Today, the world of smartphones has taken every industry by storm. There are apps for almost everything, and it wouldn’t be wrong to say that apps rule lives. And that’s a fact your eCommerce business should embrace. Sure, having a website is definitely a must for your eCommerce business, but having an app is probably a smart way to complement your website presence and drive sales, reinforce your customer base, and give your brand a boost.
We spoke with Ian Naylor, a serial entrepreneur and the CEO & Founder of AppInstitute, a SaaS platform that lets anyone create their own app without writing a single line of code, to talk us through why an eCommerce business should have an app presence in addition to a website. Read on!
What inspired you to start AppInstitute? Tell us the story.
I had my eureka moment back in 2009 when I was the Vice President of a tech incubator in Sydney. One of the projects we were working on was for a web-based CMS (Content Management System) that would allow anyone to create and manage editorial websites, without having to code.
Around the same time, the smartphone revolution was setting in with the launch of the iPhone and the AppStore, and that’s when I thought, ‘wouldn’t this amazing if we could use a CMS to build mobile apps instead of websites?’
I left my job and spent the next year in Thailand working on concepts and refining the business model for the SME market before moving back to the UK to launch AppInstitute.
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What are the top 5 benefits for small eCommerce businesses to have an app presence in addition to a website?
With over 50% of website traffic coming from mobile, it’s essential for businesses, especially eCommerce businesses, to ensure they have a mobile experience that makes the consumer journey efficient, frictionless and fast.
Here are 5 benefits of having a mobile app for your eCommerce business:
- Improved Shopping Experience: The ability to store payment and delivery information securely in an app makes repeat purchases easy and therefore more likely. We’ve seen retail businesses with a mobile app add twice as much value to the shopping experience in just 6 months of having an app because customers end up buying more frequently, and even spending more.
- Improved customer experience. Mobile apps improve user experience meaning customers will spend more time browsing through your store instead of leaving because of clumsy navigation,
- Push Notifications help to connect with customers instantly: Having an app helps in the instant delivery of information, product updates, and sale announcements. With a 97% read rate compared, your eCommerce business can reach more people in just a few minutes.
- Sell more with loyalty programs: In-app coupons and loyalty programs allow customers to earn points and rewards as they spend. This encourages repeat business and builds brand loyalty.
- Enhanced brand perception: Having your own mobile app allows you to push your brand further and to get seen on the App Store. Once your app is downloaded on your customer’s smartphone, it will be seen every time they operate their phone.
Share your thoughts on what small eCommerce business owners should keep in mind when building an app for their business?
The first is to make your app as simple as possible. If you’re an eCommerce business, ensure the focus of your app is to sell products rather than replicate the entire content of your website. Don’t get distracted by all the additional content you might want to include. Remember that the main pages of your app should be easily accessible from the main menu.
The second thing is to ensure that you market your app to your customers. This can be as simple as adding a download link to your website, sharing your app on social media, connecting with the local press or emailing your customers. We create regular content on how to effectively market and promote your app on our blog and direct our customers there for useful step by step guides on how to get the most from their app.
Post downloading the app, what must a small eCommerce business do to retain their customers and effectively engage with them?
It’s important to drive through the benefits of having your app. We encourage incentivizing app downloads with exclusive offers that are only available to mobile app users. This way customers are more likely to download and stick around.
Using Push Notifications to promote exclusive offers and updates is another great way to engage with your customer base. It allows businesses to segment their audience and drive them to relevant products and deals.
What app design tips do you suggest an eCommerce business should follow in 2018?
Designing an app for your eCommerce business isn’t all that hard. However, here are some top tips to better design your eCommerce app:
- Keep your design simple. This includes everything from the color palette to your menu style. Use colors that complement each other and make for a modern slick look. You can even use tools like coolors to generate a color palette.
- Make your font scannable. This means choosing a font style that’s easy to read and is legible enough at any size to be scanned at a glance. Smartphone screens are getting bigger and so it’s important to design for them.
- Less is more. Don’t clutter your app with submenus that make content hard to find. Instead, keep the most important elements of your app visible and easy to locate.
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What are the key ingredients that make for a brilliant splash screen design?
Something as simple as a high-resolution image can make or break your logo. If you don’t have access to creating your own photos, use websites like unsplash.com or pexels.com and download free high-quality photographs to use instead.
Top it off with your logo and you can have the perfect image to introduce your customers to your app. Essentially the splash screen is the first thing your customers will see when they launch the app, so it’s important to make a striking first impression.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one key piece of advice that you would like to share with fellow entrepreneurs?
RTFM (Read the fine manual)! I’m a strong believer in reading the instructions, whether it’s a washing machine or a smartwatch. You’ll learn how to operate things effectively, learn what not to do and most importantly learn things you didn’t already know. This is even more so applicable when it comes to business. Even if you think you have an amazing business idea, there’ll be a hundred and one things you don’t know when you first start hustling.
I highly recommend reading ‘The Startup Owner’s Manual’ by Steve Blank and Bob Dorf.