This question has been asked many times, particularly by small business owners. Food service establishments want apps for online ordering. Retailers want to showcase their product line or send coupons to customers instantly. Some simply want an app to project a more professional appeal. Some just want to be able to say, “There’s an app for that.”
Suffice to say, apps are a huge, huge deal especially for starting businesses. You’re probably contemplating on whether or not you need a “presence” in the already overwhelming mobile app landscape, so here are some questions to ask yourself when making that decision.
To ensure that you make the right decision, you need to ask yourself why you’re making this app in the first place. You can start by setting up clear goals. Are you creating the app to encourage new customers to do business with you? Do you want to set a certain target for the number of downloads or users of the app? Do you want to make money off of the app? Do you want to have an app in order to streamline certain processes for your employees? Do you want to give your customers exclusive offers? You should think about what your goals are before even starting to think about the impact or the potential results of having a dedicated app made.
As with any business strategy, you have to be knowledgeable about your audience before you can even make a move towards customer satisfaction. Think about your customer base. How would they define an app around your brand? Try to recall how your existing clientele is like. If their idea of an app is limited to getting 20% each time they book a service, then it’s probably not a wise idea in the long run. They’ll just keep uninstalling and reinstalling your app depending on when they need you.
On the other hand, if you have a more tech-inclined customer base, they would look for features that go beyond the usual discounts. They’d look for online ordering capabilities, appointment scheduling with your service professionals, or instant push notifications. Of course, they would also most likely pay attention to how beautifully designed and intuitive your native app is. Knowing your customers well can also give you hints at what they would want in an app.
Another possible “customer” you might want to consider when making your own app is your own office staff. In some instances, having an internal app that will be utilized by people within your organization might be more ideal than a customer-facing one. For example, you have employees who need to monitor your inventory in real time. There are also employees whose main tasks involve tracking orders or tracking the location of delivery trucks. For these purposes alone, an internal app could help in streamlining your operations, so you may want to consider having one.
Some business owners choose to create an app for the sake of creating one. Don’t fall into this deadly trap. Some of the most successful apps took years and years of development before they got released. Some apps just sound awesome on paper, but in reality, the businesses they’re supposed to work for aren’t prepared for the things that go with launching and maintaining an app. Some apps don’t add much value, except that the competition doesn’t have one yet. Carefully consider if making an app is absolutely necessary for your business today, because you might just be being too ambitious.
Probably one of the biggest considerations in every business decision is the cost. Unlike many investments that require a one-time expense, mobile apps require constant development and updating in order to stay useful. If you don’t have a dedicated app developer (or developers) working on your app, you’re more likely to spend more. At times, the costs that go with making the app become bigger than the amount of additional business it attracts. If you can’t afford that, maybe it’s time to rethink your mobile app strategy and start focusing on other things.
This is also something you might want to take into consideration. If your aim is just to give customers a nifty little app that will display your business phone number or a contact form, then you probably don’t need to spend thousands of dollars on a native app. It may be more worthwhile to invest in making your website responsive or mobile-friendly. Generally speaking, you should work on developing an application when your audience requires a very specific purpose that can’t be effectively accomplished via the simple browser.
When deciding whether or not your business needs its own native app, ask yourself the questions above. If your goal is to provide a complete user experience that addresses your customers’ more specific requirements and you have the time, manpower, and money for it, then, by all means, push through with your plan. In the end, it’s all about going with what you think will work best for your business.