Leveraging Apps to Increase Small Business Success: a SMB Week Panel Discussion

 Small business expert Melinda Emerson and five industry leaders converged in New York City on Wednesday, May 14, to participate in a Small Business Week panel discussion on success in the mobile world. Their conclusion: reaching the customer has changed, and small businesses need to use apps in their retail communications.

The “Making It Big: Small Biz Success in a Mobile World” panel—moderated by Emerson—consisted of Michael Francisco, Senior Developer Marketing Manager for Amazon.com; Javier Saade, Leader of U.S. Small Business Administration’s Office of Investment and Innovation; Matthew Mahoney, Vice President of Business Development at Booker; Li-at Karpel Gurwicz, Vice President of Marketing at Como (formerly Conduit Mobile); and Andre LaMont, a small business owner and founder of Muve Magazine. The event was sponsored by Como.

“You want to have presence where people are,” Mahoney said.

To support the call-to-action, Francisco cited a February comScore report. It stated that 156 million people use a smartphone as of December 2013—representing a 24 percent year-to-year increase. The study also found that the number of people with a tablet increased 57 percent to 82 million.

Saade said mobile has been a game changer in how retail businesses operate.

“Apps were not even in a lexicon five years ago,” he said.

Gurwicz cautioned small business owners not to rush into making an app just to have one. She said making sure an app is fully incorporated into a business is key. To do this, she added that small business owners need to have a sound idea of what their businesses are and what specifically the apps will do within that framework.

Amazon.com’s Francisco offered some tips on how to get the most out of an app:

  1. Make sure digital marketing is tailored to customer demographics.
  2. Make sure the app user friendly.
  3. Make sure the app solves the customers’ problem.
  4. Make sure the app is in front of the customers all the time.

He also said that no matter how good an app is, it will be useless without good customer service on the back-end.

When the conversation shifted to customer app subscription fees, the panel agreed that putting up potential barriers to entry—even if the app’s download fee is 99 cents—isn’t advisable.

“You want the largest number of people to see your app,” Mahoney said.