What is an App? A Guide for Small Businesses

what is an app

You’ve heard people talking about the latest mobile app. Or how they can download apps on a mobile device. But not everyone knows what these web applications are all about. Read on to find out everything you need to know about this software. Including the benefits of having an app working with your small businesses. And of course where you can find these products online. Plus which ones will help your business get to where it needs to be.

What is an app?

An app is a way people describe an application. Apps are software. Most of them perform specific tasks. Like PoS systems and payments processing products to name a few. Here’s a best of list most businesses will be interested in.

Why are apps important?

What is an App?

Mobile apps are important to your business. Consider the revenue from this type of mobile application was pegged at $318 billion in 2020. Those numbers include other types like desktop apps and web apps.

Here are five more reasons businesses need to use them. Keep in mind that an app should be part of a marketing effort that includes other tools. But you can always point a good app towards places like a website or Facebook page.

  • Data mining from mobile phones and Android users. Get a clear picture of customers’ mindsets. Using the right analytics can give you a good picture of how to tweak your marketing efforts.
  • Inventory Management Apps. Web-based apps like this will streamline your functions. Here’s a list of the top software choices. This is an excellent option for companies that have mobile sales teams. They can check inventory on the road before closing deals. Plus head office can order quickly and efficiently. Inventory management apps are perfect for just-in-time businesses.
  • Engineering apps are another example of how you can find mobile apps geared to almost any business. It’s not hard to find even a hybrid app that deals with any particular retail or another type of business. Don’t forget that you can get products that look after your inventory and even order.
  • The right app builds customer loyalty. The right mobile applications promote two-way communications.
  • The right mobile apps create direct marketing channels. The mobile devices they connect with get sales and promotions. You can get the word out on your app by promoting it. There are several ways to do this including your website. This can act as an online presence for your application and give it legitimacy. Social media is another excellent tool to get the word out about your application. You can mention it on your Twitter and/or Facebook page.

Where can you purchase apps?

You can download mobile apps from the online stores that sell them. Apple devices have a designated store. And then there’s Google Play and others. There are ones for everything. Even online banking apps exist.

Apple App Stores

The Apple app store allows developers to distribute any app they’ve built or designed. The App Store has helped them make $320 billion since 2008. Apple’s app store has almost 2 million apps.What is an App?

Google Play Store

There are 2 million apps and games here. Download mobile apps that support the most apps for Android. Businesses can get collaboration apps. And others like Adobe photoshop express editor. Unfortunately, Adobe photoshop sketch has been discontinued.

The Google docs app doesn’t share data with third parties. There are other word processor choices too like the business standard Word program.

Finally, here’s a neat trick. The Google Maps app has a click-to-map navigation feature. Get Inside Access and other features.

Microsoft Store

There are lots of e-commerce apps here. Even an app to write a business plan.

Windows Phone Store

These are geared toward Windows devices. Find some popular social sharing ones here like WhatsApp.

Opera Mobile Store

Download apps from this store that are browser-based. You don’t need to switch from app to app with Opera Browser.

Samsung Apps

This is the store to get an app for your Galaxy device.

What are apps used for?

What is an App?

Apps are used by individuals and businesses. This type of software program can help business owners run more efficient enterprises. A good web-based app can extend the reach of a business. Native applications can increase business functions.

Here are some other reasons to consider mobile apps and others.

  • A good web-based app can provide different services for a business on multiple platforms. Think CRM software and inventory management.
  • You can choose from various apps at the App Store for marketing programs. A mobile app enhances marketing and social activities.
  • A desktop application or an app for a mobile operating system makes it convenient to shop online. More apps equal more sales.
  • Android apps can complement your brick-and-mortar stores. Add in mobile websites and you have a good omnichannel business.
  • Get the right apps and you can monitor your customer relationships.

Finally, the right app with push notifications engages your target market on a mobile platform.

How do apps work?

As the name implies, mobile apps can run on your own or other electronic devices. Others like Microsoft Word run through a web browser. Mobile apps unload packages that transfer content to the storage of a smartphone.

Types of Apps

There are different types of apps. Some like desktop apps run through a web browser. Web apps are browser-based. And there are others designed specifically for mobile devices.

