Just as many global businesses are beginning to feel comfortable doing business over the Internet, smartphones and tablets are opening up a whole new avenue to interact with customers.  While still relatively new, the market for mobile applications is expected to grow into a nearly $30 billion per year industry by 2015.  E-Bay’s mobile application has already been downloaded by more than 50 million people worldwide, representing 190 countries and eight languages. 

As with any e-business strategy, one of the greatest benefits of selling merchandise on a mobile application is that it widens a company’s customer base significantly.  Rather than being constrained to the local vicinity of a brick-and-mortar retail building, mobile applications are accessible to interested customers across regional and international borders.  If a business is popular, viral marketing will quickly spread the idea by word-of-mouth.  Without as much capital investment, a small business can quickly become a global enterprise.

One benefit that separates mobile applications from traditional Internet platforms is accessibility to more detailed customer information.  Mobile devices have built in GPS systems that will customize content based on the actual physical location of the customer.  Businesses can better serve customers if they know where they are and what they are doing at all times.

For service industries especially, the ability to be available to customers for every second of the day is irreplaceable.  PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) is one example of a company profiting from global applications providing professional services to customers.  Mobile applications launched by PwC are designed to provide relevant and timely information whenever and wherever customers need to access it.  The newest PwC app costs almost $33 and provides information on the global entertainment industry.

Mobile applications are not appropriate for all businesses and industries, so the decision to develop them should be evaluated carefully.  Developing just one complicated app could cost as much as $32,639.  IPhones and Androids run on very different operating systems, so unique apps will have to be developed for each of the devices.  Translating applications into different languages may also prove to be a costly endeavor.

While mobile applications offer enormous opportunities for many businesses, harnessing that potential is only possible by integrating them into a comprehensive business strategy and branding plan.  Apps are not for everybody, but they will prove to be the foundation of many successful businesses.

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