Smugala’s mobile app lets loyal customers of the St. Louis pizza pub know they can get a cold bucket of six domestic longnecks for $7 every Wednesday or “spin to win” drinks on the shot wheel all day long on any Monday or Thursday. Customers can also use the app to track their reward points, get alerts, click to call or email the restaurant, view photos or encourage friends and designated drivers to download the app to receive a $5 coupon.
According to research from the Pew Research Internet Project, 91 percent of American adults own a cellphone, and more than half use them to access the Internet. So every small business should have a mobile-optimized website and/or mobile app, experts say. But what makes the expense and effort worth it for some, like Smugala’s, to take the next step and create and maintain a mobile app?
“Small businesses that tend to have repeat customers, such as restaurants and gyms, make great candidates for mobile apps,” says Anthony Kirlew, digital marketing strategist and founder of Abounding Mobile, which builds mobile apps and websites. “They allow the end user to access to the business, to place an order, receive a special or hear the latest news in real time.”
Gyms—like Richmond, Va.-based American Family Fitness—with mobile apps often offer members the latest class schedules, special promotions and access to media such as a branded YouTube channel with videos featuring exercise and nutrition tips. Similarly, any business that builds an app should offer unique content that makes downloading the app worth it for loyal customers, even if they don’t take advantage of every offer.
“Sending coupons and specials can keep repeat customers coming back,” Kirlew says. “Some business owners fear that this will reduce revenue from their regulars, but usually it turns into more business from those regulars, many of whom choose not to use the coupons because of their existing relationship with the business.”
Other customers want to ditch the punch cards and plastic rewards cards cluttering their wallets. For small businesses that aren’t ready to develop their own mobile apps, there are several existing apps, including Stampt and Belly, that offer mobile loyalty programs. In today’s wired world, Kirlew says customers appreciate any digital innovation that makes their lives easier.
“I know I lose those punch cards all the time.”