We're living in the age of the smartphone, and with that technology come the millions of apps we use collectively every day. According to Statista’s 2019 report, mobile app usage is on the rise, and it’s expected to climb further as millenials and Gen Z continue to show a preference for mobile apps over desktop software. From ordering lunch to managing investment portfolios to collaborating with teams on a project to maintaining (or starting!) relationships, it seems like there's an app for everything. But for the supplier diversity professional, an emerging app market is proving to be exciting and full of potential: apps that locate and identify minority-owned businesses for consumers.
How Diverse Supplier Mobile Apps Benefit Supplier Diversity Professionals
For supplier diversity professionals, the arrival of apps identifying minority-owned companies allows us locate potential new suppliers. Imagine if you had one of these apps downloaded and set to alert you when you're near a diverse-owned business. With that installed, you stop by your favorite bakery for a morning muffin, and suddenly you receive an alert—the bakery is owned by a minority! With this newfound knowledge, and your prior experience with its excellent customer service and quality products, you look up the company in your supplier database and begin exploring a contract for catering at your company's next event. All because you stopped for your morning carbs.
We've been talking about how consumers want to support diverse businesses and companies that embrace supplier diversity for a while, but now we're seeing tangible proof of that desire. The growth of these apps reflects the strong interest consumers—particularly millennial shoppers—show in supporting diverse businesses. Innovative tools such as Hootology's Supplier Diversity Impact Indicator can now measure how awareness of a brand's supplier diversity program influences consumer buying decisions. (It's worth noting that Hootology's visionary owner, Stefanie Francis, is LGBT, yet another example of how diversity can lead to innovation.) We're beginning to see a direct correlation between embracing an inclusive supply chain and capturing new customers, and that connection will only grow stronger as Gen Z becomes a consumer force.
A Closer Look at Diverse Supplier Apps
In the past couple of years, we've seen an increasing number of apps for diverse-owned businesses enter the marketplace. They are generally met with excitement and receive positive reviews from users. However, we are far from peak saturation.
Most of the apps available currently identify black-owned businesses, so there is plenty of room for developers to enter the market. Apps helping consumers locate and support women-, Hispanic-, Asian American-, LGBT-, veteran-, and disabled-owned businesses are needed and desired. Given what we know about the desire to shop at diverse-owned businesses, the lack of quality mobile apps with that information represents tremendous potential for enterprising app developers.
Let's take a look at a few established apps that have been well received and reviewed.
Official Black Wall Street
A spin-off of the original web-based directory, the BWS app benefits from a robust database of black-owned businesses. Consumers can receive alerts when a black-owned business is nearby and when a favorite business has new deals and updates. Business owners can use the app to offer special deals and communicate directly with consumers.
Launched at the end of 2018, Katika sets itself apart by focusing on businesses owned by the African diaspora (African, Afro-Caribbean, Afro-Latino, and African American). The name is derived from the Swahili word for “inclusive,” and the app seeks to organize and provide resources “to connect and empower spirited entrepreneurs of the diaspora.” In addition to a directory filled with businesses across the United States and around the globe, Katika allows businesses to sell products directly through the app.
The current list is short, but several other apps appear to be in development, particularly for women-owned businesses. Don’t sleep on ShopLatinx, a newly launched web-based directory that has potential as a mobile app. Another online directory to watch is WB Marketplace, a robust effort from WBEC South that could be the precursor to a mobile app.
With mobile app usage on the rise and increasing consumer interest in supporting minority-owned businesses, it’s only a matter of time before more apps connecting consumers with diverse businesses arrive in the marketplace. Now is a good time to familiarize yourself with what’s already available and how these apps can be used to enhance your supplier diversity program.