Add a mobile app to your social media arsenal

Publish Date: 
Jun 29, 2011
By Cynthia Furey

You may wonder why you’d need to invest in a mobile app when your store website displays fine and dandy on every smartphone you’ve tried.

“There are two reasons, really,” says Jeff Dobish, executive vice president of marketing for Specialty Reports Inc. “With a mobile app, you don’t need Internet connectivity. For mobile sites, you do.” Instead of queuing up a mobile site through a browser, apps are downloaded onto the phone itself.

Mobile apps, Dobish continues, are also built to display optimally on smartphones, whereas a website may not. This allows them to be more interactive than websites, acting like one-stop shops that provide customers with store information, news, videos and social media updates, along with the marketing ease of “push notifications,” which are SMS text-like messages you can send to your customer base.

These apps can be as easy to create as they are to use. Specialty Reports Inc. has developed Specialty Mobile Apps, an app engine designed specifically for dealers — it’s even molded by feedback from dealers themselves. You’d need only log on, choose your app features, plug in your store information and photos, and publish. Reps from Specialty Reports take care of everything else, including getting apps approved by the Apple and Android powers that be.

Once approved, people can download the app onto their smartphones.

“We’ve designed the platform for dealers to be self-sufficient,” says Tony Havens, president and CEO of Specialty Reports. “To give them full functionality in their control. They can make changes independently.”

Both Havens and Dobish agree, this self-sufficiency is what sets Specialty Mobile Apps apart from the other option of developing an app the old-fashioned way: Hiring a designer and developer, which can cost upward of thousands of dollars. “And if you need to make any changes to the app later on, whether hours, or phone numbers, that’s an additional cost,” Havens says. “They make it so you’re dependent on them.”

Specialty Mobile Apps’ pricing is $1,999 for the initial setup fee, plus $99 per month to maintain the app. “And the pricing includes everything present and future. You get it all,” Havens says, adding that the program might even save you some money down the road in terms of eliminating marketing mailers to your customer base. “How many customers do you accumulate throughout the years, and what is it costing you in terms of paper, postage, time and energy to stuff envelopes and get them out the door?” Havens asks. “In a mobile app, you can push those messages for free.” One can even schedule short-notice messages to go out to customers. For example, you can send out a message that advertises something like “all oil changes are 50 percent off for the next three hours.” You also can send out personalized greetings to customers.

Other customization features include links to your Twitter and Facebook pages, places for video, photos, and a section where one can upload their new and used inventory. “If a dealership wanted to add Twitter, all they’d have to do is add it, and boom, they have it,” Dobish says. In all, there are around 20 customizable options, along with the ability to customize the overall look of the app, as well. “We’ve future-proofed the investment,” Dobish continues. “So when the latest and greatest smartphone platform comes out next, it’s included in the price. It’s automatically going to be added.”

Havens also believes the app can be useful to OEMs. “If an OEM wanted to have their thousands of dealers’ pre-owned inventory feed to their corporate app, [people can go] into that app and search for a model and color and find it in the dealer network,” Havens says.

To market your newly created mobile app, Specialty Mobile Apps provides email content that dealers can copy and paste into messages to their customer base. There are also posters with QR codes on them that dealers can hang in their stores. Customers with smartphones can scan the QR codes, which automatically download the mobile app onto their phones.

“If you can upload a picture onto your computer, you are now a Specialty Mobile App genius,” Dobish says. “It’s that simple.”

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