Malcolm Carroll, Director at Bluefinity International, looks at how small businesses can use low code tools to keep up with the growing customer demand for apps.
Increasingly, mobile business applications have become a necessary marketing tool for all companies, regardless of their size. According to app analytics firm App Annie[i] the global app economy will be worth $6.3 trillion by 2021, up from $1.3 trillion in 2016.
Customers expect to be able to interact with a company via an app and those that don’t provide one may lose business to the competition. Apps are also useful tools to streamline and automate in-house processes, which can save a business time and money.
Many smaller firms are still not using apps as a marketing tool as they are deterred by the perceived time, resources and cost involved in development. However, there are many compelling business reasons why apps should be on their agenda for 2020.
Firstly, awareness of the benefits of using apps is growing. Most people have mobile phones and devices and use apps regularly. But some smaller firms though, even if they understand the customer demand, are unsure about how to develop apps for their business.
Developing mobile apps has never been more accessible to businesses. Many are making use of low code/no code app development platforms, such as our solution Evoke, which enables companies of all sizes and types to build low-cost apps using their own staff or what are commonly known as, ‘citizen developers’.
Gartner[ii] predicts that by 2024, about two-thirds of application development activity will be created using low-code application development. The app economy is growing and there’s a sense of urgency to create business value and drive mobility and agility.
But why should smaller firms offer apps?
One of the key drivers for a business to use an app is to gain a competitive edge. Introducing an app that offers a new service to customers or improves the way they do business, can provide them with a significant advantage over others in the market.
Apps can be even more important for a small business competing with larger companies, who are more likely to have already introduced apps. Not introducing the right app makes the size of their business more apparent and potentially puts them at a disadvantage. Also, customers today look for a business app, and if there isn’t one, there is a risk they will discount the business without the app.
Having an app with the company’s logo available immediately on a customer’s mobile device can make it the ‘go to’ place to do business, rather than giving customers the option of using another web site. Apps can also be configured to provide a more personalised service for different types of customers.
Another benefit is that an app can be set up to still work when there is poor or no internet connection, which provides better customer service. An app provides capabilities far beyond that of a website and offer customers a better level of service.
This includes ensuring data integrity, allowing for continued usage offline, for the integration with mobile features (camera, phone, soft keyboard, etc.), the support of different devices and ensuring data security.
The right choice of app development environment can support small businesses even further, by providing support facilities like chatbots. This allows the small business to offer automated online support to their customers and give the appearance of being a more significant business, without the need for them to have to employ additional staff.
How low code is helping small businesses meet app demand
Although many smaller firms have steered away from apps, fearing they don’t have the skills or know-how to develop them, this is changing in part due to low-code development tools.
Low code development tools such as our solution Evoke enable businesses of all sizes to develop business apps in a fraction of the time of other methods and, often, with the skills they already have within the organisation. This means they don’t need to hire in an external team of developers.
Such tools enable apps to be built largely by multi-level selection processes rather than coding, and for the development to be supported by extensive actions and routines that make the development process simpler, faster and more cost effective.
They also mean that businesses can use their existing staff for app development, rather than having to outsource which is huge benefit and incentive for smaller businesses.
Staff don’t need specific coding skills as these tools reduce the amount of traditional coding or obviate the need for coding altogether, which can lower the cost of setup, training and deployment.
The use of internal staff also makes it easier and more cost effective to update the app in response to business or organisational requirements.
There is no need to recruit developers, which can take time, plus apps can be developed in parallel with specific business requirements as these evolve.
Using a solution like Evoke enables businesses to create apps that work on different devices from multiple manufacturers with various operating systems and of differing sizes. Developers need only to develop code once for every device and the app will run on iPads, iPhones, Android and Windows phones and tablets, plus Windows, Linux and Apple desktops.
Apps also need to integrate with various kinds of databases including multiple types of SQL databases, and other database types such as MultiValue databases, as well as integrate and synchronise with back-end systems. Our solution enables data from multiple databases to be used and accessed in a single app, and the information combined for optimum use in the app design, which is a major advantage.
The key to Evoke though is in its flexibility as it can support all types of IT and business infrastructures. Evoke will support a no-code development through to deployment of the app. It can also support a low-code environment where a company’s existing code, 3rd party library tools and components can all be seamlessly incorporated and finally it is able to provide an IT department with complete Visual Studio and Xamarin projects for onward development, all from the same design/code base. This means that there are absolutely no limitations in how your company may change and grow.
Small businesses can use low code tools to keep up with the growing demand for apps. Customers today expect a company to offer a business app. At the same time, companies can take advantage of apps to support and streamline their own internal business processes.
With low code tools making app development accessible to all,
developing apps should be on the agenda for all companies, no matter what their