Every other week on my “Mario’s Top 3″ segment on the TODAY show, I highlight 3 things: a news story, a new technology, and a hot new app. When my social media accounts explode with viewer questions and feedback afterwards, the main topic is always “the app.” It’s hard to deny the excitement that a great new app suggestion can bring to people.

Businesses need to tap into that excitement. Apps can make employees more efficient and flexible, and they can help you reach customers in ways that were never before possible. But before you dive into building an app, consider these three points:

1. Why you might need an app

If you’re a B2C operation, it might be obvious that you need an app. A great mobile app can engage and interact with your customers around the clock. Even simple retail apps can provide valuable content and services, like store locations and hours, rewards club membership information, gift cards storage, and specials or promotions.

In B2B situations, apps are just as important. In the report, Transforming Your Organization with Mobility, ABI Research estimates that by 2016, 92% of all U.S. employees will have a smartphone. Think about how smartphones and apps could affect sales teams, who could have easy mobile access to company reports, brochures, videos and more. A remote team of repair technicians would benefit tremendously if they had access to the entire internal database of hardware or software manuals from their smartphones.

2. How mobile changes business

Just five years ago, we couldn’t have predicted that nearly every U.S. employee would soon have a computer in their pockets, powerful enough not only for data entry and editing documents, but able to do things like live-streaming HD video, seamless video-conferencing, managing inventory, responding to customer requests in real-time and more.

When your employees have that kind of power in a smartphone or tablet, new ways of doing business can emerge. Employees can be more efficient by handling tasks while at job sites. Employees can also work flexible hours, because they don’t need to be tied to an existing infrastructure or office. Plus, with a strong Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy in place, you can enable people to use their personal phones for work without the huge costs associated with new hardware purchases and roll-outs.

3. People expect apps

While the media focuses on the hottest new things, most customers simply expect that the brands they’re interacting with will have their own apps. But a lot of businesses haven’t managed to make that pivot or to find a compelling reason to provide an app for consumers. My advice? Start small! Find one pain point your customers experience that could be solved with an app, and give people a complete solution to that problem. Maybe it’s as simple as a retailer putting all of their coupons together in a single app that can be scanned at the register. The solution doesn’t need to be complicated!

Soon, all businesses, including B2Bs, will feel the same pressure to create apps. Start investigating now how you can make customer interactions easier or support your remote staff better with an app. If you wait until 2016, or when everyone owns a smartphone, it just might be too late to position yourself as a business that’s staying ahead of the curve.

Once you have an idea for an app for your business, where do you go next? Gartner has an excellent white paper that will help you understand the questions you need to ask potential app vendors, as well as tips to minimize your risks and cost!

 

Mario Armstrong, Digital Lifestyle Expert, is an Emmy Award winning, tech commentator for the TODAY show, CNN, HLN and Fuse. An entrepreneur by nature, Mario made his passion his career by quitting his day job and founding Mario Armstrong Media. Follow Mario at @MarioArmstrong. AT&T has sponsored this blog post.