Monthly Archives June 2016

Push Notification Basics Every Business Needs to Know

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While apps continue to dominate the mobile market, many business owners looking to build one are thrown for a loop by endless trends and terminology. There’s a lot to learn, but if you have to settle on one thing, make it the push notification. More complex and robust than the text message, push represents the modern wave of communication that puts more power in the business owner’s hands, and it’s arguably the best ROI feature of all.

Like texts, push notifications deliver straight to users’ phones when they’ve installed an app. Unlike texts, they have a wide range of customization options that can increase user engagement. So as a business owner, you’re probably asking yourself a few questions:

  • What are the main benefits?
  • How do they work?
  • What best practices should I follow?
  • We’ve got you.

Why do people use push notifications?

The power of the push depends on your perspective. To users, the push notification represents instant access to information with little to no energy on their part. Want to know if someone scored on your Fantasy Football team? Worried about traffic? Looking for the latest deals? Push notifications deliver key info without costing users time or money.

For businesses, push notifications offer a wealth of benefits:

  • Share deals and promotions instantly
  • Improve customer communication without impacting your schedule
  • Automate internal processes
  • Up visibility just by establishing a mobile presence

How do I send them?

Your app developer will typically provide an interface for crafting and sending push notifications. A well-developed interface provides a slew of marketing benefits, including user segmentation and engagement stats. You can target the right person with the right messaging rather than bombard everyone with the same tired, generalized campaigns. Users are more likely to appreciate what you push when they recognize personalization.

How do my customers opt in?

iOS and Android handle push notification opt-ins differently. iOS users are prompted to enable push notifications when they launch an app for the first time, while Android users are opted in automatically (and disabling them takes a little elbow grease). There are benefits to both approaches. The reaction rate—or number of users who actually interact with push notifications—is obviously higher for Android users, who don’t have a choice in the matter. But they’re also more likely to feel spammed without consent, leading some of the industry’s biggest tech journalists to join the app annoyance discussion.

Apple’s approach is a little more calculated; iOS users say yes or no from the start, putting them in control of whatever follows. When an iOS user gets alerts, they’re generally conscious of the fact that they agreed to them at some point. In any case, the most important factor to consider is the value of the message you’re sending.

What makes a push notification valuable?

Regardless of how users opt in, it’s key that they’re rewarded with messages that are worth their time. A push notification is an extremely beneficial tool—a direct line to your customers’ primary communication tool. As the saying goes, “With great power comes great responsibility.”  If you get too “pushy,” you may get booted from the list. On the other hand, if you’re underutilizing push notifications, both you and your customers are losing out on value.

So what is “value”? Your push notifications should encourage user action that benefits them and informs you. While they redeem offers or learn something new, you reap the ROI rewards and analyze engagement data to iterate on your marketing strategy. It removes the guesswork, giving you direct insight into what’s working and what’s falling short so you can continue to modify and monetize.

How do push notifications appear?

Both operating systems have banner notifications that pop up at the top of the screen when the device is in use, as well as a notification center that users can access by swiping downward. iOS users enjoy a bit more control—they can customize individual app notifications, from sounds and vibrations to notification type (banner, alert, badge app icon). Some users enable sound alerts while others keep it silent, opting for vibrations or nothing at all. Overall, it makes for a highly personalized experience.

What are location services?

Both Android and iOS prompt users to enable location services. When a user opts in, the device periodically sends location info to the app. This is a fantastic feature for both businesses and users because it facilitates targeted, relevant messaging. Taco Bell has mastered marketing via location services with its “Happier Hour” campaign. The app sends deals and coupons to users when they’re nearby a location. Similarly, Groupon notifies you when you’re close to a business you’ve purchased a coupon from, increasing redemption rates.

Location services ultimately help you give your customers the special treatment they want, popping up on their screens at the moment they’re most likely to engage. It’s a simple way to say, “Hey, I know you’re in the area, and we have a great deal for you.”

How can I effectively use push notifications?

Determining how often and what to push takes some thought. First and foremost, make sure you’re considering the value a message holds to the end user. Don’t overdo it and spam the heck out of their devices, but don’t underdo it and waste your money on an app that’s not meeting its full potential. If you know your customers personally, you already have enough insight to avoid the most common mistakes. Bottom line, analyze the trends, and then use them to your advantage.

