The planet has an estimated 6.9 billion people. There are 5.2 billion mobile phone accounts and 3.7 billion unique mobile phone users. The discrepancy represents users who have more than one mobile device. Almost everywhere you go, you see people with their iPhones, Androids and Blackberrys texting, browsing the Internet, playing games and even watching TV episodes. Savvy businesses are realizing the importance of these devices and are developing technology to reach their customers via smartphones. Remodeling companies often choose whether to develop an application, a mobile-optimized website, quick response code, or any combination of the three. Each has its advantages.
Companies that choose to develop an app often start by developing an iPhone app, which can cost in the range of $30,000. Separate interfacing must be coded for Android and Blackberry apps, which requires additional costs to the iPhone apps and has a comparable price tag. Only 6.75 percent of mobile-device users have iPhones compared to 7.75 percent on Androids and 8.5 percent on Blackberrys.
NARI, Des Plaines, Ill., is in the infant stages of developing an app. “Our remodelers have been looking for a friendly way for consumers to find them and our supplier members,” says Gwen Biasi, NARI’s director of marketing and communications. NARI’s app will be developed for all three smartphone platforms. “Some of our research shows a lot of remodelers are still using Blackberrys right now,” she says. “We’re keeping our finger on it so we know whether Blackberrys are being phased out or the trend continues, so we can continue to cater to our audience.”
Mobile-enhanced sites automatically sense whether they are being viewed on a smartphone, tablet or other device and adjust for easier navigation on a smaller screen. Although not as powerful and unable to integrate as many features as an app, mobile sites reach more potential users and cost significantly less. Google recently expanded its Google Sites to include mobile templates, so companies can develop mobile-friendly sites at no cost. Users can select pre-formatted templates for features, such as landing pages, social interaction, lead generation and e-commerce.
“If small businesses are going to implement a mobile app for their customers to use, it is much cheaper to go with a mobile-friendly website,” Biasi says. “You can still place mobile-friendly websites on your site, make them downloadable and also include them in the various app stores.” Although all of NARI’s sites work on mobile devices, the organization is developing specific mobile sites to make them easier to navigate on a smartphone. NARIRemodelers.com is one example of a NARI mobile-friendly site.
Quick response codes, commonly known as QR codes, are gaining in popularity to easily direct mobile-device users to a website by scanning a barcode. Barcode scanner apps are downloadable in app stores for free. Bob Williams, chief executive officer and president of Star Construction Co., West Newbury, Mass., has been using QR codes for less than a year and currently includes them with electronic materials, such as the company blog, e-newsletter and website. “It’s mostly electronic stuff we’re doing at this point, which is the first step in implementation,” he explains. The company eventually will print QR codes on business cards, brochures and other collateral material. It also plans to include QR codes on jobsites and the company vehicle. “If somebody’s traveling down the road, they can take a snapshot with their cell phone and it’ll take them to our site. We connected with them and made it easy for them,” Williams says.
QR codes can lead to websites of the company’s choosing. For example, if Williams is working on a jobsite that uses an ICF foundation, the jobsite QR code might lead a user to the ICF manufacturer’s site, so he or she can learn more about what is being done.
Williams sees QR codes as a step in the progression to something bigger but believes they already are important. “I realize marketing is an ongoing and ever-changing endeavor for every company. Some of it is going to have very profound effects; others are going to have very minimal effects,” he says. “You need to measure and monitor to see whether it’s good, bad or indifferent, but you can’t ignore it.”