Small Businesses Harness Mobile Apps to Increase Customer Engagement

There's an app for that--and small business owners better make sure that is true for them.

According to Mashable, 96% of small businesses already use mobile technology to power their business. The same study also found that three-fourths of small businesses use mobile apps, and that a third of small businesses say they'd struggle to get by without mobile apps.

And thanks to tools like iPhone's AppMakr or Google's App Inventor , small businesses on a tight budget can easily make an app suitable for their needs.

Check out three small businesses that are using mobile apps to engage and grow its customer base.

Meet Moi

MeetMoi calls itself the anti-online dating online dating.

"The premise that if prospective daters could meet enough interesting people in person, they would never need to go shopping on the Web for singles,"  said CEO Alex Harrington.

The location-based mobile dating company was founded in 2007 with the mission to transform interactive dating through the integration of mobility.

Single people cross paths everyday, but obstacles like social conventions make it hard to form a personal connection. "There are interesting people on every crowded subway platform and in every airport lounge, not to mention in coffee shops, bars and the office down the hall. But without impeccable timing, x-ray vision and a lot of chutzpah, it's very hard to meet them," said Harrington. Supply and demand isn't the problem in the dating world, but efficiency.

The MeetMoi mobile app was created by an in-house developer and automatically gathers the location of all members so users don’t have to worry about manually 'checking in' or updating their location. The app even features "NOW" matching, where the app alerts you if you are within 100 yards of another MeetMoi customer you are compatible with.

When MeetMoi introduces members, both must agree to the match before communication occurs so there is no uninvited contact. To protect privacy, a user's exact location is never shared.

"We're very conscious about privacy and security and once people understand how it works, any concerns about invasiveness go away."

Harrington advised other budding entrepreneurs to think of an app as an extension of their business storefront.

While other dating sites offer matches based on city and proximity, MeetMoi claims to be the only dating company with this type of mobile technology that persistently records its members locations.

Mobile apps aren’t they only form of new media MeetMoi integrates into its business model. It also has a growing presence on Facebook and Twitter and expects to launch a blog this summer.

88Nine Radio Milwaukee 

In the age of iTunes and Pandora, radio stations might sound obsolete, but 88Nine RadioMilwaukee has found that if radio stations embrace--rather than resist--new media, they'll maintain relevancy.

88Nine RadioMilwaukee which took to the airwaves in February 2007 and has a unique broadcasting business model that targets radio listeners on air, online and in the community.

In late 2010, 88Nine RadioMilwaukee hired a local developer to create an app for the station and soon after it launched an app which streams the live programming.

"The response was amazing. Within a few weeks, we had over 1,000 downloads," said  DJ Tarik J Moody.

88Nine RadioMilwaukee is currently working on version 2 of the app, which will feature an interactive playlist. Users will see the songs playing and can purchase songs on Apple's iTunes store.

Extreme Broadband Engineering

Extreme Broadband Engineering might not be a household name, but there is a good chance it's products are in your house.

"Chances are good we are behind your TV set and in your walls," said CEO Jay Shapson.

Extreme Broadband Engineering is an engineering and manufacturing company for the broadband and communication industry and makes CATV products such as splitters, amplifiers and enclosures.

Extreme Broadband Engineering created an app called the "Extreme Broadband Mobile Trainer" to support the thousands of people who use their products every day.

"Competing in a low-cost, high-volume market we needed to find a competitive age, " said Matt Shapson, project manager and son of CEO Jay Shapson. Matt Shapson says, "We have been able to deliver high-quality, uniquely-designed products and now, mobile apps to support the men and women who use our products day in and day out."

The app, which was designed by an outside vendor named Persource is multi functional and offers training videos, installation guides, quizzes and even industry calculators for installers.

"When we publicly announced the Extreme Broadband Mobile Trainer at the Cable Tech Show in New Orleans this past May, it drew huge crowds and obtained over 2,000 downloads during the show," said Shapson.

Shapson credits part of the apps success to its multi-platform functionality; the app is available on the iPhone, iPod Touch, Blackberry and the Android.

You named your small business, you set up a Web site, and you even started seeing profits from it. What's next? You could set up a profile page on a social networking site, such as Facebook or Myspace. And/or you may want to head to Twitter, the member-based site that boasts of allowing you to virtually shout your company's message from a technological rooftop.

Every week, Fox Small Business Center will highlight companies that are making their brand known through social media. As small businesses, you are on the frontlines of re-starting our economy, and we want your voice to be heard.