There’s far too much to worry about when you’re running a business as it is. You need to make sure that your staff are paid on time, customers are dealt with efficiently, product and service quality is good, deadlines are met, and tax liabilities are covered.
This is why you hire other people to deal with essential but deferrable tasks. Unless you’re a web designer by trade, for example, it’s very unlikely that you designed and built your company website.
You either have an internal IT department or hired an external third party to do it for you. The key, though, is that you have a website. It’s essential for almost every business these days but wasn’t seen as such twenty years ago. Some people now say the same thing about apps.
Just as it was hard to persuade some businesses that they needed a website twenty years ago, it’s hard to convince some businesses – in some cases, the same businesses – that they need an app today.
The difference is that this time the naysayers might have a point. There’s no debating the fact that any business that intends to be found by a wide audience needs a website, but the case for needing an app is less compelling.
In fact, there’s evidence to suggest that app use among the general public is declining, with customers preferring to use mobile-optimized websites through their browsers. How, then, are you, as a business owner, supposed to know whether your business needs an app or not? One way would be to ask yourself the following questions.
Would it obviously increase revenue?
If there’s an obvious cause for the idea that introducing a mobile app would significantly increase revenue, it makes no sense to do it. For this to be the case, though, you have to be selling a product or service that customers are comfortable with reading about, ordering, and paying for using a mobile app. The online slots and casino industry is an excellent example of this.
Sister Site, which compares and reviews casino sister sites, has noted an increasing trend for the world’s top casino sites to introduce standalone apps and market them to customers on mobile phones. Customers are comfortable playing on the apps, so the casino companies profit. Takeaway food is another obvious example, as anyone who’s ordered Domino’s recently will know. Is your product or service as app-friendly as a takeaway or casino company? If so, it needs an app.
Would it be used?
Too many companies use apps like status symbols. They make and release apps purely so they can say, “look, we have an app.” That’s all well and good if you can afford to lose the money it costs to develop a useless app, but if budget is important to you, ask yourself what your app will realistically be used for.
Can it do as much as your website can? Might it be possible for your app to do more than your website? If the answer to both questions is “no,” you’d probably be better off optimising your existing website for mobile device users rather than building an app.
An app is worthless unless there’s a compelling reason for users to keep logging back in. Keep in mind that 25% of apps are only used once after they’re installed.
How do you interact with customers?
We’ve talked about a couple of industries – namely takeaway food and online casinos – that work well with an app because they operate a non-face-to-face business model. Now let’s talk about some industries and businesses that are the exact opposite. If you work in financial services, you’ll want to speak to people face to face.
Very few people are likely to buy an expensive insurance policy or take out a big mortgage without speaking to somebody first. If not face to face, they’ll definitely want to talk over the phone. A hairdresser has to work face to face. So does a butcher.
If your usual business model involves seeing people in the flesh, it’s very unlikely that your business will be enhanced by creating an app. If your customers are accustomed to dealing with you remotely, the reverse is likely true.
How would the app integrate with your business?
OK, so let’s say you go ahead and make an app. Presumably, the app does more than provide information (it’s a waste of time if it doesn’t), so we’ll assume that orders and purchases can be processed through that app.
How are you notified of those orders? Does the app send an email to your server? Does it notify a particular individual or team within your business? Who takes responsibility for contacting the customer, and how will the customer be contacted?
If the answer is “by email,” how does your email system know to send an email to a customer who’s made a purchase through your app? The problem with trying to build an app when you already have a long-standing website and IT systems is that integrating the app isn’t always easy. There’s a risk of the app having to be a standalone service, and having a standalone service separate from your primary sales funnel is less than ideal.
Why do you want an app?
This is the most basic question, and yet it’s also the most important. What’s tempted you to look into the possibility of getting an app in the first place? Is it because you genuinely believe that creating an app would make a measurable difference to the fortunes of your company? Is it because you’ve been approached by a third-party firm that’s made the idea of having an app seem exciting and desirable?
Or, as a third possibility, is it purely the fact that everybody else seems to have an app these days, and you’re worried that you might be missing out on something if you don’t have one of your own? That’s the reason that far too many businesses pay for someone to develop an app for them, but it’s also the worst reason to do so.
By asking yourself the above questions, you should be able to gain a clear picture of whether or not app development is warranted for your company. Not every business needs an app, and you should never let anybody try to tell you otherwise, but some businesses could still benefit from having one. If you’re going to invest in having one made, do it for reasons that make sense.