile technology was introduced, broadcasters were still suspicious of streaming. It was disruptive, expensive, and foreign, and since we were in the throes of the Great Recession, many were reluctant to jump into the pond.

Between then and now, it’s become pretty standard for radio stations to have a mobile app as streaming by listeners has grown steadily each year.  Broadcasters recognize the necessity of having an app, but for some, the reluctance remains.

Until now.

As more Americans are working from home, the way they consume audio content, including radio, has shifted dramatically.  They are spending significantly less time in their cars, and while working from home or schooling their children, streaming audio, especially radio, via a mobile app, website, or smart speaker has become more popular. 

According to a recent article in “Inside Radio” the percentage of AM/FM listening taking place online hit 10% in May, with Triton reporting Total Listening Hours to AM/FM streams up 16% year-over-year.  So now with Nielsen recognizing this shift and adjusting ratings to account for headphone listening, having a great mobile app is no longer a “check the box” investment, but a key aspect to the way radio connects with its audience.

Your stream is now central to the delivery of your content, and things like mobile apps and smart speaker skills are an essential way radio stations compete and grow their audience, and stations without them are at a significant disadvantage.

Categories
Mobile Apps

Covid-19 Spurs Mobile App Usage

The pandemic and resulting impact in work, home, and leisure routines has also generated a surge in mobile app usage.  A study just released from Airship finds an incredible surge across almost all app categories in the March-June period, when so many people found themselves at home.   And while they were at home, many found mobile apps as the optimal way of continuing to connect with all aspects of their lifestyle.

As we have shared in this blog since the beginning of the pandemic, consumer behavior is changing radically.  Limitation on consumers’ ability to go into stores or businesses to interact with merchants the way they used to has made investment in mobile app technology a must-have for all businesses.  Those who choose to conduct business in the same way they did before March are leaving themselves vulnerable to being left behind as this new reality emerges.

Comparing March through June activity in 2020 to 2019, the health care (+60%), media (+55%), and entertainment (+40%) categories led in app usage growth.  And compared to the February year-over-year app activity, the biggest change was with Business apps.

Three companies that have seen their business explode since the pandemic are Wal-Mart, Target, and Amazon.  They were each perfectly positioned to shift their shopping experience from in-store to online with curbside pickup, and not surprisingly, each provides an excellent mobile shopping experience.

There is no reason why any business – regardless of size – shouldn’t be able to compete with these retail behemoths in the mobile space.  And ceding this turf to them will just empower consumers to shift their spending to them.

While we have no way of knowing if – or when – things will return to normal, it’s safe to assume the importance of mobile apps in all aspects of commerce will remain.  And this is especially important for any business that depends on the revenue burst from the holiday shopping season – providing a mobile app/shopping experience is going to be key to your success.

Categories
Mobile Apps

6 Questions To Ask When Looking For A Mobile App Developer

After close to twelve years in the mobile app development business, we can tell you the majority of prospective clients have one thing in common:  they’ve never bought a mobile app before.  In many cases, they don’t know which questions to ask, and as a result, make a decision on a developer based on price or a pre-existing relationship.  We can’t tell you how many times we’ve lost a bid because the client wanted the lowest price and selected a company with offshore development.  Or, they had a family relation or friend who knew how to write code and had developed a couple of apps.

So, based on our experience, here are the questions you should ask when selecting a mobile app developer:

