Smart Phone Apps – Does Your Business Need One?

With all of the smart phones (iPhones, Androids, BlackBerry’s) being used by consumers today it seems you can download an app for just about any conceivable purpose. Many online functions such as stocks, banking, weather, and even ordering flowers, that have been traditionally assigned to computers are now being performed right from an individuals phone. There is no doubt that smart phone usage is increasing at an incredible pace, in 2009 alone, worldwide smartphone sales reached 174 million units!

So as a retailer, is the time right to make the investment and launch an app for your business?

First, keep in mind that if you have a website it will be viewable from a smart phone already, so some of your customers may already be browsing your website from their phone and possibly even placing orders. Unfortunately, most websites are not optimized for a 4″ screen so what might be user friendly on a 21″ computer monitor is not quite so easy to navigate on a smart phone. Yes, you can optimize your website for viewing on a smartphone, but even doing that is not the ideal solution. The real strength and advantage of a custom written smart phone app it is designed from the ground up specifically for ease of use on a particular device.

However, before jumping into the pool and rushing out to launch your own app, there are a lot of pros and cons to be considered, here are a few based on our own experience…..

Pros – √

Customer Loyalty – In theory if you can convince a consumer to select your app over others offered, actually download it, and most important keep it on their phone the chances are extremely good that you will be their retailer of choice for future purchases. Let’s face it, once they have it on their phone it can be a very convenient way to order or access product information when they don’t have access to a computer.√

Leader of the Pack – A smart phone app tends to be a major investment for a typical retail shop (or at least until someone designs a mass market affordable version) so it’s probably a safe bet that having one will set you apart from your competition in the eyes of some of your customers. In simple terms it’s trendy, particularly for the younger “Smart Phone Generation”. √

Instant Communication – Smart phone apps allow you to send instant “Push” messages right to users of your app. In simple terms a push message is like a text message and generally pops up right on their screen, potentially a great way to notify them of promotions, reminders, etc. As well, an app will allow more subtle communication in the form of “pull” messages, ones that only pop up when the user actually opens the app. √

Cons – X

Initial and Ongoing Cost- This is the big one as it can be fairly substantial, typically running into thousands of dollars with no guarantee of generating “additional” business or seeing a return on investment in a reasonable length of time. X

Marketing -Be prepared to spend time and money!

While your website can be found by anyone using a search engine the same cannot be said of a phone app. It will fall entirely upon you to get the word out and generate interest. You cannot rely on anyone stumbling across your app on say the iTunes app store. Here’s an eye opener…last count pegged the available apps for the iPhone at close to 300,000! Talk about a needle in a haystack. X

Distribution- Getting your app on to a consumer’s phone is a challenge, trust me on this one. First you have to let them know about it, secondly they must see some value in it, and lastly they have to invest the time to find and download it. The process requires a little effort initially on the part of the user. X

OS Incompatibility – An app written for the operating system (OS) of an iPhone will not work on an Android or Blackberry smart phone, and vice versa. Each smart phone OS requires its own app. X

Ongoing Commitment – Keeping an apps’ offers and products current takes time. Launching a smart phone app is probably not a great idea if you currently have a website and find you simply cannot invest the time required into maintaining and marketing it properly. X

Score so far, Pro’s 3, Con’s 5. So what’s the verdict?

Let’s look at a case in point, one close to home. In October of 2010 we launched our own iPhone app with high hopes and our fingers crossed. It is now five months later and where are we at?

In a nutshell, it has not grown our call center business as much as initially hoped and the lion’s share of our growth continues to be seen from our website. If I were to evaluate our iPhone app’s performance to date strictly from the point of revenue generated I would honestly have to say it’s a very poor investment in the short term. However, I suspect that in the longer term it may prove to be very similar to doing online business in the sense that in the infancy of the internet many retailers jumped in early and invested a lot with little return initially. Yet in today’s world having a website is as critical to many businesses as having a phone number. It simply took the consumer a bit of time to become comfortable with purchasing online. So on this one my fingers are still crossed.

If, after reading the above, you decide that you want to take the plunge, here are two suggestions that will help you develop or purchase a smartphone app that the consumer will see value in and choose over completing apps.

1) Give it away!

If you visit the iTunes app store there are now dozens of applications available to purchase products. Some of them are free, but many cost $0.99 – $2.99 to download. Trying to recoup the development cost of a retail app through selling it is a mistake; the goal must be to get your app widely distributed. As a retailer you are in the business of selling your product, not selling smartphone apps. As the number of users of your app grow so will your sales revenue.

2) Content, Content, Content!

Remember, regardless of the retail field you are in the competition for customers is almost certainly fierce, so you need an edge, a reason for a smart phone user to choose your app over you competitors.

