As covered in my last post, I recently visited the United States to go to a wedding and took the opportunity to meet a number of people involved in app development in the US market. I discussed the specific example of Akshay Sahani and his app NimNim in the last post as I believe it serves a good example to potential South African innovators of the potential of using apps to extend the reach of a traditional bricks and mortar business.
I want to use this post to elaborate on that point: that apps can be used as a tool for traditional business.
We are struck, practically every day, at how many young South Africans we encounter who are actively striving to innovate. They are out there defining problems and developing solutions in every facet of life.
The digital space: the world of apps, the internet, of smartphones and connectivity, is attractive to innovators because the possibilities are seemingly endless…if you can think it, you can create it. The enormous success of tech innovators, the “guy next door, to billionaire” story is well documented and we all have something in common with those guys, they are just normal people who identified a problem/need and developed a solution/product. This reality makes our phones ring everyday, with would-be innovators calling to discuss their vision. We have met people from all walks of life, with ideas and products in various stages of development, with focus on an incredibly wide array of focus areas from banking to education to events to medicine to travel and on and on and on. The eyes of the South African innovator are open, they are looking for opportunities and we are happy when we can help them grab those opportunities.
But. Where are the businesses?
Our typical client, the person described above, is a private individual and their intention for their app is that it must generate revenue. Apps can do this. But, apps needn’t be this exclusively. Apps can be added to a business’s toolkit of customer communication and service where the purpose of the app isn’t to generate revenue of itself but rather to support and uplift the other revenue generating centres within a business.
An app can put a business in the palm of its customers’ hands, it can provide a direct line of communication, it can trigger customer action, it can give insight into customer behaviour, it can open a direct sales channel, it can reinforce brand identity, it can set you apart from competition, it can recognise and reward loyalty and it can do all of this simply and cheaply. This has been realised by small business in the United States, I visited restaurants, museums, cafe’s, attractions, shopping centres, hotels and shops, I used buses, trains, taxis and planes and I was constantly noticing calls to “download our app”. These apps are typically simple and are focused, not on innovation, but the simple objective of enhancing customer experience. These are simple apps that share the operating hours and contact details or that allow you make a booking or that give you information or WiFi details or allow you ask a question, they do not cost anything to download, they do not need you to register, they include no advertising, they do not generate revenue for the business. These businesses are not focused on whether their app makes money it is on whether improving the customer experience makes more money. We haven’t seen this same approach taken by South African businesses yet.
Yes, there are some difference in the market such as the prevalence of WiFi wherever you go in the States. This means that users don’t have to make decisions regarding which apps to keep on their devices, or have concern over the space available to them or the cost of data because essentially having the app store app and free WiFi means that you have every app in the world on your phone. Users typically download the app they need, use it as they need and then delete it again. The business apps don’t fight for valuable phone real estate against consumer giants such as Facebook, Whatsapp, Twitter and so on.
We believe the South African market will tend to follow the path of markets such as the US and we will be keeping an eye on this trend, we believe we will see more South African businesses take this approach and more South African consumers expecting it. So if you have a business and you are thinking along these lines, please get in touch…
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