In today’s day and age, smartphones are more prevalent than they’ve ever been. One need only take a look at the people around them as they go about their day to see countless Blackberries, iPhones, and one of the many, many  Android offerings currently on the market. Tablets too are increasingly popular, with almost every major electronics manufacturer in business today having one on the market. People are connected to the online world as never before, which is why having a strong online presence is so important. But smartphones and tablets have their own unique functionality that opens up a whole new way of connecting with your clients. I am speaking of course, of apps.

Apps (short for applications) are essentially computer programs designed to run on smartphones and tablets. They’re generally small with a very specific focus. There are apps for things like Twitter, Facebook, e-mail, web browsing, book reading, you name it, and to borrow a phrase from Apple, “There’s an app for that.” Or, is there? Does your business have an app? No? Well, perhaps it’s time to hunt down a developer and have one made. You see, there are all sorts of ways you can push your business through an app. Here are some examples.

Cineplex, Canada’s leading movie theater company, uses their app to allow people to find theaters (including GPS functionality to allow the app to display the closest one to your present location), look up movies, buy tickets, and even display a scannable barcode for their rewards card, rather than members having to carry their physical card around. Great stuff if you’re in the movie theater business, but how can this apply to you? Well, look at it this way.  The Cineplex app allows their customers to access all the important information pertaining to their business, to make purchases, and offers some extra functionality that makes using the app by far more convenient than not. Definitely a good standard to strive for.

Say your business is of the creative variety. A writer, an artist, graphic designer, and so on. Look no further than the WWE app. In addition to the base functionality offered by the Cineplex app, theirs also includes access to pictures and streaming video. In other words, samples of their business. For those of you with a creative bent, take this to mean that you can give people access to an online portfolio of your work, all at the touch of a button.

Many cell phone providers also include proprietary apps with their handsets, which allow their clients to access their accounts, view their invoices, and pay their bills. One touch bill payments are extremely convenient, and a natural evolution of online banking. Definitely something to keep in mind for all businesses.

There are also countless news applications out there. Imagine being able to keep your clients instantly appraised of all news relating to your business, as it happens. One click, and they’ll know exactly what you’re doing and when. Convenient, isn’t it?

There are some pitfalls to avoid, however. Many apps don’t really offer anything over say…your website. Or your Twitter or Facebook account. The trick is to brainstorm some new, creative ideas (such as Cineplex’s GPS functionality and the ability to have your rewards card scanned off of your phone rather than having to carry a physical card) that make using the app worthwhile over just visiting your site, or following you on Twitter. If you think outside the box a little (or if you follow this blog regularly, get rid of the box entirely), and I’m sure you’ll come up with some ideas that will make using your app worthwhile to your clients.

I’ve spoken before about getting creative with your marketing, and embracing new online technologies to improve your business. Utilizing an app is just one more way of doing so. And the result? Improved customer service, and  hopefully, a bigger piece of that sweet, sweet PIE.

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