Does my Business Need an App?

May 19, 2016

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One of the keys to making your small business more successful is effective marketing. Digital platforms provide one of the most popular marketing channels available, meaning that a strong digital presence is one of the most important things for any small business.

An effective digital presence will always start with a good website. More often than not, though, websites are created with the large screen space of desktop computers in mind. Mobile devices, such as smart phones and tablets, have quickly become the preferred platform for internet usage, however, meaning that the method of content delivery needs to change somewhat.

Responsive websites provide a part of the answer, as they take the content that is already on your website, and display it in a resolution and layout that is appropriate to the smaller screen size. Apps are also an option, as they provide a dedicated marketing channel, designed specifically to show off your product or service on mobile devices. While a website is currently a business necessity, having your own app is optional, which raises the question ‘Does my business actually need an app?’.

The internet abounds with statistics that show the boom in mobile internet and app use. One of the most eye-opening stats is from Apple, that shows the rise in app downloads since the App Store’s inception in 2008. Between June of that year, and June of 2015, a staggering 100 billion apps had been downloaded! What’s possibly even more impressive is that a quarter of those downloads happened in the last year of that period. Android has had more than 50 billion downloads as well, which aren’t taken into this count, so you can get a good idea of how popular and lucrative the mobile app market is, if you factor those in.

People are currently spending more than four and a half hours per day on their smart phones, and it is estimated that over 90% of that time is spent using apps. Apps provide streamlined, targeted content, with minimal data usage, making them the preferred mode of interaction on mobile devices.

With those kinds of stats, it seems like a no brainer! Every business should have an app, right?

Well, no.

While apps can be a veritable boon for some businesses, like retail and educational businesses, they can amount to an expensive virtual paper-weight for others. When you consider whether an app is right for your business, there are a few things you should ask yourself.

Firstly, and most importantly, is:

‘Why do I need an app?’

It’s perhaps the most simple question you could ask, with probably the most complex and difficult answer. This question opens a whole can of other-question-shaped worms, that really need to be answered to figure out if your app will be a success.

Apps are inherently experiential, in that they require user interaction. Therefore, your consumers, or end users, are the key focus of your app. Apps, from a user’s point of view, need to be functional, well designed, and provide a fulfilling experience. To see whether an app is appropriate for your business, ask yourself these three questions:

  • Is an app the best way to offer content to my customers?
  • Does my app offer something different to my website?
  • Does my app offer a simplified, streamlined, or unique experience for my customers?

You need to be able to provide a resounding ‘Yes!’ to all three of these questions. If not, then you, and your marketing budget, may be better served by concentrating on optimising your website, and making it responsive.

From your business’s standpoint, the most important question to ask is:

  • What will an app achieve for my business?

When it comes down to it, there needs to be a fiscal reason for having an app. In addition to serving your customers, your business will want to see a return on investment. Will having an app help you with customer acquisition and retention, or drive sales?

Apps are generally fairly expensive to develop, which can be an impediment to many small businesses. You will also need to take the necessity to adapt apps to suit both smart phones and tablets, on both Android and Apple operating systems, into consideration. While the sheer expense of creating an app is the biggest negative, there are many positive reasons that offset this, and make having an app more attractive for your business.

One of the most beneficial aspects to having an app is visibility. Once your customer has downloaded your app, they will see your logo almost every time they use their phone. This keeps your business front of mind for the next time your goods or services are required.

Customer engagement is often improved by the use of apps, too. By removing roadblocks, such as the necessity to enter login or personal details at every transaction, you make sales or conversions much easier, and therefore more likely.

Apps also provide a direct marketing channel, allowing you to advertise your goods and services, as well as time-sensitive information, to your actual participating demographic. If a person has taken the time to download and use your app, they are already emotionally invested in your business. By providing up-to-date marketing, you can encourage continued sales.

It’s important to remember that apps aren’t a fad. They’re a legitimate platform for interaction between business and consumer, and they’re not going away any time soon. While there is no concrete answer to whether your business needs and app or not, it is definitely something for you to consider as your business grows.

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