Businesses are always looking for ways to connect with their customers and customers are always looking for good deals with area businesses.
Now there’s an app for that, too.
This weekend the Brainerd Dispatch is launching its My Access network, a collection of mobile applications aimed to connect consumers with lakes area businesses.
Brainerd Dispatch Digital Manager Phil Seibel said the main purpose of My Access is to offer a digital solution to area businesses that also benefits the community.
“It wasn’t just about us having a product that we would push out to people,” Seibel said. “It’s going to be a more interactive experience.”
Seibel said the move to build a network of mobile apps comes from a desire to stay on top of technology trends and still provide the resources Dispatch customers are looking for.
“Print is our tradition,” Seibel said, also pointing out the evolution of online presence and most recently mobile market presence.
“We need to find a way to combine all of those elements into one program,” he said. “Mobile has been the trending item over the last few months — it’s the way of the future.”
Seibel cited his own experience with the move toward a larger digital presence.
“My phone has kind of become my hub,” he said. “The more I can access through my phone the more I feel connected to the businesses in my local community.”
Seibel said the new mobile apps will be available to area business regardless of their technological prowess.
“It’s something where people don’t have to learn to build an app themselves,” he said. The app is independent of the Brainerd Dispatch mobile app and, while it is networked with My Access, each app is customized for each unique business.
My Access is completely free for consumer use. Apps support use on most smart devices including iPhone, Android, Blackberry and Windows Phone.
“It’s not at all what people traditionally associate with the newspaper,” Seibel said. “For years we’ve said we’re not just a newspaper — we’re a media company.”
The pilot program for My Access included Ernie’s on Gull and North Central Speedway and both apps were released Labor Day weekend. “They graciously offered to be our guinea pigs,” Seibel said.
Seibel said when North Central Speedway announced the availability of its app there were more than 300 downloads the same day.
“There’s a tremendous amount of interest,” Seibel said. “People are excited and I think they’re using it pretty regularly.”
With the Network set to launch this weekend, Seibel said Dispatch officials are anticipating a dramatic growth in the number of downloads and participating businesses. Businesses slated to launch their My Access mobile apps include Dan Kavanaugh Realtor, Spangler Contracting, Billy’s At Breezy, Cub Foods, A-Pine Family Restaurant, and Tim Roggenkamp, CPA.
Brainerd Dispatch Publisher Tim Bogenschutz said he hopes to see the app serve the Brainerd lakes area and beyond.
“Fifty percent of the adults from 18 to 44 adults own a smart phone,” Bogenschutz said. “That translates to an audience of 30,000 people who live here are smartphone users. That number triples in the summer.”
“We think we have a exciting service that with our ability to reach large audiences will help our customers reach their customers easier and more efficiently.”
Seibel said he believes My Access provides equal benefits to area businesses and consumers. “They can see the value,” said Seibel of consumer ability to track down deals, coupons and having a closer connection to area businesses. “It really makes it a community wide network.”
SARAH NELSON KATZENBERGER may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5879.