As more and more small businesses decide to investigate the mobile market, Marco Cirilli, founder and chief information officer at Applix, discusses how to make the most of mobile apps.

This year globally we spent more than US$100 billion through our mobile handsets. As increasing numbers of us choose to access the internet via smart-phones and tablet devices, it’s inevitable that businesses of all sizes will have to change the way they connect with their customers by offering content which is optimised to work on such handsets. But how do they get started?Marco cirilli

Why apps?
Three years ago in a restaurant in Milan, Applix founders myself and Claudio Somazzi noticed that every fellow diner was furtively tapping away, totally engrossed not in their meal and conversation, but in their phones. New generation smart-phones which were beginning to emerge in numbers were changing the way people engage.

As two entrepreneurs, passionate about emerging technologies we decided to look into this market a little deeper. What emerged back in 2009 was that many people were using their phones not only for calls, email and gaming, but starting to look at accessing the internet. The technology of the day required complex, costly software to really optimise internet content. This meant larger organisations were able to reach their audiences on the move, but the costs and technical complexities of doing so put small companies at a distinct disadvantage. We wanted to create a product that would allow businesses of all sizes access to this growing phenomenon.

By 2010 Appdoit (pronounced App-do-it) was born. The concept was to create an easy and cost-efficient way to build apps, where no technical or publishing experience was required. Appdoit is a self-build solution that takes minutes to put together and costs from EUR 100 to develop and publish in app stores. Users choose from a series of customisable templates elements, such as graphics, icons and key functions.

How do small businesses use apps?
Apps provide a fantastic new revenue opportunity for those businesses willing to grasp the opportunity. They enable companies to proactively drive business, making them a valuable alternative to more traditional, passive advertising and marketing methods.

Businesses need to evaluate their requirements and build an app accordingly. Are they looking to proactively encourage footfall into a bricks and mortar premises? Are they hoping to learn more about their customers’ preferences and shopping habits? Or, do they want to build on brand loyalty?

Case study – Al Palazzaccio dal 1975
We have built multiple apps for restaurants across the globe. It is a great example of how a small business can optimise its bookings and loyalty with no technical know-how. Our app Al Palazzaccio dal 1975 enables customers to view menus, make reservations, connect to any special offers and find the restaurant anytime, anyplace via their smart-phone or tablet. The back end build is via the Appdoit website where the business owner selects from a series of customisable pages adding their own pictures, logos and content.

Every month Appdoit is now adding 1,000 new users creating their own apps. These span from simple solutions to ever more sophisticated apps, where we offer more bespoke back-end technical build support in line with the smart-phone evolutions.

Case study – Banca Intesa
Applix has partnered with Intesa Sanpaolo, an Italian banking group to create a new mobile app “La tua Banca” = Your Bank for iPad which we are delighted to say has rapidly climbed the charts to become the most downloaded Italian banking app by Apple users.

The app, which debuted in the Apple AppStore on April 2, has been downloaded by over 250,000 people, with over 90% of users accessing it weekly to conduct their banking transactions and inquiries. Users can not only use traditional banking services such as transfers and balance checks on their account, but they are also able to pay bills by reading the QR codes. Furthermore, by using the geolocation, iPad users can identify and display the ATMs and branches nearby. In the ‘news section’ within the app you can browse the headlines of the main Italian newspapers and read the topics of the day and other news of interest: from luxury fashion to technology helping to make the app stickier.

The banking and international finance communities have been pioneers in the mobile banking world with solutions spanning WAP, PDA, SMS and now app innovations.

The incredible growth of the mobile market, however, has prompted many to accelerate mobile marketing to reap the full benefits.

Considerations
For all Applix customers big and small their wants remain the same – simplicity of use, no technological input required and the opportunity to engage with their customers in a new and immediate way.

It’s important for businesses to understand the issues that may arise when creating an app. Research has revealed that one in four apps are used only once, and that 95 per cent of free apps are deleted after 30 days, with only five per cent being retained.

With this in mind it’s important to consider the paths that can be taken to improve an app’s success rate.

Content
It is simple: useful content is key. If your app doesn’t include those all-important, attention-grabbing functionalities, any effort put to design or marketing will be a waste.

Technology updates
Decisions around technology development are also crucial when considering an app. The ever-expanding mobile market spans across many platforms, so businesses need to create apps that support all systems, from Apple and Android to Windows. It’s worth nothing that multiplatform apps have a greater reach than their single platform counterparts, thus maximising the number of customers able to access your app.

A smart business will also develop an app that is easily expandable. Mobile technology is constantly changing and software can soon become stale and outdated. An app that can evolve with the times will increase the likelihood of its success and deliver better results, longer-term. The road from initial idea to fully-functioning app is often a long one, so, it’s no wonder that many businesses don’t actually plan for activity once the app is launched to the market! An app that can’t react to customer demand will fail. Therefore, time must be allocated to evaluating the app’s post-launch success and amending as necessary.

Marco Cirilli is the co-founder and chief information officer at Applix, a specialist app development company based in Italy, working internationally. Applix apps have reached the Apple Store’s Top 10 list in over 50 App Stores and chosen by Apple as 2011 Best iPad App for the Apple Store Rewind (Virtual History Firenze) and Top 5 Best Apps in the Educational US market.

Applix collaborates with international companies, small businesses, celebrities and publishers to ‘mobilise’ their assets and content, leveraging their talent through products spanning

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