Productivity Apps for Small Business

App Development Ideas: Productivity Apps for Small Business

Apps that solve specific problems fill a need that target audiences may not know they have. Mobile apps, in general, has a lot of benefits for businesses, especially the apps for small business enterprises. But aside from the apps that are tailor-made for a specific company, there are also apps that can help businesses accomplish day-to-day tasks. This is where productivity apps come to the rescue.


Let’s take a look on what services, tools and types of small business one can target for a productivity app.


Productivity Apps for Small Business

Is still there an app that hasn’t been made? It seems like every other app is just an iteration of an existing app concept. Thankfully, there are still app niches to explore and develop. Businesses, even the brick, and mortar ones are now facing an ever-changing business environment. They need specific tools in order to make business processes more efficient.


A lot of productivity apps target a broad audience, therefore offering general features that almost everyone can use. Productivity apps for small business, on the other hand, often offer specific solutions for problems that large businesses solve with the use of expensive systems. But what problems are we talking about here?


Problems that Apps for Small Business Can Solve

  1. The hassle of business taxes. According to data from the NFIB, taxes consistently rank as first of second most important problem for small owners since 2008. There are actually several small business tax apps out in the app stores. Most of these apps are geared for the US, though. A small business tax tool especially targeted for a specific region can help a lot.
  2. Business expense management. This can include keeping track of any bills, receipts, mileage, etc. An app called Mint not only track your personal financial data but also the state of your investments, especially your business. An app like this can also help in sorting out taxes by expediting the auditing process.
  3. Task management. There are lots of task and project management apps out there. One of the main problems with these apps is that they are designed with large and/or remote teams in mind. Sometimes, you just need a tool to organize, schedule, and remind employees of assigned tasks. A tool like this is especially handy when you are on trips. Though there are apps that already offer solid small business task management, a new take on the problem is always welcome.
  4. Business networking. Being a small business doesn’t mean that your world should also be limited to your establishment’s four walls. That said, business networking apps can be helpful especially for budding entrepreneurs.
  5. Lead management. There are apps that specifically track sales leads. This is dead useful especially for small businesses that don’t have the resources for CRM software or just want to focus on leads.


Industries to Tap

These are just five of the productivity solutions apps can offer to small businesses. But in order to narrow down the app’s audience and features, these specific industries/niches can benefit from apps for small business:

  • Farming/Agriculture Industry in general
  • Delivery Services
  • Home Services (plumbing, cleaning, etc.)
  • Childcare Services (daycare, babysitters, etc.)
  • Event Organizer

If you’re thinking of creating a unique solution for small businesses but don’t know where to start, just select a specific industry to tap and then search for sources of innovative mobile app ideas within the industry. You’ll be surprised on the potential that even simple solutions can have.

User-Centered Approach

A User-Centered Approach in Mobile App Development

The Profit vs. Users Dilemma

Last week, we discussed Google’s new strict enforcement of their User Data Policy. We also mentioned the study that shows how a lot of app developers don’t actually abide by their own privacy policy. Apparently, some apps gather sensitive user information without permission and share said information to a third party. This is shocking news for many but for some, it just confirms their suspicions. But this departure from a user-centered approach to a profit-centered approach in app development isn’t actually sudden. It’s not new either.


Even with how this betrayal of trust appears, it is most of the time due to need and not greed. The reality is that small-time developers only get little to no revenue from their app portfolio. Some of these developers end up employing aggressive and somewhat underhanded monetization tactics.


But is this issue only limited to struggling app developers? There are probably several app development companies that are guilty of bypassing their own privacy policies. Most of the time, there is no ill-intent, just casual disregard to the users’ interests. But where do you draw the line?


Rules for a User-Centered Approach

There are no solid rules but there are best practices in app development. These rules serve as a checklist that you can use as a guide producing quality and user-centered apps. Any necessary implementation won’t cost anything except some effort on your part as a developer.

Rules on privacy

  • Respect users’ privacy. This general rule includes sensitive data handling issues like third-party access and monitoring. The purpose of the monitoring is also another issue. As much as possible, only monitor app usage data to improve app performance.
  • Do not request for unnecessary permissions. The type of data you request from users also matters. Do you really need access to a user’s contact list? Is it really necessary in the onboarding to require the user’s phone number? This is where you can (re)consider your intentions.
  • Do not sell sensitive user data. This one is tricky. If you sell anonymous user data to third parties, you aren’t technically violating your users’ privacy.This data is often used to determine usage trends, buying habits, and other insights.

