Does Your Business Need An App? Part 1

As a business owner operating in the twenty-first century, you’ve probably heard about these app things that are sweeping across the world and setting it on fire. In your desire to stay ahead of the curb, be up to date and never miss an opportunity, you are probably asking yourself, “Does my business need an app?”

You should only consider investing in app development if you know that an app will be valuable to you as a business. Whether you are considering developing a customer-facing app (which, as a small business, you probably are) or an internal-facing app (generally more useful to large businesses and suppliers to large businesses) you need to understand what value this technology will bring to the table.

Getting an app simply because you want to stay ahead of the competition does not take value into consideration. True, having one up on your competitors is always desirable in any industry, but this in itself does not give your app value.

How will your app make someone’s life easier? What can it do that a mobile website alone cannot? How will it benefit your company?

These are the questions you need to think about before plunging head-first into the design process. Outline your objectives and how your app will achieve them.

Something to consider: What purpose your app will serve

Are you thinking customer-focused or internal-facing when you picture your ideal app? If you are thinking of creating an app for use by your customers, you are likely thinking in terms of marketing your business, product promotion and brand reputation.

Not only does having an app help you appear up to date and, arguably, more professional, but it increases engagement with your brand. If you develop an app that becomes truly indispensable, offering genuinely useful and unique features, users are more likely to engage with it more frequently. Every time they do so, you will be reinforcing your brand.

If, on the other hand, you favour the notion of an internal-facing app, you are probably hoping to streamline certain procedures, improve communications between your staff or improve productivity. In 2012, the Small Business and Entrepreneurial Council found that 78% of small business owners save an estimated average of 5.6 hours a day thanks to an app.

The ROI on an internal app might be more difficult to quantify as you are not using it as a selling platform, but the value your app could bring to the table is potentially immense.

Something else to consider: How interactive does it need to be?

The functionality of your app will add value – the more things it enables users to do, the more engaging and indispensable it becomes to them. This makes your brand indispensable to your customers, a very desirable outcome for a business owner. However, the more your app can do will also drive the cost way up.

Are you wanting to simply present information to your users about where your store is located and your opening times? If this information could be accessed on your site, then you might want to consider just investing more in optimising your mobile site, which would likely be more cost-effective.

You can do some amazing things with your mobile app if you get creative enough, though. The Meat Pack, a trendy Guatemalan shoe store, famously designed an app that uses GPS to set off an alert every time you enter a competitor’s store, offering you a discount of 99% on its own stock. This original discount price counts down, reducing every second that it takes you to run from the competitor’s store to The Meat Pack. See it in action here.

The Meat Pack have made an app that is engaging, interactive, fun and useful. Doubtless it was expensive to make, but remember that what you put in is what you’ll get out.

One more thing to consider: You already have a mobile site

You already have a mobile site: why would you need an app? You’ve listed all your FAQs on your site, you’ve got all your offers and promotions listed on there and you’ve even got live chat on the go offering to help visitors when they come to your site. Why would you need to invest more time and money into developing an app?

If your app can offer value beyond what your site already does, then that’s a good enough reason in itself to invest in an app. Perhaps you could announce new product features in advance to app-users and offer them exclusive deals or promotions.

Plus, apps have the added advantage over a mobile site in that they are downloaded once and then they’re there on your users’ phones, ready to whip out at a moment’s notice. Customers will be able to access your app 24/7, whereas mobile sites will be subject to internet signal. If your users are mobile around London’s tube for example, or living in the countryside, this could potentially be an issue or irritation you could solve.

An app also has the ability to interact with the other features on your users’ smartphones. From their cameras to their phonebook to their GPS signal, you can encourage real-time engagement. Employ notifications, which pop up like text messages, every time you update a product, service or useful information.

Some businesses use their app in place of a mobile website, whereas others opt to just have a website. Whether you decide to look further into app development, it is important to have an idea of what your app would do, why it will be beneficial (to your customers and, to an extent, your bottom line) and how users will engage with it.

This article was part 1 in a 2-part post looking at whether your business needs an app. Mull over the points we’ve made here in time for Part 2, which will be published on our blog on Monday 3rd February.

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