One billion people around the world now have smartphones. Traditional website traffic is going down and mobile visits are going up. Way up.
Let's face it, mobile, social media, and apps are transforming every area of our life and business. How, in the face of constant technological change, can you keep your company relevant?
"Mobile transforms the Internet, and the cloud will transform both to mind-boggling degrees," says Randy Gage, author of Risky is the New Safe, which comes out this week. "Because what we're really talking about isn't the technology itself; it's how people use that tech. Mobile leads us into the third wave of the Internet and away from traditional websites."
He's talking about trends we've been seeing for a while--and their next iterations. Consider how social media sites such as Facebook--where many of your brand's fans interact with it--make your company's website a little less relevant. Mobile apps make certain types of companies' websites even less of a factor in how they do business.
"The big winners in the third generation will be the entrepreneurs that figure out how to monetize mobile," he says.
Being in that "winner" category isn't so much about adopting a particular technology, but rather it's about fully considering how your customer actually uses specific techologies to enhance their lives. The next step: plotting out how you fit into that new ecosystem.
For instance: If you're still counting on e-mail marketing, you should be thinking about how "most young people have gravitated to texting and video apps like FaceTime," Gage says. "If you're counting on e-mail and your regular website to represent you, you are about five years behind, which is really like 20 in Internet years!"
In his book Gage predicts that, although companies will need to invest in service apps that cater to their prospects and customers, they also have to be ready to plug into third-party apps that will produce the greatest number of customers. He says:
The big boom in apps won't be the proprietary ones that companies create for their customers, although this will produce trillions of dollars in revenues. The biggest share will come from generic "process apps"--the ones that help people hail a pedicab in Key West, find the closest sushi restaurant, check references to see how painlessly a dentist's work is, investigate the past romantic liaisons of a potential date, or decide which planet to take their next vacation on.
These third-party apps will offer entrepreneurs new marketing opportunities, too. Beyond exposure to new customers (consider Yelp or Pinterest), if you have a storefront, you might consider offering instant discount coupons or an introductory offer that pushes to someone's smartphone screen as they pass near your business.
How can you make sure you're ready for the new wave in apps? Gage offers three tips:
- Create an app that facilitates a process your potential customers want to do easier. This could be calculating calories, tracking workouts, or some other activity that is related to your product offering, but not a direct sales pitch.
- Don't just create an app that has links back to your website. Offer a service or value your customers would appreciate.
- Don't make an app designed only for what you want to sell. Make it designed for what and how the customer wants to buy.
No matter what business you are in mobile and apps are changing all the rules. They will reduce the impact of your regular website and may one day replace it completely. They will change the way you run your business, market it, and manage it, and present many new challenges. However, they'll also create very lucrative opportunities for entrepreneurs that embrace them.