Designing an app for your store can be pricey—we found quotes starting at $15,000 for a multifunctional app with Internet connectivity, interactive features, multiple screens and a full database. But it’s not a good idea to cheap out—Casey Ayers, president of Jacksonville, Fla.-based app-developer MegatonApps, warns retailers away from companies selling “app wrappers,” which basically just bundle your website’s content into an iPhone-friendly interface. “All these do is display web content,” he says.
Instead, Ayers recommends using existing apps for maximum benefit. But if you decide to partner with an app company, experts recommend you don’t sign anything more than a month-to-month contract. The technology game is changing rapidly, and you don’t want to be tied to a loser. Another option is to hire a social-media strategist or app company for a few hours of app strategy. Consultation rates range from $75 to $150 an hour.
If this all seems a little daunting, do as retail consultant Debby Swoboda suggests: Find an enthusiastic business intern to help run your growing social-media empire, or ask your iPhone-carrying Gen-Y cashier to help you out for a few hours a week. But beware that in the rapid-fire public-relations minefield of blogs, tweets and twits, it only takes a few careless words to create problems. “It’s like hiring someone to run your cash register,” Swoboda says—choose somebody loyal and socially savvy, and don’t forget to give direction.