If you thought mobile Internet was the future, you should probably check what year it is. According to comScore, 2014 ended with mobile devices accounting for 60% of all Internet use. That’s a pretty telling figure: you either go mobile now or risk becoming dated and irrelevant in the very near future.
For most businesses, developing a smartphone app is the most obvious next step in their multichannel marketing strategies. Apps are relatively easy to develop and the costs can be scaled depending on the functionality you want. Having an app in a user’s phone means that your business gets constant exposure, increasing your chances at pushing them down your sales funnel and scoring repeated conversions.
Or at least that’s the idea.
The reality is that Apple, Google and Microsoft’s App marketplaces are getting more crowded every day. With so many options and such limited space on users’ phones, an app really has to stand out to create a viable install base. If the app isn’t picked up by enough people, the investments go to waste and the entire mobile marketing strategy is compromised.
So this begs the question: Does your business really need a mobile app? We’ve put together a list of guide questions that will help you answer this very important question:
1. Do you have a target audience that embraces mobile?
Before you commission a team to start developing a mobile app, you have to check two things:
- Has your audience adapted to mobile Internet use?
- Can your desired functionality be supported on mobile devices?
If the answer to both questions is yes, go right ahead and develop the app. If the answer is no, it’s not a deal breaker. Your audience and the functionality they need will eventually be right for smartphones. You will just need to set the right expectations and view the app as an investment for the future.
2. What is your app’s inherent value?
If you are developing an app, there has to be an inherent value that will compel your target audience to download it. Apps should not be mirror images of business websites. If you wanted just that, you should just make your site mobile friendly and do not bother with an app at all. Winning business apps take advantage of features unique to smartphones, creating unique value in the process wile distinguishing themselves from their parent websites.
Here are some examples of app features and functions that can give it the kind of value that your audience will find attractive:
- Easy product image sharing
- GPS-based store finding
- Instant customer recognition when the person walks into your shop
- Sale and coupon notifications when an app user gets within a certain radius of your shop
- Automatic discounts and perks for customers with high degrees of social influence
- Customized ecommerce shopping experiences
- Biometric feedback as a customer sees your products for the first time and after he or she purchases it
These are all functionalities that cannot be found on most traditional websites. You can get creative and develop new ones that are based on smartphone components such as cameras, gyroscope, location tracking, biometrics, etc.
3. What kind of presence do you have on social media?
If there is a trend that is growing as rapidly as mobile Internet use, it’s the social media explosion. These two trends go hand in hand as social media channel usage is very high on mobile devices today. Before developing your app, make sure that you have a clear vision of how your social media channels can be leveraged to grow your app’s install base. You also need to clearly define what your social media accounts do and how they differ from your mobile app’s functionalities.
4. What are your competitors doing?
It is usually a good idea to check what you will be swimming with when you jump into a body of water. The same is true about entering your industry’s mobile app marketplace. Find out which competitors already have apps and do an analysis of what they are doing, how much success they are having with it and how you can one-up them.
Conversely, if you don’t see competitors offering apps, that is not a reason to delay or stop your entry into the mobile arena. View it as an opportunity to beat everyone to the punch and be the first to have first-hand data on how your market behaves within the mobile marketing space. This will allow you to stay ahead and gain traction while the competition scrambles to get its mobile act together.
5. Do you sell online?
Smartphone users are increasingly starting to see the value of being able to make online purchases on the go. If you are running an e-commerce website, that’s a good thing. You just need to make sure that the mobile traffic carrying buying intent doesn’t end up on webpages that don’t scale down or adapt themselves to their screen sizes.
You can compensate for this with responsive webpage design or mobile-friendly counterpart pages. However, there’s a risk that the layouts and the overall navigation experiences might not be as smooth as you want them to be. Having an app grants you more flexibility in the kind of user experience that you want to deliver. Whether you are developing apps natively or you are using HTML5 wrapped in shell apps, you will have total control of the buying experience.
Having an ecommerce app also acts as a form of advertising within a user’s phone. This is because it is constantly there, its icon remains visible and serves as a reminder that your store is always open and is just a few taps away.
6. Can you support the app in the long run?
A lot of businesses commit to building an app but not all of them commit to maintaining it. Apps need to be updated regularly to fix bugs, improve the interface and add new functionalities. If you are in the planning stages of creating a business app, make sure that you have sufficient human and time resources to evolve and maintain your app over time.
Updating apps involves the analysis of user behaviour within the app, listening to feedback from your community and constantly thinking of ways to improve your creation. You have to allocate time and budget for these activities or rethink your idea of launching a mobile application.
In the end, building a mobile app is a worthwhile venture that can yield massive returns. If you want to get with the times, it’s a safe bet for you to look into developing one to extend your foothold into marketing’s fastest-growing landscape.
(Lead image source: Spyros Papaspyropoulos)