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To build or not to build a mobile app? Think like a digital customer

If you’re the owner of a small company and are looking to maintain or even ramp up your business, odds are you’ve thought about developing some sort of mobile presence, either in the form of a mobile-optimized website or the creation of your own mobile app.

You’ve also likely heard from fellow small business owners who’ve incorporated mobile computing into their businesses about some of the competitive benefits mobile confers — as well as the challenges. But if you are on the fence about whether to forge ahead with mobile, here is an easy way to think about it: Take stock of how you are using mobile computing in your personal life. Chances are you’re using mobile computing in much the same way your customers are. And thinking like a customer when it comes to mobile already puts you one step closer to understanding what quality of services they expect from your business.

In my case — and I’m a mobile consumer if there ever were one — it wouldn’t be a leap to estimate that outside of the hours I put in for work, I spend more leisure time on my smartphone than I do my personal computer (and my PC doesn’t even come in second place — my Roku device takes that spot). And even for work purposes, if I’m on the go, my smartphone, particularly its apps, give me numerous options to stay plenty productive.

Here’s just a sampling of mobile apps I use regularly on a weekday: Android’s Email app, to which I link my Outlook account; Gmail; Google Calendar; Google Hangouts; Facebook; Spotify; Twitter; Yelp; Google Tasks; HBO Go; Todoist; YouTube; GO Weather… I could go on. And with regard to mobile-responsive sites, more often than not, the only time I have to catch up on current events is when taking public transit to work. You can bet that The AtlanticThe Washington Post and Quartz, among many other sites, get plenty of daily mobile visits from me.

But don’t take just my word for it. Nielsen’s 2014 Digital Consumer Report found that the average American consumer last year spent 34 hours a month on their mobile devices, compared with 27 hours on the Web via a PC.

I mentioned earlier that many of the apps I use on a day-to-day basis also enable me to be more productive. Stats from recent studies also confirm that small businesses reap internal benefits from mobile apps as well. According to a 2012 study by the Small Business and Entrepreneur Council, 78% of small business owners reported saving a median four hours per day of work due to company use of mobile apps. The study estimates that this saved time translates to small business savings of approximately $14,317 per year — that’s no small fish for a small company.

In part two of this blog post, learn about some of the plusses and minuses of building a mobile app or website.

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