Columnists Brad Simon Internet Marketing Strategies: Need customers? There’s an app for that!

Internet Marketing Strategies: Need customers? There’s an app for that!

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Mobile Marketing is NOT the wave of the Future. It’s RIGHT NOW!

Your customers are using mobile devices 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. If you have not already done so - now is the time to integrate Mobile Media into your jewelry store marketing mix.

The growth of the mobile industry is incredible. The New York Times claimed, “Mobile Marketing is the most powerful advertising medium ever invented.” Over 250 million Americans now carry mobile phones, representing over 80% of the nation’s population. Smartphone ownership has risen from 35% of all cell phones in 2011 to 46% in the first half of 2012.

The International Data Corporation (IDC), a premier global provider of market intelligence, predicts that the number of smartphones sold is going to rise at a tremendous rate. In 2011 there were 472 million sales; they predict that number will be well over 900 million by 2015. Plus, app usage on smartphones is rising at an even greater rate. According to the Gartner Group there were 17.7 billion app downloads in 2011, which was a 117% increase from 2010. They predict by 2014 the number will increase to 185 billion app downloads - an increase of 2,156%.

Mobile Website vs. Mobile App vs. Mobile Web App

There are three main tools to access information on your smartphone; a mobile website, a mobile app, and a mobile web app. While all of these are very similar, there is some difference in the type of content you can display. The main difference however, is how you retrieve the information. This difference is important for marketers to understand as it affects who can see your information and how you market it.

Mobile Website

Mobile websites are websites hosted on the Internet just like your regular website for computers. The only difference is that they are designed to be seen on mobile devices. A mobile website needs to be designed to be legible on the smaller screen of smartphones, designed for touch screens to ‘click through’ with your thumb instead of a mouse click, and designed with smaller file sizes to load quicker on the slower mobile networks.

Mobile websites are accessible through the mobile device’s Internet browser. They can rank in Google search results and be linked to from other websites. Because of this they can be found by anyone with a smartphone and can be accessed at any time. This makes mobile websites ideal for getting your store’s information out on the mobile web and attracting new customers who may or may not have heard of your store in the past.

Some of the many features a mobile website can contain are; Click to Call, Text or E-mail, Map Location and Directions, Photo Galleries, Store and Product Information pages, and even mobile commerce where you can sell your jewelry over the mobile phone.

Mobile App (application)

A mobile app is a piece of software that is downloaded onto your customer’s smartphone. Your customers can then access your information at any time simply by clicking on the icon on their screen. It’s like having your customers carry your store around with them in their pocket or purse. Mobile apps need to be developed specifically for the operating system of the smartphone, one app for iPhones, and another one for Android phones.

Mobile apps have a distinct advantage over mobile websites in the ease of access. Instead of clicking on the web browser button and waiting for it to load, then searching for your store and hoping they don’t find your competitor’s website before yours, then waiting for your website to load, with a mobile app your information is already on their smartphone and accessible with one click. Your app will load regardless of whether or not your customer has an Internet connection at the time.

A mobile app can contain all the features of a mobile website plus much more. With a mobile app you can send out Push Notifications (similar to text messages) to everyone who has downloaded your app. These notifications can be invitations to special events or sales, loyalty coupons, reminders, or anything else you want to send them.

In addition, your app can more fully integrate with their phone’s features. A coupon can be tied to their GPS and only revealed when they visit your store. Pictures can be taken on their phone and sent to you through your app. Purchases and visits can be recorded and a loyalty coupon unlocked after a certain number of visits or purchases. Plus many other creative features.

The downside of mobile apps is the fact that the customer must download the app and keep it on their smartphone. Mobile apps are not accessible through a Google search as mobile websites are. Because of this, mobile apps are not as usable in gaining new customers, but are ideal in customer retention and loyalty programs. Mobile apps are one of the best tools available today to develop relationships with your current customers and get them back into your store.

Mobile Web App

A mobile web app is a cross between a mobile website and a mobile app. A mobile web app is created with HTML5, a universally accepted programming code for mobile devices. It is designed like a mobile website and can contain any and all the features available to mobile websites. You can place the web app on an Internet hosting account and use it for a mobile website. Plus you can have it available for your customers to download to their phones just like any other mobile app. The difference being that the web app will load in their web browser.

Which do you need? All three of course!

According to a new study from the Pew Research Center, 74% of smartphone owners in February 2012 used their phones to get location-based information, up from 55% in May 2011. Anyone who uses a smartphone knows that when you want to find a local store or product information, you are 100 times more likely to go to your browser or Google maps than to an app store or marketplace.