Here are a few tips on mastering the art of the perfect push:

  1. Watch the Clock Your users probably don’t need to hear about happy hour specials at 6 AM, unless they’re feeling extra thirsty. It’s crucial to time your push notifications right. Aiming for afternoons, evenings, and weekends are always your best bet. I’m more likely to click a push notification about $1 tacos on my lunch hour than when I’m waking up.
  2.  Location, Location, Location In that same vein, targeted messages make all the difference when it comes to user engagement. Whether your business stretches country-wide or has just one location, radius & geofenced push notifications help you reach the users that are most likely to respond and avoid spamming the ones who aren’t.
  3.  Short & Sweet There’s nothing like a good old character count to bring out the artful brevity. Think of push notifications like headlines—they should give the story in a glance. With great click-through options like linked tabs and templated messages, you can drive users to an expanded message, but you should never assume they’ll make it that far. Count on your conciseness to drive it home.

Check out these videos about our GEO-FENCING capabilities

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8 Questions to Ask Before Redesigning Your Website

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If your small business’s website isn’t gaining traffic, actively engaging customers, or targeting the right personas, it might be time for a redesign. This is particularly true if your site’s been online for more than a year and isn’t updated frequently. It’s important to stay relevant—nothing screams “behind the times” like an outdated front-end website—but redesigns can be time-intensive and costly, even if you know exactly what you’re doing.

Here are 8 questions to ask yourself before you launch into a website redesign.

1. When was the last time I updated my website?

This is a huge indicator of the time you’ll need to devote to a redesign. If your website hasn’t been updated in over a year, chances are you’ll be spending some serious time on content alone. The more outdated your website, the less you’ll show up in search results; that means reduced traffic, reduced exposure, reduced revenue. On the other hand, if you’re pretty diligent about content updates, you’re looking at a shorter timeline devoted to design and optimization.

2. What’s wrong with my current website?

Old layouts, images, content, resources—any outdated elements—immediately age your website in the eyes of the visitor. A bad hyperlink or a broken image can turn a hot lead sour in seconds, and outdated business info means confusion for customers and trouble for you. Make a list of all the problems with your site, then start drafting up solutions.

3. How much do I hope to accomplish?

Are you looking to revamp or re-brand? State what you’d like to achieve and be liberal with your estimates. If you have a clear strategy in mind from the get-go, you’ll gain far more from the work you put in. A simple content revamp may take hours or days, while a full rebrand could take weeks or months.

4. What do I like about other websites?

Compare your site to those of your competitors. Do they have a more modern design? A wider array of features? Simpler contact forms? You can even visit the most popular websites of different industries and see what they’re doing well. What can you take and adapt from these sites to suit your brand and vision?

5. What is my overall business goal?

Are you looking to convert leads faster? Increase traffic or purchases? Draw visitors to your physical store? It’s unlikely you’ll be able to achieve all of those without seeking out some extra help, so identify your biggest priority and do everything you can to execute on that. There are plenty of free online resources that can help you improve your site’s SEO, which is where any entrepreneur should start.

6. Have my offerings changed?

We’ve covered this a little, but it warrants repeating. If your product or service has changed at all, you must address that on your website. This is an obvious consideration for e-commerce sites, but brick & mortars often underestimate their customers’ expectations. Web visitors want their online experience to translate into their in-store experience—and if products or services are misrepresented online, you’re setting yourself up to lose business.

7. Can I analyze my website’s success?

Most web builders offer built-in analytics or integrations. This data isn’t just important to online retailers—it can help small businesses pinpoint what content is drawing traffic and where visitors are falling off most. Those insights are pivotal to not just your redesign, but your business as a whole. Visitor demographics paint a real picture of the online community that you can’t see clearly offline. Examine your data and make sure it lends to every decision you make.

8. Is my site mobile-friendly?

People expect websites to perform just as well on their smartphones as they do on their desktops. Sites that aren’t mobile-optimized are asking for extinction these days—they handle poorly, load slowly, and look awful on most screens. Developing a clean, user-forward, mobile-friendly site should be your chief priority if you’re setting out to redesign anyway.

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Local Business Apps: How to Get an Edge on Your Competitors

Having a mobile application for your business, regardless of its size, can give you a leg up on your competitors. But it’s not enough to have an app. You need a good application that differentiates your business from those of your competitors and that adds to the customer experience in ways that similar companies do not.

Mobile applications are no longer the providence of the large, mega-corporations, as small businesses require a online and mobile presence to remain competitive. A January 2016 article on Entrepreneur rightly made the point that, “Simply put, smartphone apps have become too important a marketing tool for small business owners to do without.”

Even if you’re not aiming for the global marketplace, you need to consider that according to various sources, in developed countries, smartphone penetration is over 60 percent. Global penetration is up to 34 percent as well, with projections between now and 2018 expecting this to rise even further,

Now, put this penetration statistic together with the information that the average user checks their phone 85 times per day and it becomes easy to see why having a small or large business mobile application is essential for your long term viability and competitiveness.

Of course, your competition is probably looking at the same or similar information and preparing for their entrance into the mobile application arena – or they’ve already taken the plunge. Therefore having a mobile application strategy is going to be crucial for you going forward.

