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How to Create an App for Your Business

Craig Dunaway

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How to Create an App for Your Business

Today, mobile apps are almost a necessity for businesses, especially those in the retail sector.  The process of creating a useful app can be intimidating. Here are four tips to make the rollout of your first mobile app smoother.

Choose the right vendor.

Start-up technology companies come and go and writing creative and proprietary software to handle your app is often no different than writing the ending to a book; give the final chapter to 10 writers to complete, and you’ll probably have 10 different endings. The software can be the same, and you want to ensure the vendor you choose is going to be around and able to support your app in the years ahead. If the company that writes the software isn’t around in two years, you may be creating issues for yourself and customers in the process. Obviously, you can compare vendors by price, but make sure the company you choose can grow with you and is a viable going concern.

If the first version of your app is lighter on features, talk to the vendor about your long-term goals and vision for the app so you can be sure they will be able to execute it. Your app vendor should also be able to integrate with your existing technology like your website or POS system.

Mobile apps require continuous support and updates any time your brand changes its messaging or if you want to add new features. A weekly call with your app company and organizational tools like Google Docs can keep all of the phases and updates on track.

Launch new features in stages.

A great app has many different features, but it’s best to launch those features in stages instead of trying to accomplish all of your goals the first time around. Rolling out new features every six months to a year keeps your app fresh and helps you stretch your budget. A refresh can get users excited about your app again.

The number of new features per update depends on how big the optimizations are each time. One to two major new features, plus updates to minor functionality should be the goal. You’ll also work with your app development team on an ongoing basis to fix bugs. 

Make it worth using.

Apple has done a fantastic job making the iPhone intuitive. You don’t need a lot of instruction and guidance to figure out how to use many of the features. Your app should be designed the same way. If explanations and comments are required, customers simply will not want to utilize your app on a longterm basis after the initial download.

The most important aspect of choosing features for your app is making sure they are useful.   For retail businesses, that includes loyalty programs, online purchasing, explanations about products you offer, mobile payment and the ability to send or receive gift cards. A loyalty program that rewards customers for visiting your business and interacting with your app should keep them from simply downloading the app and never using it or deleting the app all together.

Other useful features include a location finder, the ability to engage with your business via social media and promotions and share the app with their friends. You can also add interactive games or other fun features that encourage users to spend more time with your brand and even turn customers into unofficial brand advocates.

Most importantly, the app should be user-friendly. This means customers should be able to do anything they want or need to do within the app. They shouldn’t have to open a browser or get on a computer to do things like creating an account. Incorporate those kinds of features into the mobile app’s functionality.

Get customer feedback.

The app should have a ‘contact us’ link where users can send emails or find answers to frequently asked questions. You’ll get feedback on your app from reviews in the Google Play and Apple app stores. You can also use the app to get customer feedback on how your business is doing overall. For example, in Penn Station’s next app launch, a survey within the app will ask customers three general questions about their dining experience.

There are a lot of benefits of an app for your business. We find that customers spend more when they order through the app and come back more often because of the app’s loyalty program. Fun features make your customers engage with your brand and share it with other people, which can bring in new business. It’s worth the time and money to create a functional, user-friendly app for your business.

Craig Dunaway has been president of Penn Station since 1999. Before joining Penn Station Inc., Dunaway was a partner at the regional accounting firm of McCauley, Nicolas & Company, LLC in Jeffersonville, Indiana, where he had worked since 1982 in various staff and managerial positions. Dunaway has a bachelor’s degree in accounting from Indiana University and is still a licensed CPA. Dunaway formerly had ownership interests in a Papa John’s® franchisee that owned 11 stores, and he served as the secretary/treasurer for that Papa John’s® franchisee. In addition, he had ownership interests in Coastal Cheesesteaks, LLC (headquartered in Raleigh, North Carolina) until June 2011 and in Louisville Cheesesteaks, LLC (headquartered in Louisville, Kentucky) until January 2014, both of which are Penn Station franchisees. While a shareholder in those Penn Station franchisees, Dunaway served as secretary/treasurer. Penn Station was named one of the Best Franchises to Buy by Forbes in 2016 and 2018 and one of the Best Franchise Deals by QSR Magazine in 2016 and 2017.

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