As a mobile consultant, I speak to a lot of companies – many of whom are well-known blue-chip brands. The companies know they need to invest in mobile, but sometimes feel an app marketing strategy is a step too far. Yes, it is true that you absolutely need a mobile-ready website, but in most cases, it is even more critical that you have an app. Here are four of the biggest reasons why.

It is easy to mark yourself out as a ‘preferred provider’

It is not hard to understand how already being on a prospect’s mobile phone can drive business. It is a well-known fact that, in terms of mobile, consumers primarily use their smartphone for research, then complete the transaction over a tablet. The main reason for this is that most websites are not responsively designed, so it is easier to view a desktop page over a tablet than a phone. However, if your mobile-friendly app is on your prospect’s smartphone already, then they can do their research and purchasing in the same place.

Let us say that a user is looking to book a holiday and already has the app on both their phone and tablet. Is it likely that they will begin their search from within that app rather than going through a Google search and landing on pages that are not mobile optimised?

You need to be everywhere your user is, when they want you

Anyone who understands direct marketing will tell you that timing is everything. Your offer could be exactly what your prospect wants, but if they do not want it right now, then it doesn’t matter how good it is.  

Within the next year, Apple’s iBeacon technology (which will allow a retailer to offer you special deals when you are within 50 feet of their store) will start to drive incremental business for retailers who really understand how to leverage apps.

If you are not a bricks and mortar business, having an app is like a plumber having a magnet on a prospect’s fridge, or a calendar on their wall. When the time comes to book that holiday, buy that insurance, or choose which horse to bet on at Cheltenham, having an app on someone’s phone is one step closer to them. If you are one of the few apps in your particular area of business, and are managing that relationship properly, then you will always be one step ahead of your competitors.

Apps are the new email autoresponder

The email autoresponder revolutionised the way companies did business online. Unfortunately, like with any form of automated technology, it is often abused by marketers to effectively spam their email list. Just like email autoresponders, app notifications can be an incredible vehicle to increase conversion – but only if applied correctly. 

As a very simple example, a news app I have (on I cannot even remember installing) sends me notifications every time my football team scores a goal. That in itself is not a difficult thing to do, but it now means that this particular app is my news app of choice, just because of that one feature.

Even if the other news apps have that feature, I will keep with this one, even though I do not read the actual physical version of the newspaper. It shows the true power of making the most of user engagement now in order to drive business in the future.

For certain demographics, if you do not have an app, you do not exist

My 18-year-old daughter rarely goes online directly. She chats via WhatsApp. She posts pictures via Instagram. She updates her status on Facebook and Twitter. She buys shoes from eBay’s app…and books through Amazon’s.

She only goes online via a browser if she is researching something, and if she visits a site that she is interested in that has an option to download an app, she almost always downloads and installs it. The main reason is that she knows that doing anything through an app (especially on a mobile phone) will be an easier, quicker, and more user-friendly experience.

Her generation equates laptops to school and work, and prefers the ease of smartphone and tablet to perform almost every transaction – whether social or monetary – as it is just more intuitive for them. At the other end of the age scale, my seventy-year-old mother prefers apps on her iPad for their ease of use, as that way she doesn’t need to worry about anything to do with browsers or with sorting out various laptop issues.

So you see, apps are not all about games or Facebook. If they are designed correctly with the user in mind, they can not only be an incredible upfront lead generation tool, but also perform the role that email has played over the last ten years, namely build a relationship with your prospects that sets you apart from your competitors. 

In my fifteen years of selling online, not since the struggle to get offline businesses to see the value in being online have I seen such a strategy be ignored by so many marketing-savvy businesses. Truly – the question is not whether you need an app strategy, it is whether you can justify NOT having one.