  1. Do they create custom solutions, have a platform, or provide both approaches?  There tends to be two types of developers – those who have invested in a platform that allows them to develop apps quickly and inexpensively, or those who provide more expensive custom work.  It’s important to understand the benefits and limitations of each approach.  Beyond cost, platform apps can be versatile and provide an array of solutions, while custom apps can provide a company exactly what they require.
  2. What is their core business?  A lot of mobile app development is done by large software companies where apps are just a part of what they do.  Successful mobile app development requires dedicated teams with specific expertise, working for a company that prioritizes mobile app development.  This is a space that changes rapidly – new devices and operating systems from Apple and Android come out regularly – and without the proper focus, problems will occur.
  3. What is their service philosophy?  Many app developers provide their clients with apps – from there, the client is on their own.  Given the rate of change in this space combined with the fact mobile apps should be refreshed regularly, working with a developer that has an ongoing maintenance and upgrade plan is essential.
  4. Where are they located?  This is a tricky question, but we’ve had a lot of business come back to us from clients who tried an overseas (and less expensive) solution.  Lots of developers have a representative in the US, but the actual development is done overseas, often outsourced.  While non-US developers can be technically capable, there are numerous issues with this approach, including language barriers, time zones for strategy calls, cultural differences, and more. 
  5. Do they provide an end-to-end solution, or do they just develop apps?  It’s important to select a development firm that provides an end-to-end solution, starting with the strategic purpose of the app, and including design, wireframes, technical documentation, testing, and final development.  If a firm doesn’t provide a complete process, there will be surprise costs that emerge.
  6. What was the company’s last innovation?  While a generic question, you’ll learn a lot about how the firm operates.  If they are relatively static, they are sending a message that they are a) too busy, b) not focused on advancing their software, or c) mobile apps aren’t a priority in their firm.  Select a company that can provide solid examples of not only work they’ve done, but what’s in their product plan and their vision of the future.

If you are asking these questions, we would love for you to ask US! Jacapps is always available to answer these questions, and any others you may have about mobile app development.

Categories
Mobile Apps

The Holiday Shopping Season Shifts Online

What if there were no holiday shopping season in 2020?

Five months ago, if we would have posed this question, you would have thought we’d lost our minds.  A holiday season devoid of crowded shopping malls, families walking down Main Street window shopping, crowds gathering for Christmas tree lightings, and customers waiting in line to get the best deals on Black Friday morning seemed unthinkable.

And then along came Covid-19.

While there will definitely still be a holiday shopping season this year (and many believe we need it more than in any other year), it is just as definitely going to be different than anything we’ve seen before.  Retail stores have capacity limitations, gathering in large crowds isn’t allowed, and other barriers to a traditional holiday season are in place.

But . . . consumers are still going to shop.  They are just going to do it differently, and the time is now for businesses to make sure they are prepared to have presence where their customers are – online, and in mobile apps.

A recent study from daVinci Payments found that seven in ten (71%) of consumers plan to do more than half of their holiday shopping online this year.  And this just isn’t among Millennials – all demographic groups will spend the majority of their shopping time online:

Online shopping is happening in two key places – on computers and laptops, and on mobile devices.  In fact, since the pandemic struck, Salesforce finds that interest in shopping online has increased by close to half (47%) of consumers on computers, and by over one-third (37%) on mobile apps.

The holiday shopping season starts in the next couple of months – retailers and businesses who haven’t yet invested in altering their business model by investing in providing digital shopping solutions to their customers are potentially missing this shift in behavior.  If you’re interested in learning more about how mobile apps and engaging consumers online and on their smartphones, give us a call.  We can get you in the best position possible to profit from these challenging times.

And let us be the first to say: happy holidays!

Categories
B2B Apps Mobile Apps

Navigating B2B Business When You Can’t Meet F2F

Without question, Covid-19 has impacted all aspects of our lives and B2B marketing is no exception. Historically, B2B relationships centered around in-person meetings and product demonstrations. But how do you sell products when you can’t sit in a conference room, present a PowerPoint, and shake hands on a deal? Today, companies are investing in technology – including mobile apps, webinars, videoconferencing, and eCommerce –  in order to maintain business flow. 

A recent article in The Drum – B2B Marketing During Covid-19: 8 Transformations to Stay Ahead,” outlines the steps B2B companies are taking in order to navigate these rapidly changing times. The article provides helpful information to all B2B marketers, but also shares a study from eMarketer, which finds that while marketing budgets are being reduced, investment in all forms of technology have risen in importance.  In other words, providing customers with the tools to continue to purchase in a way that’s congruent with today’s situation.

This includes nearly two-thirds (62%) investing in eCommerce/online sales capabilities, while a similar percentage (61%) acknowledging they are making fewer face-to-face calls with customers.  The result is more than half (54%) are investing in more in delivering “last mile” infrastructure – or as we like to think of it, “last 12 inches”, i.e. mobile applications, that connect ordering and client service systems directly to customers.

