WASHINGTON DC: Small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) are rapidly adopting mobile apps, and increasing sales and improving customer service are the two main reasons driving the trend, a new survey has found.

According to research firm Clutch, some 42% of SMBs have already built a mobile app, but the proportion is expected to increase to 67% by the end of 2017.

For its 2017 Small Business Mobile Apps Survey, Clutch polled 355 small business owners and managers about their current use, and future plans, regarding mobile apps.

Clutch revealed that around half (49%) of those surveyed are dedicating in-house resources to support mobile app development and investment, and that increasing sales (39%) and improving customer service (30%) are the primary reasons for developing a mobile app.

However, the report added, the motivations driving small business investment in mobile apps appear to be shifting. For example, improving customer service (36%) is the top reason for SMBs that built apps in 2016, ahead of increasing sales (34%).

According to Cameron Banga, Project Manager and Co-Founder of Chicago-based 9magnets, a mobile app development firm, this shift reflects the growing number of small businesses entering the mobile app market.

"As time goes on, businesses are finding that just having an app isn't necessarily doing a lot of great work to their bottom line. People won't just go download your app because your business has an app," he said.

"I think these businesses are finding that having an app doesn't increase sales, but the customer service experience on mobile is definitely increasing customer satisfaction," Banga added.

The survey also asked small businesses about the features they most value about mobile apps. Social integration (20%) comes top, closely followed by mobile payment (19%), personalisation (15%), customer loyalty programs (13%) and location-based services (12%).

"Social media and mobile payment features are very easy to measure a return on investment, which is why I believe they were so valuable last year," explained Andrew Gazdecki, CEO of Bizness Apps.

"For mobile payments," he added, "calculating return on investment is just as easy. Small businesses can directly see how much revenue is flowing through their app."

Data sourced from Clutch; additional content by Warc staff