Worryingly, there are data aggregation and sharing practices that go beyond the app’s purpose. If you don’t feel comfortable about your personal data being aggregated this way, just think about how your users would feel

Rules on Honesty

  • Use plain and simple language in the privacy policy. There’s no need to confuse users with legal jargon. Users would most likely feel that you have something under your sleeve if their interpretation of the privacy policy does not coincide with yours.
  • Don’t trick users into spamming their friends and other app users. This became an issue last year with a photo-sharing app. Users inadvertently spammed all their contacts via SMS. This was after the app promised users with “1 GB of storage per invite sent.”

Though the users technically gave consent for the app to access their contact list, they did not expect for the app to spam all their contacts with invites and notifications.

Rules on Respect

  • Minimize disruptions. Disruptions can come in the form of pop-up ads or notifications. Ads and branding features should be discreet and timely. A great user experience is, after all, the main focus of a user-centered approach. This also extends to the practice of sending misleading notifications, especially through SMS.
  • Don’t hog bandwidth. Make sure that added functionality doesn’t cause the app to consume a lot of data. This is especially important with background processes that users may not be aware of. If the use of a lot of data is really necessary, you should be upfront to your users about it.


There are more unspoken rules in app development and in the handling of user data in particular. Do you know any other rules for a user-centered approach in app development? Tell us in the comments.

Motivational Indie App Success Stories

We’ve all heard about the story behind the success of ‘Flappy Bird’, of how an unknown app developer made it to the top of the charts. There are a lot more app success stories like this. Amidst the reality of a very competitive market, there are still indie app developers that rise. They are not only an inspiration to other indie developers but also to other people who are facing obstacles in their pursuit of success.


These app success stories are quite different from our usual posts of the technical aspects of app development. Let’s take a short detour and learn from the human side of the industry.


App Success Stories


Andreas Illiger

App Success Stories Andreas Illiger

This German indie developer was one of those who hit jackpot in the nascent years of the App Store. Illiger’s app, Tiny Wings was the top grossing app for two weeks in 2011(February to March). It was eventually voted as the best iPhone game of that year. Its biggest win though is earning at about 10.5 installs for iPhone and 1.8 million installs for iPad.


As impressive as the app’s report card reads, the background story of its creation is also something of note. The main principle behind the app’s development was, to make something positive. Illiger thought that there’s too much negativity in the App Store at that time. Though simple, the app’s graphics and message resonate with the audience. It is also reflective of his own desire. He is afraid of heights, yet he always dreamed of flying.


But as someone that sees the world through rose-colored glasses, how did the sudden windfall affect Illiger? Apparently, it affected him little, meaning, he hasn’t gone crazy about it. His lifestyle before he hit big with Tiny Wings can be somewhat familiar to many of you. He lived in a cramped apartment – even post app success. During an interview on 2012, he detailed his lifestyle and routine.


Having studied Communication Design, Illiger basically sits down all day doing “creative stuff”. His routine starts at 9 a.m. and ends at about 1 a.m. He has a timer set for every hour. This alerts him to take a break. He believes that these frequent breaks make him more effective and healthy. Health is rather an important issue for him. He confessed that just a year before his big hit, he was so poor that he had to buy cheap (and probably unhealthy) food. The first thing that he mentioned as the most notable change in his life is the good food (organic mostly) that he is able to buy for himself.


But things weren’t always as they were, especially when his success became public knowledge. He was somewhat overwhelmed with the expectations and proposals. It was especially hard he says because he’s doing everything on his own. This made him consider the possibility of working in a team especially that he wants to focus on the creative side of things. He’s in no rush though and wants to meet the right people in his own time.


Jeremy Olson

App Success Stories Jeremy Olson

Jeremy Olson knows very well the struggle of running a small business, producing a quality product, and trying to support growing families at the same time. But he loves every part of it, especially how small indie developers can compete with the big companies and still win. “Indie” is in his blood.


Olson founded Tapity, a company composed of him, his father Todd, and his brother Josh. His app Grades had just won an Apple Design Award so they decided to go full-time on the company. But they soon realize that the app’s earnings can really fully support them. The story now becomes on how a company can go on beyond a single hit and how you can find innovative app ideas by just solving your own problem.


In a blog post, Olson detailed how their fledgling company accepted client work and the time tracking that was necessary to perform tasks. The ineffectiveness of a lot of time tracking solutions in addressing the human aspect of the problem became quite evident to the three-man team. They soon realize that they’re not alone in this problem. There’s a market for a time tracker they have in mind so they went on and made one.