Mobile apps have the ability to do a number of things that can bring your business closer to its business customers. That includes features like:

  • Catalogs – mobile catalogs can put your most up-to-date product information right into your customers’ hands.
  • Order forms – with your clients spending less time in a traditional office, making it easy for them to order your products at the moment they need them is crucial
  • Delivery logistics – Keep your customers up-to-date on where their order is in processing. This cuts down on service calls and anxious clients.
  • Notifications – Let them know about changes to hours, product offerings, pricing specials, etc. with notifications pushed right to their mobile device
  • Tap to call directories – Cut down on customer wait times and call center workload by directing calls to the precise extension the client needs with a simple tap inside your mobile application.

Times have changed and all businesses need to quickly develop different ways of structuring their relationships with customers.  Those that make the investment will be in much better position to maintain business flow.

Call us to discuss how mobile technology can make your business more efficient and profitable.

Categories
Mobile Apps Uncategorized

Browsing In The Aisles Has Been Replaced By Browsing Mobile Apps

For retailers, Covid-19 has accelerated the changes in shopping habits they were already experiencing. The benefits of the shopping experience – browsing the aisles, checking the inventory, engaging salespeople, and in-store events – no longer apply.  The trend in the past decade or two has been toward shopping while customers are at home – or at work or waiting in line for take-out. And increasingly, this activity is happening on mobile apps.

eMarketer just released a study from App Annie that finds in June, six in ten (59%) Americans preferred to shop using their mobile phones. And as the chart below indicates, this surge is happening among most age groups, led by an astonishing nine in ten (90%) of 25-34 year-old millennials.

Since this trend began long before the pandemic, experts in retailing expect this shift in shopping behavior to be a permanent re-alignment in the way Americans are going to make purchases in the future.  Yoram Wurmser, eMarketer principal analyst at Insider Intelligence notes “We expect that the effects of the pandemic will accelerate long-term trends in mobile usage.” Although some gains with mcommerce and other mobile activities will not last beyond quarantines, the baselines for mobile activities will be higher than they would have been otherwise.”

The retailing world has been upended by Covid-19.  But those retailers that have a mobile strategy in place are much more likely to evolve their businesses and survive. Key to that survival are elements like:

  • An up-to-the-minute “catalog” or “showroom” of products and/or services.
  • User registration to better serve the consumer and maintain a closer relationship via email, push messages and other communication channels.
  • Easy access to customer support
  • Simple, ecommerce transactions that are secure, easy and remember things like product preferences and payment methods.
  • The ability to expand your trading area – more customers outside of your radius will have access to your “store” than ever before.

Most businesses can be improved by establishing a relationship with the consumer on the device they spend almost 4 hours a day on. Whatever you’re selling,  redefining, streamlining, and expanding the way you connect with customers is now just a tap away.

Categories
Mobile Apps Mobile Web

Mobile Apps vs. Mobile Web: No Contest

As mobile app developers, we are frequently asked by clients why they need to invest in a native mobile app since they can build a mobile web page for a much lower cost. We always respond with the same rationale: the power of having an icon on the smartphone’s screen, a device that never leaves their side, the ability to leverage the native functionality of the smartphone (location, phone, push messaging), and being confident in a user experience tailored to the device make this an easy decision.

Now, we develop mobile apps, so we realize some are suspect about our agenda when we make the case for them. So, the decisive factor comes to us from a recent study from eMarketer, who provides the ultimate reason why businesses must invest in a mobile app if they truly want to have a successful mobile strategy:

Americans spend 88% of the time on their phones with mobile apps

Not only do apps crush the mobile web with time spent, that number is actually growing. This trend has been happening for the past 5 years, and each year apps win an increasingly lopsided victory. The mobile web is still important – but primarily for what we refer to as “The Two S’s:” searching and sampling. When the user is ready to commit, to buy, to enter into that relationship, they want your app!

A mobile app ensures your best customers have instant access to your brand, your content and the easiest way possible to engage with you. It also gives you a way to have a one-to-one relationship with those users, a way to know them, and serve them as the crucial customers they are.

Consumer expectations for brand interactions have never been higher, and the native mobile app makes it easy for your company to meet (and exceed) those expectations and deliver on the promise of your product. As the most-used device in almost all of our lives, the mobile platform enables you to develop a deep and lasting relationship with your customers in a way that a simple website simply cannot. When realized in an app, your product or service becomes a “tool” just like the camera or text in the user’s device. It’s a sure way to lock yourself in (and your competitors out).

