Apps for Accounting Firms: Gimmick or Great Idea?
The fact that the use of mobile devices has skyrocketed in recent years (and is continuing to do so) is far from headline news, but for the purpose of this post let’s put a figure on things with data from the Office for National Statistics, who state that 61% of adults used a mobile device to access the internet away from the office last year. Significantly for the accounting world, the rapid adoption of such technology means that business owners are increasingly seeing practical (and financial) benefit from instant access to professional services while on the move.
No surprise then that many firms now offer ‘mobile friendly’ websites; but while there are some that still haven’t taken this relatively small step, there are many others who have taken things a leap further by providing clients with access to their services via a specific application for their mobile device – otherwise known as an ‘App’.
Our forthcoming webinar will provide a more detailed introduction to Apps, but what are some of the key questions and are they appropriate for all firms? Most importantly, are they a gimmick or a great investment?!
Why are there mixed opinions about Apps?
Some practitioners have chosen to provide customers with an App while others remain unsure of the value of such a service. One reason for this is that things have moved incredibly quickly when it comes to the evolution of smartphones and App technology – there are now well in excess of 1.2 billion active App users globally and this is set to rise 30% by 2017. While this presents a huge number of users, there remain a great many more that have little experience or awareness of accounting Apps and it’s understandable that there should be mixed opinions.
Are Apps a passing phase?
Much like smartphones, the use of Apps has grown rapidly, but again much like smartphones, they’re not a phase that will be forgotten anytime soon. After all, our App solutions were born out of genuine demand from clients looking for a marketing tool that would give their firm a competitive advantage. Despite our own initial mild scepticism, we created our first App for an accounting firm and not only did it engage end users, but word spread amongst firms and the rest is history. When a product emerges that successfully meets a need in this way we believe it’s more likely to be a long-term solution rather than a passing phase.
Why consider an App if I have a mobile site?
Apps can, and should, have features that a mobile site can’t offer. When combining App technology with that of a smartphone it becomes possible to develop some compelling elements that no website can deliver. For instance, accounting Apps currently provide the ability to track mileages, manage photo receipts; integrate with other tools and more. An App is very much a complement to a website and not a replacement.
Does an App really add any more value than my existing channels?
To quote the ICAEW, “For businesses, the App ecosystem represents a commercial and customer services opportunity that should not be missed.”
Multi-channel marketing is proven to enhance engagement, but an App can act as an additional channel to deliver key services and evolve a client into a business advocate, but this can only be achieved with the right approach. Firms don’t (or at least, shouldn’t) have an App just because they feel they should be seen to have one. With the right planning, an App can complement your other activity while directly providing a valuable and practical solution for clients and a powerful engagement (or revenue) channel for Practitioners.
Will an App really enhance communication between me and my client?
An App is a permission-based communication channel, and when this channel is via a device which people take with them everywhere, that becomes a powerful thing. One example of App communication is via push notifications (a short message sent by clients that automatically appears on a users device), which provide an open rate far greater than that of email. In reality an App is not only a valuable tool for clients, but it is also a valuable tool for practitioners to communicate with those clients.
So App developers can use the latest technology to create amazing platforms for clients to engage with your service in ways that haven’t previously been possible, but the firms which will get the best return on investment are those who have already ensured they are providing a quality product. Having an App is about taking the great products and services that a practice offers and delivering them in way that gives prospects and clients (who are becoming increasingly mobile) a brilliant experience.
Simply having an app is unlikely to attract hundreds of new clients, but having a service which makes life easier and more efficient for your customers will ensure you have happy customers – and happy customers will not only be more likely to stay with you, they will be far more likely to recommend you to others.
So to answer the question in the title of this blog… As the world continues to become more mobile and businesses increasingly benefit from access to certain services on the go, the days of Apps being considered gimmicks are numbered. Whether or not an App is a good investment largely depends on a firm’s objectives relating to client engagement and the services being offered.
If you’re still unsure if an App is for you or your firm, and we really do respect the opinions of all practitioners, why not register for our free webinar for more details.