That’s the simplest way to say it but the development phase wasn’t actually straightforward. There were just other things to be done, another app and client work to focus on. When the focus was finally on the time-tracking app the called “Hours”, Olson and his team did not occupy themselves with all the aspects of development. Rather, they hired some people to do most of the necessary coding while they focused on the app’s design. Olson’s principle is to constantly market the app, saying that marketing just around launch day is way too late. He introduced the app to people in the industry, wrote blog posts, and remained active on Twitter. Something he also emphasized is building good (and genuine) friendships with industry influencers and journalists through delivering good products and contributing helpful and timely information.


Hours soon received press coverage, a feature from Apple and rose up to became a top-grossing app.


Toni Fingerroos

App Success Stories Toni Fingerroos

The app “Hill Climb Racing” had simple graphics, straightforward mechanics, launched in the Google Play Store – and it was September 2012. This somehow made the then 29-year-old self-taught computer programmer, Toni Fingerroos the odd man out in the “Apple-friendly” Finnish startup scene.


Fingerroos launched “Hill Climb Racing” under his company, Fingersoft Oy (which he solely own). The end of 2013 saw the app with 140 million downloads, earning the company a net profit of about $12.7 million. Most of the app’s revenues come from advertising, in-app purchases, and upgrades. This is not bad at all for a company whose base is just an ordinary house with a working area doesn’t look corporate at all. Fingerroos emphasized that having fun is important in the company. “We believe it results in the best possible products,” in Fingerroos own words.


As of the beginning of the year, the company only has 28 employees. It was founded in 2011 and until 2014 only had a dozen employees. The company’s foundation about during a time where Fingerroos was in a financial strait. He had invested a lot of money into developing a game for PlayStation. The development eventual caused him to accumulate some debt. It was risky for him to build his own business at that time. But the idea of working for someone seem out of the question.


Finally coming up to a decision, he gambled with Android app development. But unlike other app success stories, a lot of trial and error occurred. Fingerroos would develop apps at a rapid pace just to see which of his ideas would work. There was no mention of ASO or any form of marketing at all! He believed that it is better to launch thousands of crappy apps than launch nothing at all.


But then one of his apps finally got traction. The app,“Cartoon Camera”  amassed about 10 million downloads. It kick-started Fingerroos app development career. His hit app, “Hill Climb Racing” looked simple enough but required finesse and concentration from the players, making it challenging and engaging.


In late 2016, Fingersoft launched the app’s sequel, “Hill Climb Racing 2”. As of January 2017, it already reached 40 million downloads.

Mobile App Performance: Increase Retention in 5 Easy Ways

User retention is one of the most important app performance indicators. Retention can basically make a mobile app active for months – even years. This is important especially if the app is using the freemium model of monetization. Whales won’t normally spend money on an app as soon as they download it. It would take an average of 10 days before the conversion happens. But how do you increase retention? There’s certainly a formula to keep the whales in the app, right?


There’s actually no need for complicated implementation. It’s even possible that you know some (if all) of these strategies to increase retention. So without further ado, here are 5 easy ways to increase retention:


1.     Design an Easy User Onboarding

Easy, intuitive, and seamless – that’s what the onboarding experience should be. Difficult onboarding increases abandonment rates. A sign-up process with many steps and information fields is an example of a difficult onboarding. An effective onboarding, on the other hand, is achieved either through the following strategies:


  • Easy account creation and log in with multiple options for registration (through email, Facebook, etc.)
  • Offer a guest user option.
  • Offer an offline option.
  • Only offer tips/tutorials as applicable, not just in one go.
  • Easily adaptable gestures/actions.


Effective onboarding has a great impact on user retention and app revenue. This is through decreasing app churn and increasing LTV.


2.     Give Incentives

Incentives like exclusive content access, in-app item sale, and coupons drive engagement and conversion. This is especially true if you increase the anticipation for said incentives. A lot of game apps refill lives within a certain amount of time or give free coins for just logging in daily. The type of incentives you can use depend on the nature of your app. It can either be time-sensitive or usage/progress-based rewards.


3.     Gamify

Gamification encourages usage, especially if there is a social aspect to it. With games, competitive and co-op play are encouraged to increase retention. But with utility and business apps, gamification strategies increase retention by changing the way users respond to the app. About 89% of users said that incentives like points and rewards increase their engagement to an app. An increase in engagement reduces churn rate, therefore increases retention.