Have an Application Strategy

Before actually developing an application, your company or business needs an application strategy. Just putting together an application is not enough. You and your business needs to know how this application will work with your company or business and how it fits into the your business model. It isn’t enough to just have the app, you have to be able to use the app to shape your customer’s experience with your business.

While there are a number of different methods to creating a mobile application strategy for your business, Forbes points out seven important objectives or strategies that you should consider for implementation in your company’s mobile application strategy.

Importantly, your mobile application strategy will dictate the direction in which you develop your application. Thus, your mobile application strategy becomes your outline for the actual creation of your mobile application.

Seamless Integration

While this might seem obvious, often time, seamless integration is an afterthought. A key component of any strategy – and especially true with any business strategy that involves far-reaching implications – is that your strategy functions as a seamless integration, with not only your overall business strategy, but with the physical components of your business.

A customer who uses your application to place an order must be assured that the order will be received and processed promptly, while, at the same time, any backend activities must not be visual to the customer. In other words, your mobile application must do what it claims to do.

This means your mobile application must work with your current software, be updated as you update your other software and ensure timely updates to your mobile application, including applying bug fixes to the application itself.

For a small business owner, this can appear at first to be troublesome or that it might increase the overhead to an unsustainable degree. But this is why it’s essential to have a mobile application strategy – to help prevent you and your business from being overwhelmed with the prospect of developing and working with your mobile application.

Make Social Media Part of Your Application Experience

As part of your application development, a key element for adding to the customer experience is integrating your app to work with social media. Letting customers share what they looked at, considered, purchased and more on social media is a great way to expand your audience and promote your products or services.

Essentially, having social media as part of your application experience gives you the opportunity to be seen and heard straight from the customer themselves. Even for companies involved with B2B sales, social media is an important consideration, with over 62 percent of B2B companies reporting effectiveness on their social media outlets.

Developing the Experience

All of the above is fine, well and great, but how does it help to give you the edge? A comprehensive mobile application strategy that takes your business’s goals, objectives and integrates them into an mobile application gives you an advantage when it comes to competing for new customers (and retaining the same).

Basically, it’s about creating value between you and your customers or clients. Technology savvy customers gravitate towards those mobile applications that appear to add value to their shopping experience and interactions with your business. By the same token, a bad mobile application will generate a bad mobile experience and thus you have to get it right the first time.

This Whitepaper from UTest, a professional testing network company, outlines specifically the consequences of bad mobile application development. In summary, by investing the time in developing your mobile application’s foundation, you’ll correspondingly improve your customer experience. And as this matures, it adds more value to both your business and the customer, giving your business the edge over your competition.

Further, by giving your customers the option of sharing their experience over social media, your mobile presence will continue to grow and improve – again, adding more perceived value to both the business and consumer.

In or Out Application Development

An important question that always arises when considering application development is in house or outsourced application development. There are pitfalls for each, and there are advantages to each, but it really depends on a range of factors concerning your business.

In house development is really only effective for larger companies, where there are resources for a long term development cycle and ongoing maintenance. That said, even some larger companies will split development across both in house and outsourced components.

Outsourcing mobile application development or, in the case of a small, local businesses, just outsourcing the actual programming element, offers significant advantages, not least of which being cost. Entrepreneur offers several articles on outsourcing for application development, including tips for outsourcing said development in order to reap the most benefit.

For small business, the best idea is typically to develop your mobile application strategy and then work with an application developer to generate your application. In a practical sense, you put the ideas for your application together, and they handle the actual coding that brings it to life.

As long as you have a mobile application strategy in place, all it takes is the development and maintenance to get you on the road to providing value to both you and your customers.

Giving Your Company the Edge

You might still come around to asking the question of “How does this give me an edge over the competition?” The answer is that, by putting all the fundamentals in place – such as a strategy for mobile application and development, along with a social media component – and developing your application using cost-effective services like Proforma Mobile Apps, you’re generating a customer experience that gives your followers and prospective buyers value and purpose.

Mobile applications are more than just marketing tools, and their use extends well beyond marketing hype. Those applications that add or create value for the customer help drive positive sentiment towards your business, and this translates directly into a higher return or ROI.

Even something as simple as alerting your customers to new sales promotions via social media can have a significant impact on your business’s bottom line. For a local-only business, the value created by mobile applications could be critical to ensuring profitability over the long haul – not just by giving you the edge over the competition, but by increasing your exposure to consumers, both old and new.

Having an application is a sign that your company or business is up on the latest trends, and it gives consumers a means of interacting with your company or business on their time (thus adding perceived value for them). In turn this translates directly into better sales, better consumer perception and an overall better customer experience.

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