Man on Smart PhoneIf you thought apps were just for big businesses, think again. Companies of all shapes and sizes stand to benefit from these popular mobile programs. Here are just five reasons why your small business needs an app.

1. Apps Give Your Business Presence

Many small businesses feel that they needn’t bother with an app because they have a web presence. They might have even spent time customizing their website for mobile use. But an app has a much greater presence than a bookmark on a browser. Rather than being simply a URL on a list, your app is always there on the mobile desktop. Even if the people who download your app don’t open it every time they play with their device, they see its icon and think of your business. This is invaluable for building brand awareness.

2. Customers Love Apps

Giving your customers what they want is one of the best ways to build brand loyalty. And in the mobile age, what they want is apps. A study of 500 small businesses with both mobile websites and apps found that 81 percent of customers preferred the app. This makes sense, as people spend around 82 percent of their mobile minutes in apps, rather than mobile sites.

It doesn’t matter whether the customer has deep-seated brand loyalty or has just discovered your brand either. Eighty-six percent of small businesses believe apps are better for creating repeat business, and 75 percent said apps are better for generating new customers.

3. Customers are Searching for Apps

Once upon a time, if you weren’t featured prominently in a search engine, then your business would struggle to survive. However, the times are changing, and our behaviors with them.

Research suggests that by 2015, more than 780 million people will only use mobile devices. Since people spend so much more time using apps than mobile websites, it follows that search engine results will become less important than appearing in the app store. Increasing numbers of people are searching through mobile apps to find businesses that meet their needs. If they can’t find your small business in the store, they’ll simply look to your competitors.

4. Apps Get Your Message Heard

Small business professionals spend so much time applying what they learned about marketing during an MBA degree that it can be disappointing to discover just three percent of your customers are reading your promotional emails. With such a devastatingly low number of people even reading the messages, it’s not surprising to learn that emails are increasingly ineffectual way to engage customers.

That doesn’t mean that you need to give up though. You just need to change your tactics, and use apps to communicate with your client base instead. Mobile apps have push notifications built into the programs. This clever feature ensures that 97 percent of marketing messages sent via apps get read. With a much larger audience, you’ll see your conversation rate skyrocketing.

5. Investing in Apps Pays Off

One of the biggest barriers to developing apps is the perceived expense. However, DIY services let you create an app for less than a hundred dollars while independent developers will do the work for as little as a few thousand dollars. And even if you do intend to spend the big bucks, the success of some small businesses suggests this investment will pay off.

MyMovingReviews, an online business which rates and reviews moving companies, spent $24,000 developing an app to accompany its website. Its manager, Martin Panayotov, confirmed that the app paid for itself within 12 months. “Because of the exposure, we were able to increase brand awareness and help our website get more popular over time,” he said. “Having a mobile-app link on the homepage immediately makes you trusted in the visitor’s eye.”

It’s clear that no matter how small your business, it needs an app.

JT Ripton is a business consultant and freelance writer who enjoys writing about a variety of topics, business and technology being a couple of them. You can follow JT on Twitter @JTRipton.