Budget considerations are important, but so is ensuring your mobile investment is effective, especially during challenging economic times, when retaining each customer is imperative, the mobile app can create that bond. Our advice: if you’re going to invest in a mobile strategy, make sure your brand is front and center and has the best possible chance of succeeding.

It’s a safe bet.

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Uncategorized

Lessons for Business Owners During COVID-19

As the co-owner of two small business, I understand and appreciate all of the challenges we face in normal times.  And these are far from normal times.  We worry about the health of our staffs and the health of our businesses.  The rules that have always applied are being challenged, and we are forced to pivot quickly in order to keep everything together.

If you own a business that sells product to consumers, you know what I mean.  Pre-COVID-19 it was about having appealing locations, attentive service, and adequate stock displays.  We used advertising, social media, and other marketing techniques to drive traffic, and consumers stopped in to either browse or to buy.  Businesses didn’t require having any kind of relationship with these consumers, because they could just re-tool with more advertising and marketing.

And that’s the biggest lesson learned – in order to survive during and after the COVID-19 crisis, businesses are going to have to invest in having digital, one-to-one relationships with their customers.

I love restaurants, and here in Detroit there is a group that has six unique bistros that are really outstanding.  We’ve been customers of one of their restaurants for close to 30 years.  Like all restaurants, they are now closed, and trying to promote curbside pickup.  In the past week, they’ve shuttered two of their locations and we are in fear there could be more.

They are failing because they don’t know who I am.  Sure, the wait staff greets us when we come in because of our longevity, but the company doesn’t know us.  They have a weak email relationship with us, no mobile app, and no way to activate the thousands of customers who love their restaurants.  If I didn’t drive by their restaurant and saw the sign about curbside pickup, I wouldn’t have known they are offering it.

And looking around, they aren’t alone.  To my eye, the majority of local restaurants and retailers haven’t invested in developing digital relationships with their long-term customers and can’t activate them as shopping patterns radically change.

When things return to normal, every business needs to invest in three things (these are generalities – I’m sure there are other tactics that apply to specific groups):

  1. eCommerce – Online shopping and ordering for curbside pickup is going to be with us long after a cure is found for COVID-19.  There is no guarantee people are going to flock back into stores when this is over.  Online ordering + curbside pickup and/or home delivery might become the norm for all businesses (let’s face it, giants like Target and Wal-Mart were doing this before the crisis, and are perfectly positioned to serve customers during this disruption).
  2. Data & Database – How many businesses are like my restaurant, with long-term customers but no information on them?  This transactional relationship has exposed a major weakness in their business model.  Smart owners will immediately invest in requiring each customer to register for their email database and begin collecting information on them.  And not just demographic data, but preferences, shopping patterns, etc. 
  3. Invest In A Mobile App – While it’s obvious I would recommend this, how many businesses wish their app was on the home screen of all of their customers’ smartphones right now, empowering them to connect and shop while they are sitting around their homes right now?  Imagine having push messaging capability, communicating with customers about specials, new services, and discount programs.  Even businesses that didn’t have an eCommerce engine prior to COVID-19 could get one started now and build it up over time.

Like it or not, small and medium businesses compete every day with Amazon, Wal-Mart and Target.  And while those companies can invest millions in their digital strategies, developing a digital relationships with customers doesn’t need to cost a fortune. 

But the cost of not having a digital relationship with customers could.

We are here to help you make it through these troubling times.

Wishing all of you, your families, and your colleagues good health during these challenging times.

Paul Jacobs

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Uncategorized

7 Lessons We’ve Learned From Developing 1,300 Mobile Apps

Bob Kernen has served as COO of jacapps, our mobile app company, for more than six years now.  And during that time, the company has grown into radio’s leading mobile app developer.
 Bob was the first person I thought of when I watched Iowa Caucus coverage Monday night. And in today’s post, he puts this debacle in Iowa into perspective – what it means to politics, and more importantly, what it means to radio. – FJ

