Will an App Add Anything to Your Business?
Published by Rebecca Miller, October 9th, 2014
Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock somewhere, you’re probably aware of the widespread adoption of mobile apps that continues to increase as the number of mobile device owners increases. Pew Internet Project research indicates that, as of January 2014, 58 percent of Americans have a smart phone, 42 percent have a tablet, and 32 percent have an e-reader. But mobile device ownership isn’t the only thing that’s changing.
Mobile device users are spending more time on apps than they do on mobile browsers. And we’re not talking a little bit more. According to Forbes, users spent 86 percent of their mobile internet time on apps, leaving 14 percent of that time to browsing. Given this large shift in behavior, many mobile marketers are asking whether they should develop an app for their business, some even considering doing away with having websites that are mobile compatible altogether. Before jumping to any conclusions (or premature app development), consider the following.
App popularity results from functionality and practicality, not the app itself.
It seems evident that mobile users favor apps, but is that what the statistic here is really saying? Let’s look at the data. The trend that emerges here revolves around lifestyles. Mobile users are downloading and using quality apps that naturally fit into their everyday lives – social networks, entertainment, communication, etc.— not just any app because it’s an app. People gravitate to the apps that appear here because they are quicker, mobile friendlier ways of doing what they already do on a regular basis. So before developing an app make sure it fits this criteria. Just don’t expect to compete with the likes of Facebook and YouTube.
(Publishers: Ditch your apps; focus on mobile Web, Digiday)
People use their devices for more than apps.
While apps have a large share of users' time, it's important to note that when users aren't checking their social, watching videos and playing games, which is approximately 70 percent of the 86 percent of time spent on apps, they are engaged in other mobile activities. According to Nielson's 2013 mobile consumer report, 86 percent of smart phone owners are texting, 75 percent are checking their email, and 82 percent are browsing the web. Speaking of browsing the web, did you notice which app holds the number four spot in the chart above? Google Search. Mobile web browsing is definitely still taking place, which means -- app or no app-- you need to have a website that is welcoming to mobile users and converts. This is also important for those who are clicking through your emails and viewing your website on their device.
Apps aren't for everybody.
As with all things, apps have their pros and cons. The bottom line is that not all businesses can benefit from an app, and there isn't a black and white, B2B or B2C answer to tell which ones are. Here are a few questions to ask yourself that can help you decide.
1. How much am I willing to spend?
If you aren't prepared to spend five digits, an app probably isn't for you. Especially, if you don't have a quality mobile or responsive website in place already. If you would like your app to be used on devices of different operating systems, you'll need to make more room in your budget. If you hope to make your app available through Apple's store, your app must be approved and you have to pay an annual membership fee.
2. What will the function of my app be?
As stated earlier, the point of an app is to make a task that your customer does on a regular basis easier. If your app doesn't, customers won't download it and certainly won't use it. If your app does, however, it provides excellent grounds for branding and strengthening customer relationships. Here are some great B2B app ideas from HubSpot to get you started in the right direction.
3. What is the goal of my app?
Apps can be used virtually anywhere in the sales cycle, whether you’re generating or nurturing leads, or building customer loyalty. Just make sure you are mindful of which you are trying to accomplish. During the development stage, you need to be just as intentional in defining the value your app will provide you. After all, what’s the benefit of creating an app that doesn’t help you in some way?
Always keep in mind that apps are just that, applications. Automatically, they are more limited than your website, because they are only meant to carry out a single or specific set of functions. One day, something might come along that replaces websites, but that day isn’t today, and apps are not the solution. A thoughtfully developed app, however, could supplement your mobile customers' experiences greatly and generate a positive ROI.
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