Web Apps

Web apps are designed for many reasons. They don’t need to be downloaded. A web app is kept on a remote server and delivered through an internet connection.

Examples include Firefox and Chrome.

Native Mobile Apps

These web applications are a big part of the smartphone revolution. Specific programming languages are used. These apps exist for Android devices like smartphones, and others.

Native apps are fast and reliable. It doesn’t matter which of the app stores you shop at. There are always many of these to choose from. And, they perform a variety of functions from entertainment to business-related themes.

Hybrid Apps

Download these from an app store. Hybrid apps get installed on local electronic devices. The native app “shell” then connects through an invisible browser.

They are web apps containing a native app shell. They offer offline access and integrate with web browsers and other services.

Progressive Web Apps

These use features specific to web-based apps and others found in native applications. This type of software should be discoverable through search engines. And network independent so it works offline.

Desktop Apps

These desktop programs are software that run on a computer to perform a task. Think Microsoft Word. Other apps included in this category include ones for internet access like Chrome. These are some of the more common products and the ones that are quite reliable.

Legacy Apps

An outdated web-based or mobile app. A software program written for use on earlier operating systems is an example. Many of these products are still in use today although there are more recent versions available.

Type of AppDescription
Web AppsBrowser-based apps that are accessed through a web browser. They don't require downloading and are stored on remote servers, delivered through an internet connection.
Native Mobile AppsApps specifically designed for mobile devices like smartphones. They are developed using specific programming languages and offer fast and reliable performance. They are available for download from app stores and offer a wide range of functions.
Hybrid AppsApps that combine elements of web apps and native apps. They are downloaded from app stores and installed on devices, utilizing a native app shell to connect with web content. They offer offline access and integration with web browsers and services.
Progressive Web AppsWeb-based apps that incorporate features of web apps and native apps. They are discoverable through search engines and can work offline. They provide an enhanced user experience similar to native apps.
Desktop AppsSoftware programs that run on computers to perform specific tasks. They are typically installed on the local system and can include applications like word processors or internet browsers.
Legacy AppsOutdated web-based or mobile apps that were developed for earlier operating systems. They may still be in use but have more recent versions available.

What is the difference between an app and a website?

In today’s digital landscape, businesses and individuals have various options when it comes to establishing an online presence or delivering content to users. Two popular choices are mobile websites and apps.

While both serve the purpose of reaching and engaging with audiences on mobile devices, they differ in terms of accessibility, functionality, and user experience. Understanding the distinctions between mobile websites and apps is crucial for making informed decisions regarding the best approach for your specific needs.

In this discussion, we will explore the characteristics, benefits, and considerations of mobile websites and apps, helping you determine the most suitable option to achieve your goals.

Mobile Websites:

    • Mobile websites are designed to be responsive, meaning they automatically adjust and scale to fit the screen sizes of different devices.
    • Users can access a mobile website directly through a web browser without the need to download or install any additional software.
    • Mobile websites are typically a collection of interconnected web pages, allowing users to navigate through different pages and interact with the content.
    • Users can engage with mobile websites by providing comments, filling out forms, or interacting with various features and functionalities.


    • Apps, whether native, web, or hybrid, require downloading and installation onto a device such as a smartphone or tablet.
    • Native apps are specifically developed for a particular operating system (e.g., Android or iOS) and offer optimized performance and integration with device features.
    • Web apps and hybrid apps can be stored on remote servers and accessed through app stores, but they still require installation on the device.
    • Unlike mobile websites, apps provide a standalone user experience, often offering more advanced functionalities and offline capabilities.

It’s important to consider these differences when deciding whether to develop a mobile website or an app based on the specific needs and goals of your business or project.

Can apps help you operate businesses from mobile devices?

There are several different ways that an app can help your business.

