Personal Small Business Enterprise

Does Your Business Need Its Own App?

There really is an app for just about everything. But should there be one for your business?

A comScore report confirms our affinity for apps, noting that 82% of the time consumers spend with mobile media is via apps. And a recent Statista study found that 84% of smartphone owners use apps as part of their morning routines.

But deciding to jump into the world of apps is a big decision. If you’re thinking about developing an app, you need to first consider if it’s the right move. What is the ultimate goal?

Do you need an app or a mobile-optimized website?

If you’re just looking for a way to improve the look and feel of your website on a mobile device, building a mobile-optimized or responsive version of your website might be all that your company needs. A mobile website is accessed through the web browser using the same web URL, except the site is coded to recognize that the customer is on a mobile device, and automatically adjust the design for the smaller screen. Sometimes only key sections of a website are accessible through the mobile version, and some businesses let customers choose whether they’d like to browse the mobile version, or if they’d prefer to revert to the standard version. 

For an app, on the other hand, the customer must download and install it from the applicable app store. It then resides on the device for one-touch access via a distinctive icon. A mobile app can add a level of value and convenience to the customer experience.

Here are some considerations to review as you look to determine if your business needs a mobile app:

Functioning offline. A mobile website can typically only function when you’re online, whereas apps have offline components. This can be useful in many ways. For example, customers can access information while on a plane, in the subway, or traveling overseas – without having to connect to a network.

Interactivity & gaming. Apps allow for a greater level of interactivity, which is especially useful for gaming-centric features. While a game can function through a mobile Web browser, an app is generally far better for usability (and speed), especially if one needs to keep track of scores and other data. The Chipotle restaurant chain is a great example of a company that has taken such an approach. The Scarecrow app is a game where players are tasked with collecting fresh ingredients by navigating through various obstacles. In the end, they earn points towards future purchases at Chipotle restaurants.

Personalization. An app can keep customers engaged and help provide a more personalized experience; especially if this requires a login, like with the MyBell app. Think about apps like Facebook or Twitter: users don’t need to boot up the web browser on the smartphone or tablet and login every time; they simply call up the app, and all of their information is saved there. Another example: grocery store apps that let you create and store lists, and acquire loyalty points using a unique, virtual card.

Data tracking. Cohort analysis is possible via apps, and can provide greater insight into your customers. It’s a method of grouping users together based on different behaviours, then finding patterns in how changes or features impact each of these groups versus the customer base as a whole. For example, you can see if there’s a drop-off in usage from those who downloaded the app months ago versus ones who signed on recently, and try to understand why. These usage patterns can also help personalize the experience, whether it’s providing a redeemable coupon for a coffee when you know they’re likely buying one, or sending flight deals when you know their annual business trip to New York is coming up.

Access to other apps. If what you want to accomplish will or could require access to the phone’s camera, contact list, map applications, or other native functions of the device, an app can more seamlessly make this happen.

Push notifications. A customer has the choice to turn these on or off to communicate valuable information without the user having to open up the app. This could be a popup message when the user is close to a store with a promotion, breaking news headlines, daily deals, or handy reminders. This can add another level of engagement with your client base that goes beyond traditional e-mail.

Maintaining updates. Depending on the nature and complexity of your app, you may need frequent or infrequent updates, whether it’s to add new features, tweak content, or fix glitches. You’ll need to account for the resources and costs associated with keeping the app up-to-date, especially if you plan to use a third-party company to develop and manage it.

The bottom line

Most businesses can benefit in some way from a mobile app, but nevertheless, it is a big decision to make.

If you’ve determined that your business can, congratulations! Now, it’s time to execute. Stay tuned for part 2, where we’ll look at key things to consider through the process of developing, designing, and maintaining your mobile app.

Have you considered developing an app for your business? Tell us more in the comments below.


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