Since I started my own app project in 2014, apps have increasingly become a “thing”. I am frequently being asked: “I really want to have an app for my business, do you have any advice?”. Apps had been used before but I have the feeling that since then, business owners are very often pressured into providing their own apps. It seems like apps have become a universal remedy. Even small businesses like bakeries or the mom-and-pop shop around the corner are talked into providing their customers with a mobile app. What do you really need to consider when you plan to provide a mobile app?
My reply to the above-question is always: “WHY do you think you need an app?” The most common answer is: “Because everybody has one and I feel we have to move forward as well.” However, moving forward does not necessarily mean providing your customers with an app.
We all spend a lot of time on our phones – and there is an increasing trend towards going even more mobile. According to Flurry, an analytics company, the average American is glued to their smartphones for about 5 hours per day. However, think about it. How many apps do you actively use per day?
Exclude the ones which were pre-installed on your phone such as apps for music, weather, web browsers, etc. When I look at my phone, I use Whatsapp, Facebook, Instagram, two taxi apps and a grocery delivery app on a daily basis. Maybe we add a sports app and two news apps. This would be 8 apps, which were not pre-installed and which I use daily. This number roughly meets the data cited by App Annie, an app analytics and market data company. Hence, even though we spend a lot of time on our phones, we are very, very selective about which apps to download.
Therefore, the first question you need to ask yourself is:
Does My App Really Solve a Problem? Is It a Pain which Will Make People Download Your App?
It is an interesting psychology but even if an app is free, people are very hesitant and do a lot of research before downloading an app on their phones. If your app addresses a pain point which we try to address very often – ideally daily – and if we think it is really worth downloading it, then consider developing your app. Think about it very frankly: would you download an app for the service you want to provide?
Very often some apps are created for a problem which has to be created itself as well. Just because apps are in fashion does not mean that we want them for everything. No, thank you! I do not want to download an app for a certain tourist region which I travel to once in my life, a museum I visit once a year or the salon I visit every three weeks.
Is this App a One-Time Thing?
A lot of apps are being downloaded but soon abandoned. Why would this app stay on your customer’s phones? Would it make your customer’s lives significantly easier? Would it make your life easier as the service provider? Would it be visually appealing and user friendly enough?
Is the App the Actual Business or Is It an Additional Service of Your Existing Business?
We need to look at apps from two perspectives: the first one is if the app itself would be the business. In a simplified way you need to think if and why a mobile app is the only way to address the need. Furthermore, if you start an app business from scratch, you need to do a thorough analysis of the cost: product development but also marketing. The latter is something which is very often underestimated. There are over 2 million apps on the iOS App Store and the Android/Google Play Store respectively according to Statista. How would you stand out? Just because you submit an app to a store does not automatically mean that your customers will find you. This first scenario is very complex and wide and I will work on a separate article.
In the second case, an app would be an additional service you provide with your existing business. Similar to the above, why do you need an app? I would suggest talking to your customers directly if they want such a service. The advantage you have is that you interact with the potential users on a daily basis. Use that for your market research. You do not want to end up with a service which you considered essential but your customers do not.
Is it really worth investing in an app? Very often people underestimate the costs and time involved in developing apps. A good app is nothing which can be done within a month at really low cost. It takes a lot of commitment. Just think about it: you will need to develop two sets of apps – one for the iOS and one for the Android operating system. The usability is very different for the two systems and you cannot just develop one (also for simple technical reasons such as coding languages). Furthermore, it is not only the development but also the maintenance of the app which has to be considered: How much does it cost you daily to keep the servers, fix bugs, improve the user experience?
Do Your Competitors Provide Their Own Apps?
Assess your industry environment: Do your competitors offer apps? Why and why not? Would it make you stand out compared to the competition? Or, is there a reason why your competitors do not offer apps, i.e. is there no real need?
What Are the Alternatives?
There are many online – but also offline – alternatives. Firstly, bear in mind that there is a difference between native and non-native apps. (I will go into more detail in a separate post, but simply speaking, native apps are developed in particular for a certain operating system.) Furthermore, there are hybrid solutions which work for both the iOS and Android systems – a cheaper option, very often good if you start out; but the more sophisticated your service, the more likely you will need to switch to native apps. Moreover, there are websites which “look” like apps.
Apart from the apps themselves, you may consider if you can address the need via a web-solution: Do you really need an app or is a website with a great mobile version an alternative?
And some businesses do not need online solutions such as apps at all. Even in 2018, this can be still a business model.
Are you using a mobile app for your business? Why or why not? Or do you have any follow-up questions? Shoot me an email or leave a comment below or get in touch on my social channels!