Today, more people spend time on their mobile phones than watching TV or browsing the internet on their desktop computers. What’s more, that time on mobile is largely spent using apps. From messaging friends and family, to watching videos, to online shopping, apps can seemingly do it all. Chances are your customer base uses their phones just as frequently, and the appeal of having an app for your business can definitely be tempting.
But the question is, does your business really need an app? App development can cost a lot of time and money, which in the end may or may not be worth it. This post discusses what types of businesses are most likely to benefit from developing an app, what these apps might be used for, some things to consider before developing an app, and if you should develop an app as opposed to improving your website’s mobile experience.
Businesses most likely to benefit from an app
About 30% of shopping now takes place on mobile devices — and by having a retail app your customers receive a superior experience with the ability to use exclusive coupons and deals.
- Apps are convenient for quickly looking at products
- Apps are good for price comparisons
- Customers can use the app to check if the store has the product they’re looking for in-stock
- Apps offers a better user experience for shopping online as opposed to mobile sites
Food and Restaurant
Restaurants commonly offer apps with a variety of functionalities, including the following:
- Easy ordering, making it possible for customers to place to-go orders without placing a phone call
- Online reservations
- Easy access to menu
- See locations and hours
Other ways of using apps
- Apps can push notifications for deals and promotions, including coupons and new products.
- Geo-location, in that apps can send send notifications to customers near or in your store.
- Exclusive coupons and promotions for app customers/users only, which can be a great way to get customers using your app.
- Apps can be tied into the business’s sales systems to alert the store when a specific customer arrives, allowing for a more personal experience.
- Apps can be used to provide your customer with unique games tied into your company’s branding that offer fun experiences for your customers.
- Alternate revenue source
- Free marketing to users
- Can offer rewards to customers who play and achieve certain things in the game
If your business offers your users a unique knowledge base, developing an app could be a way to bring your customers easier access to your information. Examples of websites that successfully use apps include WebMD, All Recipes and IMDB.
Benefits of having an app
When your customer downloads your app, that means your business is a constant presence on your customer’s screen and in their pockets. This differentiates you from the competition, especially if your business is smaller. Customers can access your online catalog no matter where they are, allowing for quick spontaneous purchases on the go. By putting an app on an app store, you can potentially capture customers who may otherwise be unaware of your services. Your app will be categorized with other, similar apps, allowing for users to find you through means besides your current marketing efforts.
If your business could benefit from an app, here are factors to consider.
- Will you be developing this app for both iOS (Apple) and Android?
- Will you also develop for tablets? Developing for these devices is different from mobile phones, which means you’ll need extra development time if you think users will be accessing your app on tablets.
- What will be the capabilities of your app? Does your app only display data, or will you also be collecting data from your users?
Do-it-yourself tools are available for app development — however, those still come at a cost. Hiring a professional developer and designer will allow you to consult with experts on your app, leaving you with a better overall product. Apps are also now more affordable than ever to develop.
- What experience will you be offering your customers?
- Is it a mobile shopping platform for your retail business?
- Will you offer online ordering for your restaurant?
- Will you be offering customers unique knowledge that they can’t find anywhere else?
- Does your business already operate online through unique web functions that can’t be replicated on mobile devices without an app?
Choosing between an app and an enhanced mobile website
How can you tell if an app is worthwhile for your business? There’s quite a bit to consider, including:
- Native apps are, more often than not, more responsive than their mobile site counterparts — especially for services like online shopping.
- If your site frequently uses video or has a native video player, an app will offer a much better experience and load times.
- Mobile phone users spend an average of 40 hours per month using apps.
- App notifications and promotions can seamlessly integrate with your other marketing campaigns.
Why you might not need an app
Some businesses might benefit more from an enhanced mobile website than an app. It should be noted that it’s a terrible idea to make an app in place of a mobile-friendly site — if your website is inadequate, you should focus on improvements that make your website responsive to multiple devices (desktop, mobile, tablet).
Here are some additional reasons you might not need an app:
- You don’t need to utilize any of the functionality of of programs on the phone (camera, GPS/maps, accelerometer, functionality such as Apple Pay, fingerprint scanning for security).
- You don’t need to utilize the extra processing power for heavy graphical lifting for things like video.
- Your app would not offer users any additional benefit as opposed to your mobile site.
Website vs. App
There are some advantages to focusing on your mobile website rather than investing in an app. For starters, a responsive (mobile-friendly) website is:
- Easier to maintain over longer periods of time
- Accessible to any device on any browser
- Easier to drive traffic to through existing marketing — getting people to download an app is much harder, and there must be very concrete benefits to get them to do
- Much easier to develop, as apps need to be developed for different devices using different coding languages, which can be more costly to develop and maintain
But some mobile websites suffer in compromised functionality, leading to slow load times and a less than ideal user experience. An app can fix this by using on-device functionality in a way that websites can’t — in short, apps are programmed with other limitations of the device in mind. Apps are extremely easy to access, typically taking only one tap to load you into your brand’s pre-built experience, as opposed to having to navigate to the website through the phone’s mobile browser.