The answer is simple, CONTENT!

Basing your app around content and providing information about the product you sell will provide users of your product one more reason on to download your app. Another case in point, our own iPhone app features over 300 pages of flower information and trivia with content updates on a regular basis. Again, the initial goal is to get your app onto a user’s phone. In the longer term they must have a reason to use your app on a regular basis, or they will delete it or simply forget they have it. So in this case, just like a website Content is King!

African Investing Part 1: Africa Is An Opportunity To Get Investment Right

Africa is a unique investment destination for many obvious and well discussed reasons. Perhaps the most obvious is the fact that it is now recognised as one of the last places on earth where super returns are possible.

Its uniqueness also derives from the fact that its geographic, infrastructural, cultural and political environments are very different, not only from developed economies and other emerging markets but, within the continent, from one country to another. So, what works in non-African markets cannot simply be imposed on Africa. Moreover, what works in one African country won’t necessarily work in another.

Super returns are indeed possible. But they can’t be achieved by a conventional approach to funding and investment.

Which is downright marvellous!

Because it means that people and institutions with money to invest have a chance to participate in the coming of age, after centuries of evolution, of the concept of investment finance – and, this time, to get it right.

Ad hoc is good, coherence is better

Historically, financing of projects, business, and growth has been an ad hoc process – driven by individual investors, human or institutional, making opportunistic decisions in search of profit. The ancillary benefits to investees have been a useful by-product, largely because more profit could be made if investees prospered. But pro-active creation of benefits for the investee was rarely the primary objective of an investment decision.

The invention of various types of financial tools and mechanisms has also occurred mostly in response to opportunity. Lines of credit, for instance, were first made available when knights off to the crusades found it too dangerous to carry their gold and silver with them. The Knights Templar stepped in by providing letters of credit that would be honoured in Jerusalem. In fact, the extended financial network operated by the Knights was an early form of banking.

One could say, I suppose, that there was a broader and faintly humanitarian motivation behind what the Knights Templar did – at least, from their point of view, in terms of keeping Christianity alive in the face of attack by the Ottoman Empire. But there was no thought of providing general benefits to the people of Europe and the Middle East, for whom the Middle Ages remained financially and otherwise extremely Dark.

Markets are good, communities are the reality

The point being that the willingness to provide money for the achievement of a specific purpose has arisen in relation to a specific need at a specific time, with no real coherence in the processes used or, more importantly, in the motivation driving the willingness.

People and institutions have always been motivated to risk their money on the chance that someone else will make more for them. They always will be. But they haven’t worked together in any coherent way, with a shared objective of building communities rather than simply markets.

As to coherence of process, that has developed gradually, at least in terms of creating global regulations that prevent the abuse of those in need of finance. That, though, deals only with the negatives of investment.

The difference that Africa makes to both motivation and process is that its own evolution out of millennia of oppression and conflict has peaked at exactly the point in time when the world is in a position to use in an integrated way everything it has learned throughout history about politics, medicine, technology, education, business, and money – for the greater good.

An economic conscience

Africa is an opportunity for the evolution of the human conscience to have no regrets – about the way Africa emerges from its own political and economic Dark Ages into an era of equality and equity.

Those of us in a position to provide the financial means for that emergence haven’t arrived on the continent in a galleon, having set sail from Europe to see if we would fall off the horizon. We haven’t marched into Africa with a Roman legion, trying to extend an empire.

Antibiotics and anaesthetics have been discovered. The human race has learned how to fly. We can light up the night, not with rushes soaked in oil, but with a switch on a wall.

We’ve learned so much. Specifically, we’ve learned so much about how to invest rather than exploit; about partnering rather than conquering; about the fact that capital is not only financial. It’s also human, social, environmental, and natural.

We’ve also learned that all forms of capital have to function together for any return we seek to be sustainable.

We know all this because our ancestors made all the mistakes. We don’t have to. What we need now, though, is the opportunity to apply what we’ve learned. Africa is that opportunity.

And here’s one example of how it can be done.

Restoration of a bread basket

Zimbabwe, once southern Africa’s breadbasket, has spent ten years in decline. Hyperinflation, sanctions, and internal political turmoil have decimated liquidity.

Two years ago, however, a power-sharing government was formed – and it dollarized the economy. The resulting stability has triggered a slow but persistent economic recovery, with growth being recorded at the end of 2010 for the first time in a decade.

Obviously, Zimbabwe’s neighbours have a vested interest in its recovery. So, in 2010, Zimbabwe and South Africa signed the Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Act (BIPPA) in order to create favourable conditions for investment between South Africa and Zimbabwe; provide security of tenure to South African investments in Zimbabwe; and unlock opportunities for the Zimbabwean local industry to access lines of credit from South Africa.

