As many of us continue to ask ourselves, “How can my business survive social distancing?” we find ourselves relying more and more on technology to connect and engage with our employees, suppliers, and customers.
We have always supported the notion that digital transformation is the key to growth and longevity for your business—this trend started quite a while ago. Now, as we look at business strategies for addressing the coronavirus shutdown, apps are definitely playing a major role.
In particular, app adoption and engagement have seen an increase as people continue to spend more time on devices and are depending on technology for many critical functions and daily tasks. A recent report predicts that apps will remain a “major economic driver and a healthy environment for developers, investors, and enterprises through 2024 and beyond.”
Now is the ideal time to focus your digital transformation ideas on how apps can help your business survive and even thrive—today, and well into the future.
4 reasons you should focus on app development ideas TODAY
- COVID-19 and social distancing have drastically changed how people interact with businesses.
Even before extreme social distancing guidelines changed our lives overnight, people were becoming more interested in digital engagement. The coronavirus just accelerated the trend, tipping the scales very much in favor of doing just about everything online.
Now that your customers and partners have gotten a real taste of what it’s like to engage with you digitally, they can see how easy and efficient it is. Chances are, they’re going to want to maintain this digital relationship, even after restrictions are lifted (or at least eased).
For example, food delivery services have seen an unprecedented spike, to the point where people are making jokes on social media when they can actually secure a delivery time. While many people may have thought about trying grocery delivery in the past, they may not have fully trusted whether it would be a good experience. Would they get everything they ordered? Would the product be fresh and meet their standards?
As more people are seeing how easy it is to use this service, they will be more inclined to continue to do so. We bet a large percentage of customers move to delivery as their primary method, even after social distancing ends.
As a business owner, this means you need to be ready to meet this type of demand for the long haul. If you didn’t have a strong digital presence before social distancing, now is the time to invest in one. Customers need access to an intuitive and efficient mobile application to navigate and purchase your products and services and get answers to questions.
- Your customers are distracted.
The unfortunate reality is there are businesses that have been forced to lay off employees as a result of the economic consequences of the coronavirus. Our hearts go out to these companies and their employees, and we wish them the best of luck as they plan for the future and look to rebuild.
There are other companies, however, that do have the financial resources to look at this time as an opportunity rather than a setback. For example, if you’re in retail, there aren’t a lot of people coming into your physical store these days. It’s a great time to start that remodeling project that has been on the backburner or brighten up the walls with a fresh coat of paint. You won’t inconvenience your customers while doing it, and they will surely value the improvements when they return to your physical store.
On the tech side, investing in digital transformation and app development will benefit you in two ways:
- You will prepare your business for long-term success when spending returns to more normal patterns.
- You will create work to keep your current employees on payroll today, while still adding long-term value to the company.
As tempting as it may be, we urge companies not to overly focus on stock prices and revenue right now. We are all in the same boat. Stocks are down across the board. Your revenue stream is not what you predicted. This is out of your control.
But if you have the reserves, then this might be that rainy day you’ve saved for. Stop worrying about stock prices and expenses for the moment, and focus your efforts on investing in the future. NOW is the time to build that new application and update older ones, so your business is a step ahead and prepared to meet the pent-up demand that is inevitably going to be unleashed.
Let’s look at any business that involves scheduling appointments as an example. Hair salons, doctor’s offices, and dentists have all had to cancel on clients and patients indefinitely. It can be overwhelming to think about how you will manage the deluge of requests that are bound to come pouring in when restrictions are lifted.
An app that allows customers to book appointments is a smart investment you can make now so you can spend less time answering the phone and more time meeting demand when your doors reopen. You can probably also get quality app development work done at a lower rate these days given the reduced demand, increasing your ROI.
- Customers are willing to adopt lightweight point solutions.
When building apps, companies often agonize over wanting to be the “category-killer” in their space. However, now is the time to be more realistic. You likely have a smaller customer base right now.
If you’re lucky enough to maintain your current customers, you’re probably more worried about keeping them on board than you are about trying to expand. So the reality is, you don’t need a killer app. You just need a targeted and focused solution that meets the specific needs of your current customers and makes their lives easier or more enjoyable. You can enhance the app in the future when business is more stable.
The Agile methodology supports this iterative approach and makes it easy and efficient to start with a lightweight version that meets your needs today, but can be built out to include more advanced features and functionality down the road.
Membership and subscription-based businesses come to mind here. Most gyms and dance studios have suspended membership payments. But they need to keep members engaged and connected so they remain members when you can go back to normal operations. The day will come when you’ll start charging them again, and you don’t want them to take that opportunity to cancel their membership.
Many of these businesses began offering virtual classes through Zoom and Facebook Live. But what else can you do to increase engagement? This is a critical question as you have people buying up all of the at-home fitness equipment they can get their hands on. Maybe they are now willing to buy that expensive Peloton bike since they can’t get to their Soul Cycle studio. If they make that investment at home, how will you get them back through your doors?
A creative app that guides customers through this uncertain time can actually increase loyalty (and you may even find members willing to continue to pay their membership fees during the down time, if you deliver enough value). Gyms and other studios can use a mobile app to provide videos of at-home workouts that can be done using everyday items. Members can engage in contests and friendly competitions to spark engagement and camaraderie. You can build a social community that will draw everyone back into the gym together when the time comes.
It doesn’t stop with gyms and dance studios. Cinemas are curating movie nights for members on their websites, and zoos are coupling virtual tours with discounts and extensions for renewing memberships. Some companies are taking personalized shopping digital. A small gift shop that typically assists customers in-store with purchases now lets people fill out a Google form to provide information so the owner can help customers with virtual shopping. A toy store is offering FaceTime browsing so people can select what they want to buy. Think about how you can take engagement to a new place during these times of confinement and isolation.
This thinking is not limited to consumer or retail activities. Your B2B customers may be in the same situation: accustomed to working with you in person, they need a new digital relationship with you going forward.
- You can open new revenue streams and provide your products or services in a new way.
Whether you’re a B2C or a B2B company, it’s time to get creative. B2C companies such as restaurants have quickly taken to curbside pick-up and contactless delivery to keep operations running.
But what about the B2B companies that supply restaurants? They will likely be making fewer deliveries to restaurants as overall demand decreases. There are always new opportunities. Restaurants may be throwing away fresh produce each day, while the supermarkets can’t stay stocked.Perhaps it’s time to pivot the business and expand to supplying supermarkets as well, or even finding a way to transport that fresh produce to a food bank that will take it.
Or maybe you could take it a step further and actually help the restaurants you supply with deliveries. Remove Uber Eats from the equation with a simple app that allows you to communicate and schedule deliveries for local restaurants to their customers, and help them meet the demand. You’ve already got the trucks anyway. Customers will surely be happy when the wait time from their favorite restaurant is 45 minutes with you rather than two hours for Uber Eats.
Restaurants can even take advantage of regular customers by providing a set menu so they can commit to pre-ordering certain dishes each week. Menu selection, dietary restrictions, and payment can be handled through a website and mobile app that allows establishments to lock in predictable revenue in an uncertain time.
Digital transformation is accelerating as companies of all sizes and industries respond to the pandemic. Businesses that have the means to look at the current challenge as an opportunity to invest in applications stand the best chance of keeping current customers engaged, being prepared for the uptick in business that will come in the future, and discovering new revenue streams. Reach out if you would like to discuss potential ideas on how building a new application can help your business.