Does Your Business Need a Mobile App?

by Granville Triumph

Many businesses view the mobile app as one of those shiny new objects – a must-have if you hope to stay competitive. It’s only natural to want to place your business on a device that the average person refuses to put down.

Unfortunately, too few business owners have a firm grasp of what it takes to make this particular shiny new object successful. This is why only 20 percent of mobile apps are downloaded more than 1,000 times, resulting in a colossal waste of time and resources.

According to a recent study by app analytics company Flurry, consumers spend an average of two hours and 38 minutes per day using their smartphones and tablets. 80 percent of that time is spent inside apps, compared to 20 percent on mobile browsing. Most experts agree that apps provide the best customer experience.

Does this make the decision to create an app for your business a slam dunk? Not necessarily. The world of apps is intensely competitive. First, you need to answer a few important questions.

Who are your customers, and how do they prefer to engage with your company?

Digging deeper into the Flurry study, nearly a third of the time on mobile devices is spent playing games, followed by Facebook at 18 percent, entertainment apps and utility apps at eight percent each, non-Facebook social networking at six percent, and productivity and news apps at two percent each.

To find out if there’s a market for your own app, you need to identify your audience, how they use apps and how they are most likely to engage with your company.

What is the business goal?

Are you trying to make your brand more valuable by providing something that users can’t get from your website? Are you trying to provide the same content but with a simpler, smoother user experience, like many social media and news platforms? Are you trying to create an advertising revenue stream?

What will your app provide that your customers want and need?

Your app must offer something helpful, entertaining or completely unique, and it must do this constantly. In other words, you need to give people a reason to keep coming back. Keep in mind that real estate on the mobile screen is limited. If you have an app that users find important enough to include on their mobile screens, you’ll have an incredibly valuable business tool for holding a captive audience.

Would your app provide anything of value that you couldn’t provide on a mobile website or through responsive design?

A mobile website is separate from the desktop version of your website and customized specifically for mobile browsing. Responsive design uses your desktop website and adjusts how content is displayed based on screen size to deliver a consistent experience across all devices. What will your app offer that these alternatives could not?

After all, mobile web browsing is completely open, with no downloads or special software required. It’s easy for both customers and search engines to find a mobile website and responsive design site, both of which are relatively simple to create and update.

On the other hand, apps must be downloaded and should be optimized for iOS, Android and other mobile platforms. Search engines don’t detect them. Although self-service platforms exist, the cost to develop an app ranges from $1,000-$5,000 for the simplest of apps to tens of thousands of dollars or more depending on complexity.

It’s usually a good idea to make sure you have a website that’s optimized for mobile first. Then, if it makes good business sense, you can create an app to enhance and supplement what your website offers.

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