First of a kind

On 18th March 2010, the first deal to be done under BIPPA was signed into life – with South Africa’s Industrial Development Corporation of South Africa (IDC) providing a six year term facility of US$30 million to the Agricultural Bank of Zimbabwe (AgriBank).

Established 82 years ago, AgriBank is one of Zimbabwe’s oldest banks and is a leading provider of finance to the agricultural and industrial sectors. It also provides banking services to some of the country’s largest commercial organisations and, in recent years, has extended its client base to include the small and medium enterprise (SME) and consumer markets. In the process, it has developed one of the country’s largest branch networks. Increasing AgriBank’s own access to finance, therefore, holds extended positive repercussions for its client base throughout Zimbabwe.

AgriBank will use the IDC facility to on-lend to its blue-chip and medium-sized clients, some of which are listed on the Zimbabwean Stock Exchange – with a focus on increasing their production capacity.

US$20 million of the facility has been allocated to firms operating in the agri-business, manufacturing, and mining sectors. US$10 million will be on-lent to the Industrial Development Corporation of Zimbabwe.

The IDC Agribank deal is a significant step towards easing liquidity constraints for the Zimbabwean financial services sector and will, overall, assist in boosting economic activity in Zimbabwe.

In this particular instance, we and our Zimbabwean co-advisory partner, Neverseez Capital, arranged that the borrowing from the IDC not only be forwarded at competitive LIBOR-indexed interest rates but also be structured to ensure that a large portion of the funding will be used by Zimbabwean companies to purchase South African goods and services. The IDC facility will, therefore, also provide revenue opportunities to South African firms.

This is an example of getting investment right – in the sense that we, as Musa Capital Advisors, always advise our partners, clients, and competitors to link global capital (even when it’s right next door) to Africa opportunity in general and, wherever possible, to use investment to link African opportunities to one another.

Investment unity

The AgriBank IDC transaction goes well beyond simple investment, however. AgriBank’s main shareholder at the moment is the government. So opposition parties within that government had to come to the table to make the transaction happen.

In other words, the transaction brings together opposition views on Zimbabwe’s future as well as uniting commerce and government, commerce and the people, and a number of neighbouring countries – all with the single objective of bringing Zimbabwe back into the economic mainstream.

What was a breadbasket became a basket case. And with coherence of motivation and coherence of process aimed at making possible the right funds in the right place at the right time, Zimbabwe’s journey back to breadbasket is accelerated.

It’s an extremely practical example of how Africa provides the opportunity to get investment right.

Affiliate Marketing Online Business: 5 Crucial Steps to Take Before You Can Make Real Money With It!

There are so many people out there feeling excited about building their own affiliate marketing online businesses. However, most of them lack decent preparations. Therefore, the success rate is quite low. You need to know what it requires from you right before you begin your journey. Because it’s the only way that will guarantee you won’t end up hitting the wall!

1) Adopt the right mindset of a true business owner:

Because affiliate marketing is a real business. Don’t make the same mistake that so many people fell into when they dream about this wonderful opportunity. They think that the Internet, and online business are “magic wands” that can make them thousands “overnight.”

Fact? It’s a myth. It can only do so once you treat it seriously as a business and follow the next steps.

2) Write down the goals you want from it:

Yes, goal setting comes to save the day!

If you want to achieve something in your life, you need to have a clear picture of it. The same is true with your affiliate marketing online business. You properly want to make some extra cashes to support your life, your family. Or to make it enough to quit your boring daily job. Whatever it is, write down your final income goal. It’ll act as your destination to strike for.

3) Follow the proven way to start your business:

Totally from scratch! Don’t try to reinvent the wheel. Because it works well already!

The way it goes is like this:

Find out a profitable niche >> set up a squeeze page with a valuable free gift to give away to collect emails and build your list >> drive traffic to your squeeze page >> promote related products to your list.

4) Be prepare to invest your time and money:

There is no “free lunch” in the world. Period! Both time and money are valuable to you, right?

And by investing your money to the basics things like a domain name, a hosting account, an autoresponder service, and investing your time to learn the skills, you’ll accelerate quickly.

5) Finally, take actions:

Perhaps the most feared monster that eats countless of enthusiasm online venturers. People often fail miserably at this phase because their fears are bigger than the glorious light of victories. The secret to taking actions is to slice the big task down to smaller parts that you know it can be done, and try your best to complete them all. If you can do so, the big part will be completed itself.

There you have it. 5 important steps to take before you can make things happen with your affiliate marketing online business. But they’re only the beginning, because there are more things you will have to learn as you advance.