Here are some recent headlines spotted in UK newspapers:
It’s no surprise that as a result, many business owners are enticed by the profits from app development. They want to know how they can “get an app done” for their business.
This is one of the more common requests we receive. In fact, the word “app” is just thrown around as a request, most of the time without a real understanding of what it means.
While the word “app” generally means any piece of software, these days people use this word to refer to software that runs on mobile devices such as smartphones, tablets, and other handheld gadgets.
In the US, mobile app usage (94 minutes per day) had already beaten internet usage (72 minutes per day). It’s also projected that by 2014, mobile web usage will overtake desktop web usage - which means that consumers will be increasingly dependent on their mobile devices to access the internet.
Naturally these impressive numbers makes it tempting for organisations to want to jump in on the trend. But not so fast - is a mobile app really crucial to your business? The answer to that is not always a ‘yes’.
An app is simply a marketing tool. Like any tool, it’s useful for some businesses, but not all. It can help you reach some of your objectives, but it’s not a quick-fix for all of them.
So if you’re considering getting an app built for your business, it’s best to ask these questions first:
Who is your target market?
Determining who you want to reach will help you see if an app is a wise investment or not. Take note that the majority of smartphone users (62%) are aged 25 to 34 years old. If you want to reach this specific age group, then an app could be a good investment.
But you also need to assess specifically how many of your 25-34 year old customers actually use smart phones. Plus, you need to know what they use it for and which platforms they are using. This could be done easily with a customer survey.
Unless you have the necessary facts about your target customers’ mobile usage, it would be unwise to assume that they would want to use your app.
What do you want to achieve?
Apps are versatile, but this doesn’t mean that your app should be able to do everything at once. For simplicity, design it only to achieve one or two of your major business goals. Here are some suggestions to get you started:
- Brand recognition. Do you want the app to be a way to promote your brand, and make yourselves stand out from your competition?
- Maintain customer loyalty. Do you want the app to encourage recurring visits, purchases, or revenue from customers?
- Encourage direct mobile purchase. Do you want your customers and users to buy your products/services more easily through their phones?
- Spark social media interaction. Do you want the app to encourage users to share your content - and therefore, your branding - with the friends, family, and other connections they have on social media?
- Additional source of revenue. Are you planning on releasing the app as a separate paid product by itself?
Just pick one or two from the list above and focus on that. Otherwise your app might be too bloated or worse, too complicated for your customers to use.
What benefits can your app offer to your target customers?
People download and use apps only if they find value in it. What value can your app give them? How will it enrich their lives, solve their problems, or help them reach their goals?
As an organisation, you need to know the answer to that before you invest in an app. Here are some possible benefits that your customers may be looking for:
- Convenience is the main advantage customers want from transactional apps, which allow them to purchase products directly from their mobile device. The smoother and easier the transaction, the more valuable your app is.
- Getting on-the-go entertainment is another reason, so if your business is relevant to entertainment, an app would be a good way to capitalise on that.
- Receiving up to date information and real time news, whether it’s about your product, your community, and/or other topics important to your customers.
- Getting customised content is also important to users. The more tailored an app’s content is to their needs and preferences, the more likely they are to find it useful.
Do you have the budget for it?
There are many things to consider when setting aside a budget for app development. A simple game application can cost at least $10,000 (£7,000). A simple table or database-related application can cost you much less. A fully branded app with social media integration, full-features, and rich graphics can even reach up to $250,000 (£166,000).
Platform compatibility also affects an app’s cost. Which devices will your app run on? Some of the main options are iOS devices, Android, and Blackberry devices. You also need to consider other platforms such as Microsoft, Nokia, and Samsung if you want a wider reach, but this will increase your costs. Better to start with one or two key platforms and see if there’s a demand for compatibility with others.
Mobile Websites Versus Apps
Before spending on developing an app, you might consider creating a mobile version of your website instead. Sometimes it can be more practical to do so.
Mobile websites are easier to recreate and a lot cheaper. If you don’t have the budget to develop an app, then test out this format first. Besides, if your website already answers the basic needs of your customers as it is, then there’s hardly a reason to shift to an app platform.
Businesses That Got it Right
Starbucks created an app in 2011 that combines a mobile payment system and a loyalty rewards programme. Customers are given a digital wallet that allows them to get a cup of coffee cashless at any Starbucks branch. They also get a star for every cup they buy that can be accumulated and exchanged for a reward. The app generated 26 million transactions which amounted to $110.5 million (£73.2 million) in revenue in less than 12 months.
Travel website TripAdvisor also came up with a successful app called SeatGuru. This app allows travellers to search for flights, check flight status and pick the best seat via a high resolution seat map. The app is available to anyone and can be downloaded at no cost, yet its official site (SeatGuru.com) is generating around $500 (£330) a day in advertisement revenue alone.
Audi naturally picked a car racing game app to establish its brand in the automobile world. Gamers tilt their phone like a steering wheel to get through all five racing courses. The idea is to give users the rush and the taste of what it is like driving an Audi A4. The Audi A4 Driving Challenge app has been downloaded by more than 3.5 million users.
As you can see, an app could greatly improve your typical customer experience, broaden your company’s branding, and may even raise your profits. But the best way to ensure these positive results is to get to know your customers deeply, and then plan an app that they’ll find extremely valuable.
Could your business can benefit from an app? Contact us for a free mobile-ready assessment which will include recommendations of the most suitable mobile solutions for your business. Or get an overview of our mobile solutions here.