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April 20, 2012


4/14/2012 11:02:00 AM

Experts: Apps are one part of an overall marketing strategy By Anna Marie Kukec Daily Herald Business Ledger Writer

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Wheeling-based Lund Industries Inc. wanted to explore whether a mobile application would boost sales, or at least help market the maker of public safety equipment for vehicles. Owner Paul Lundberg and son Mike Malec, who handles sales and marketing, started tooling around on websites that offer free apps with co-branding or free trials. Some include, and Google Apps. “We wanted something quick and an easy way for our customers to access our information,” Malec said. But they haven’t found what they liked so far and are still trying to determine if it would benefit the business, he said. “Some apps can cost between $5,000 to $50,000 and we just want to see if it’s worth it or not,” Malec said. They aren’t alone. Other suburban business owners and chamber executives have been exploring or diving into the launching of mobile applications. The questions they raise now are similar to those they raised just a few years ago on whether to launch a website on the Internet, experts said. This time, instead of a website on a large computer screen, business owners are considering a new technology that offers smartphone and tablet users a chance to access information quickly and concisely anywhere and at any time, experts said. It’s also more complex since app designers offer an array of designs that could operate on any platform, including Google Android smartphones, Apple iPhone or iPad, or even

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Mark Welsh/ Michael Malec of Lund Industries sales’ department in Wheeling with Paul Lundberg, president of Lund Industries, with their app on the iPad. They look over the DataCart that they design and market through the iPad app.

RIM’s Blackberry. And once that’s selected, business leaders need to consider whether the app will just offer a smaller version of their website, become interactive and push out messages and coupons, provide videos, or other technology to engage their customers. Then there are others who just want the app to ease the duties of a mobile workforce, experts said. “It can be a turning point for an organization,” said Michael Klynstra, marketing director for Oakbrook Terracebased Geneca LLC. Geneca has worked on apps as part of an overall solution for several business customers, including Technomic, a Chicagobased food industry research firm. Geneca also helped develop one for Barringtonbased Page Foundry, which provides mobile apps and services for digital content that enable publishers, wireless operators, tablet The DataCart that Lund Industries design and market through the iPad app. and smartphone manufacturers to sell eBooks and audio books directly to their customers. Klynstra said apps could be as simple as providing a condensed version of the company’s website or as complex as offering features, including a surveillance camera, push-messages, videos and others. Costs can range from $1,000 to more than $100,000 or more. And it isn’t always easy to determine if the time and money invested in the app is worth it, since there is no data warehouse that monitors those successes or failures. “If a business is asking, ‘Do we need an app?’ Then that’s the wrong place to start asking,” Klynstra said. “They should be asking, with their business model, ‘What capabilities do we need to put into the hands of our users?’” So business owners, chamber executives and others are exploring whether it’s worth jumping onto the high-tech bandwagon.



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high-tech bandwagon. About two months ago, the Western DuPage Chamber of Commerce, which includes Warrenville, West Chicago and Winfield, launched its own app. It was provided by the chamber’s website developer. It highlights membership dues, the membership directory, upcoming events and coupons. “We honestly do not have any solid data yet as to its effectiveness. However, we have seen an increase of traffic to our website,” said Wayne Lofton Jr., vice president of marketing and technology for the Western DuPage Chamber. Monthly traffic on the chamber’s website has increased by 4.6 percent with unique visits, he said. “Our website has an integrated statistics page that rates many different statistics, such as unique visits, search engine results, time spent on page and time of day breakdowns,” he said. Still, the mobile app version provides an easy-to-use site for a viewer to quickly access information and not be bogged down by looking through the full-size version of the website, Lofton said. The Geneva Chamber of Commerce does not yet have an app. The chamber is working with a designer and a host company to sponsor an app for the town’s annual Swedish Days Festival and another one for shopping and dining in Geneva, said chamber Executive Director Jean Gaines. “It is difficult to know how effective the app will be but it is important to provide the public with easy access to information,” Gaines said. “We have to use all the tools, including the traditional print, radio and social media. It requires so many more resources but we also want to be competitive.” The Illinois Chamber of Commerce is developing a free app through Ora Interactive. It should be available in about a month via the Apple App Store. Anyone with an iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad will be able to download and use it, said Ora Interactive founder and CEO Mike Kelly. The user would see a short tutorial to help them understand who/what the state chamber is and how to use the app to influence litigation that may affect their small business, Kelly said. Ora Interactive has done apps for a number of Chicago businesses and organizations, including The Field Museum, Yield Technologies, Chambers Business Suites, Four Corners Tavern Group, The Lax Shop, National Collegiate Scouting Association, and the Young Adult Library Services Association. “Honestly, an app isn’t for every business,” said Kelly. “If you’re doing an app just to do an app, you probably won’t see much of a return on your investment. However, if a mobile application is a sincere part of your marketing strategy and creates value for your consumers, mobile can be an incredible place for you business to be.” Apps are always on, always connected, and a mobile device is the most personal connecting point you can reach your consumer, said Kelly “Mobile isn’t going anywhere,” Kelly said. “In fact, it will only become increasingly integrated into the purchasing habits of your consumers.” Steve Sampson, an Arlington Heights-based app designer who has created apps for Peggy Kinnane’s Irish Restaurant and Pub in Arlington Heights and others, said apps also can track the number of downloads, but not necessarily whether the user actually looks at the site. “Your ROI (return on investment) is in the number of downloads, and how users respond to your push notifications and coupons,” Sampson said. “What drives a customer to use your app is the likability factor. Many people download the app because they like your business.”

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