I turned on the news late Monday night to see the results of the Iowa Democratic Caucus. After a minute or two it became obvious that the results weren’t in. After flashbacks to the election of November 2000 dissipated, I heard that the problem was with (gulp) a mobile application.
As someone who runs a mobile app company I had two immediate reactions: First, that visceral wave of nausea when the technology you’ve worked hard on fails, and second, thank goodness it wasn’t one of our apps!
Running a company of this type is complex.  It’s not just about writing code.  Great mobile apps require a strategic purpose, time and thought, quality control, graphic design, attention to the user experience, training, testing, and lot of debugging.
As we know, there are two app platforms – iOS for iPhone and iPads, and Android for virtually everything else.  Problem is, there are hundreds of different phone brands and models that run Google’s Android software.
You never want an app to go down, and you certainly don’t want to have problems like these when a) the app is only going to be used one time, and b) that one time is on national television and a presidential election is at stake.
Most of us view mobile apps as those cute little icons on our iPhones and Androids that we touch with a finger and cool stuff happens.  And when working properly, the consumer doesn’t notice just how complex this software is.
Over the past eleven years, jacapps has developed close to 1,300 mobile apps for radio stations and many other industries.  We’ve built simple streaming apps and amazingly complex apps with powerful platforms behind them that perform multiple tasks, while managing huge quantities of information. While we sympathize with the developer of the failed app used in the Iowa Caucuses, we also understand how a debacle of this magnitude can happen.

Based on the information provided so far, here’s our take on Iowa app’s face-plant, and how a disaster like this can be avoided:
1. Don’t rush it. The news is reporting this app was rushed to market in 60 days. While we appreciate that speed is important for many of our clients, it’s hard to conceive that a project this complex could be reliably done in eight weeks. It’s not surprising that there were issues.
2. Test it in the field. There have been numerous reports that in rural areas of Iowa, the app couldn’t cleanly connect to the Internet. Poor cellular coverage? What a shocker! It’s one thing to test an app in the lab (or even in a populous area) where there’s always excellent high speed Internet, but it was no secret this app was going to be used in fire stations in Pella and elementary schools in Waterloo. Simply sending someone out in the field (literally!) or provisioning the app to test in one of these places would have identified the problem quickly.
3. Test it on humans. There are also stories of how precinct captains and volunteers at local caucuses couldn’t figure out how to use the app (and in some cases, couldn’t even download it). Once again, the developer could have brought in five people from the street, handed them a phone with the app on it, and had them work through it.  And in a couple of hours, the developer would have a better understanding of how to make it more user-friendly. The people who built the app should never be the ones to test it.  These are called usability tests, and they’re effective.
4. It requires training. Most of the people reading this post know their way around a smartphone or tablet.  You’ve been downloading apps for years, and you know the in’s and out’s of how to manage mobile tools.  But many of the key spokespeople at Iowa precincts presented themselves very differently.  Some are self-described Luddites.  Other simply weren’t interested in new systems.  The developer and the Iowa Democratic Party needed education sessions so that all 1,700 precinct captains knew what they were doing.  Under the best of circumstances, that’s a heavy lift.
5. Apps are complex. People typically believe everything actually happens on your phone – that’s where the code and “stuff” resides. In fact, more complex apps are connected to a platform on a remote server that contains all of the data that flows into the app, registration information, etc.  The app used in Iowa could have failed in many different places – the app itself, the cloud-based platform, the connectivity, and more.
6. Do you even need an app? Smart brands do, of course. But for this type of “one and done” function, wouldn’t it have been simpler to create a special email box, and have them all send their results using an encrypted format that (hopefully) everyone knows how to use.
7. Don’t try this at home. Complex apps aren’t cheap, but too often people like to cut corners and either develop them “in-house” or hire a firm that has minimal experience with mobile do the job.  In every case where we’ve seen this occur, failure happens.

This is complex software that needs to be developed to handle multiple devices (how many hundreds of different Android phones are on the market?), operating systems, erratic WiFI or bad cell service, and other unforeseen events.
It’s one thing to cut a corner or two for an app that’s going to be around for years and can be course-corrected with updates over time.  But for an app that’s going to be used for just one night? You’d better make sure it’s as perfect as possible and pay whatever it takes in order to achieve that.
Every radio broadcaster needs to be part of the Mobile Revolution.  But simply checking off the “app box” by buying a mediocre product often comes with hidden costs – from operational problems to user issues.
Developing great apps is challenging, and we sympathize with the developer of the Iowa Democratic Party’s app, who clearly had a worse day than even the candidates waiting on pins and needles yesterday for the hand-tabulated results of the caucus.  But a lot of this could have been avoided.
When all else fails, try an abacus.