It is also important that the gamification elements you implement can add value to your app and appear natural.


4.     Push Notifications

Push notifications are often used to increase app engagement and re-engagement. But push notifications can also increase retention. On a study conducted over a 90-day period, apps without push notification capabilities only have 10% retention rate; apps with active push notifications, on the other hand, have 27% retention rate. About 78% of Android users opt-in for push messages while in iOS only 46% of users opt-in.


Push messaging is an important tool in the implementation of time-sensitive incentives, offers, and in-app events. Each notification should trigger users to return to the app over and over again.


5.     App Updates

Fresh and timely content can keep users interested. That’s why it’s important to regularly update apps to fit the needs and demands of your users. You can use mobile app analytics to track user behavior. This can give you an insight on what works for your users and what causes them to abandon your app. In order to get a closer insight, you can also comb user feedback from reviews in the app store, in-app feedback channels, and in social media. You can use any aggregated data to make informed choices on what to improve in the app.

Benefits of Mobile Apps for Business

Web presence is no longer enough, even for small businesses. The mobile shift is just too prevalent to ignore – doing so can cause businesses to lose their competitive advantage. Digital media consumption is now higher on mobile (51%) compared to the desktop (42%). In the US alone, B2C m-commerce sales are estimated to reach $83.93 billion with 4 out of 5 consumers using a smartphone to shop online. Businesses that aren’t able to reach their audience via mobile search, advertising, and apps are missing out on a huge chunk of business potential. The development of mobile apps for business isn’t just a trend (and it isn’t going away anytime soon), it is now an important part of business marketing strategies.


Aside from the obvious competitive advantage, what are the other benefits of having mobile apps for business?


Benefits of Apps for Business

Here are five of the benefits that we know so far:


Increase visibility and reach

App developers and marketers alike aim for app visibility. In order for customers to gain awareness, a product or service should be visible in the right places. Apps help in this regard through strong brand recall. The brand presentation isn’t in the context of the products but the other way around. As customers browse the app stores for similar apps they see first and foremost your brand’s name and app icon.


Another benefit is the increase in customer reach.  With the right targeting, an app can reach an audience that would most probably be your customers. Apps for business are more advantageous than ads since it can reach an audience that has an interest not on a single product, but on the brand itself.


Improve interactions with customers

It’s always nice to think that your product or service is a part of your customer’s daily life. Apps can make this possible by creating a direct link to your customers. Whether it’s them wanting to contact you, or you wanting to reach out to them, apps can create custom solutions for you. These apps can also encourage your customers to interact more with your brand in ways that can augment the brand’s image.


People expect quick actions, especially when they are the recipient of said actions. Apps can provide a channel for quick responses for queries, orders, purchases, and other transactions, cutting the time it would need for them to access any of your services. This can enhance your relationship with customers and avoid any misunderstandings that can take place.


Create a versatile marketing channel

Apps have a lot of potentials, especially B2C apps. You can implement and experiment with multiple marketing tactics on apps to help it augment your other marketing channels. Apps for business can have different functions. Apps can serve as the first step in the conversion funnel or the last – it all depends on what you want to achieve with the use of the app.


Provide value-added service

Aside from showcasing the products and services available, apps for business can be something more. As earlier mentioned, custom apps for business can have different functions. The app can serve as a tool for customers to check on reward points, updates on new releases, and sales. These features may appear as extras but they also add value to the app – value that not only drives conversion but also engagement.


Even for free apps, users demand a lot of value. But luckily, B2C apps can channel real-life value into the app. You can add and remove features as the need arises. For example, you can have discounts or giveaways at random intervals but the key features should remain. The thought of missing out new offers can encourage customers to check on the app often; so does the assurance that they can always depend on the app to deliver its main function.


Revenue boost

This may seem obvious but some still business owners still ask, “How?” The best way to earn with a B2C app is to implement purchasing capabilities for the said app. This isn’t to mean that apps for business that are mostly promotional in nature can’t drive revenue. There are several ways to monetize an app. Most of them work for B2C apps well enough to drive revenue independent from the app’s main function.


There are more benefits that aren’t mentioned here but the main point is that apps for business are now a powerful tool even for small businesses. Over the years, app development had become faster and cheaper, opening a lot of possibilities in the business front. Whether you are an app developer, an online marketer, or a brick and mortar business owner, take the time to consider if the development of custom business apps is the right thing for you.