This is where the mobile website excels. More often than not a mobile website is the first impression for new customers. Like your regular website it should be optimized for keywords that consumers search for, and display the relevant information shoppers want; location, hours, contact numbers, lines carried, etc.

While mobile websites are ideal to target new customers, the real benefit to apps is in customer retention. A customer who downloads your app shows a tremendous loyalty to your brand and a commitment to stay in contact with you.

New research suggests consumers who have a retailer’s app on their smartphone really like that particular retailer. According to a new study by ABI Research, 45% of smartphone owners with a retailer-branded app on their mobile device visit the merchant’s store more often than consumers without the app. The study also finds 40.4% of consumers buy more of the retailer’s products if they have their app. 35.8% of app users tell a friend about their store shopping experience and 30.8% encourage them to visit the store.

Android owns 47% of the US smartphone market and iPhone owns 29%. Creating a native app for these large market platforms makes sense. However, creating apps for Blackberry, Windows, and other phone platforms that make up the remaining market, often does not justify the cost. This is where a HTML5 web app excels. Not only do their cross-platform capabilities provide usable apps for these smartphones, they can also double as your mobile friendly website.

Generic App vs. Unique App

In recent months, several mobile apps have become available for retail jewelry stores created by trade organizations and jewelry manufacturers. These apps are generic in nature and focus on one product category such as diamonds or engagement rings, relevant to the organization or manufacturer. Every store that uses it has the exact same app with their store contact information added to it.

These apps are typically very high quality and do an excellent job of presenting the product information. However, there are two reasons these may not be the best choice. First, a quick search in Google Play (formerly the Android Market) or Apple Store will reveal a number of retailers using the very same app. Using a generic app does nothing to set your store apart from the competition.

The second issue and greater problem with these apps is the target audience reached with the apps. These apps are generally designed to inform a prospective customer about diamonds or engagement rings, and then point them to your store as the expert in the field. The problem is if someone does a search for diamonds or engagement rings on their mobile device they will not find your app. Only websites and map listings are ranked in the search results. The only way for someone to find your app is to do a search in the appropriate app store (something next to no one is doing) or for you to send them to the app.

As stated above mobile websites are the best choice to target new customers. Retail store mobile apps are seldom if ever downloaded by someone who is not already familiar with the store and are best used as relationship building and loyalty programs with existing customers.

This is best accomplished with a unique app created specially for your store. Your app should be easy to add content and to make changes, as well as the ability to send unlimited Push Notifications. This way you can create and change information about events, special offers and promotions to your clients and send invitations and reminders.

Affordable Apps Uniquely Yours

The problem with creating a unique app for your store has always been the cost to create it. App programmers are expensive to hire and you need a different app for each smartphone operating system. Your iPhone, iPad, Android, and HTML5 app all need to be produced using different programming code. In the past smartphone apps cost tens of thousands of dollars to create and more to make changes to them.

However, with new advancements in mobile technology, this is no longer an issue. Companies such as Apps 4 Jewelers offer a new innovative program that allows you to easily and affordably create and maintain a mobile website and phone app for your retail jewelry store.

Apps 4 Jewelers at www.Apps4Jewelers.com offers two different programs to fit your needs. You can build your app yourself. From your Dashboard you can build and update your app and send unlimited notifications to all your customers. Or you can have them professionally design your app, maintain it for you and send your notifications. Both programs create apps for iPhones, iPads, Android phones and tablets as well as HTML5 web apps for Blackberry and Windows phones. In addition you can add your web app to a website host for a mobile friendly website for your store.

Conclusion

Mobile marketing is taking over whether you agree with it or not. So why not get in on the ground floor before everyone else and take advantage of this great opportunity. Don’t you wish that you could have been one of the first people to get in on websites when they first became available and affordable to everyone?

Well, that is the opportunity you have right now with mobile and Apps 4 Jewelers. You could be the business who takes over your marketplace, making your competitors wonder how you grew so fast.

Albert Einstein defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. If you want more customers and sales in the coming year, you cannot keep using the same old marketing media. The world has quickly changed in the way that people communicate with each other. If you do not keep up with the changes and add mobile media to your marketing mix, you will not only keep seeing the same results of the past, but you will begin to fall behind your competition that does.

Brad Simon is co-owner and founder of Internet 4 Jewelers providing retail jewelers the information and training to market their stores effectively on the Internet. In addition, they provide affordable Internet marketing services in local search marketing, social network management, and mobile marketing. For more information contact Brad at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

 
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