  • Small businesses can hire app builders who can design loyalty programs. One of these programs allows your business to connect with your customers at any given time in any way. Some of the most popular tools here are coupons and codes as well as free services or products. Access to limited offers and pre-sells are also good methods to use.
  • An app can improve efficiency. For example, you may create a work schedule app to help employees track time and stay on task.
  • They provide value for your customers. The better your app, the more customers will interrelate with your services and products. Offering rewards exclusively to app subscribers is another good idea.
  • A good app can also help you build a much stronger brand. Getting the word out on your goods and services helps you to foster trust in your target market. Mobile apps are the calendars, fridge magnets, and memorabilia of the digital world. Here’s a tip. Make sure that your branding has the same logo across websites, printed material, and your mobile app. Consistency is one of the keys to better sales using these tools.
  • The right app can also help you boost profits. A good companion to any responsive website is a good mobile app. Having this kind of app also takes away the need to have a secondary mobile website. These can often be a problem to manage.
  • An app can also help you connect better with your target market. Having good customer service is about much more than just smiling sales associates. Remember that recent statistics point to the fact 2.6 billion people have mobile devices.
  • It’s good to be visible to your customers all the time. Regardless of your target market statistics say Americans spend about three hours and 43 minutes every day on a mobile device.

You should also check out the kinds of password apps available. Here’s a list of the top ones for 2023.

information on apps

More Functions and Capabilities of Apps

In today’s digital age, apps have become an integral part of our daily lives, transforming how we interact with technology, both personally and professionally. They offer innovative solutions, streamline business processes, and enhance personal productivity.

Whether it’s for managing finances, improving customer engagement, or simply organizing daily tasks, apps cater to a wide range of needs and preferences. Let’s explore more about the the dynamic world of apps and how they can propel your business and personal life into a more efficient and technologically advanced future.

  • Customization for User Preferences: Apps often offer personalized experiences, allowing users to set preferences and tailor the app to their specific needs.
  • Integration with Other Services: Many apps seamlessly integrate with other services and tools, enhancing functionality and user convenience.
  • Location-Based Services: Apps can utilize GPS technology to offer location-specific features, such as finding nearby businesses or providing location-based reminders.
  • Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR): Some apps incorporate AR and VR technologies for immersive experiences, especially in gaming and education.
  • Voice Command and Control: Voice-enabled apps allow hands-free operation and accessibility, increasing usability for a broader range of users.
  • Real-Time Updates and Notifications: Apps provide instant updates and notifications, keeping users informed about important events, messages, or changes in real-time.

The Benefits of Apps in Business and Everyday Life

  • Streamlining Business Processes: Apps can automate and optimize various business operations, from project management to customer relationship management.
  • Enhancing Customer Engagement: Businesses use apps to engage with customers through personalized content, loyalty programs, and interactive features.
  • Data Analytics and Insights: Apps can gather and analyze data, offering valuable insights into customer behavior and business performance.
  • Remote Working and Collaboration: Apps facilitate remote work by providing tools for communication, file sharing, and project collaboration.
  • Educational and Training Tools: Educational apps provide interactive learning experiences, making education accessible and engaging for users of all ages.
  • Health and Wellness Monitoring: Health-focused apps track physical activity, diet, and even mental health, promoting overall well-being.

Further Considerations in App Development and Usage

  • User Privacy and Security: Apps must prioritize user privacy and data security, adhering to regulations and ensuring the safe handling of sensitive information.
  • Cross-Platform Compatibility: Developers often design apps to be compatible across multiple platforms (iOS, Android, web) for broader accessibility.
  • Sustainable and Ethical Development: Ethical considerations in app development include sustainability, inclusivity, and the impact of technology on society.
  • Continuous Improvement and Updates: Regular updates are crucial for apps to remain relevant, fix bugs, and introduce new features based on user feedback.
  • Marketing and Promotion Strategies: Effectively marketing an app is essential for its success, involving strategies like app store optimization, social media marketing, and user engagement campaigns.
  • Monetization Models: App developers consider various monetization strategies, such as in-app purchases, advertisements, subscriptions, or freemium models.

Expanding your knowledge and understanding of apps allows you to better leverage their potential in business and everyday life. From enhancing user experiences to driving business growth, the power of well-designed apps is immense and continually evolving.

Image: Envato Elements

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Rob Starr Rob Starr is a staff writer for Small Business Trends and has been a member of the team for 7 years. He is a graduate of Ryerson University in Toronto with a Bachelor of Journalism degree. His print credentials include employment with various Toronto area newspapers and three works of fiction: The Apple Lady (2004), Creekwater (2006) and Sophistry By Degrees (2008) published by Stonegarden Press In California.