Maybe you’re a new business. In the big picture, nobody knows who you are. No matter your business model, in building a brand from scratch, you face the difficult prospect of finding your small slice of audience amidst what’s now a very big world of commerce. You’re not sure where to begin or where to focus. What can you do to find that audience? And what are the right things to do to build a strong brand?
Maybe you’re already a well-established business enterprise. You feel you know your audience, and you’ve developed a reasonably faithful customer base. Basically, you’re doing alright. But you know that smart businesses don’t take their customers for granted. Smart businesses focus not only on maintaining their customer base, but growing it. What can you do to attract new customers while keeping your existing customers loyal? And what can you do to run your business better?
Nowadays, both of the above scenarios will somewhat inevitably lead these businesses to ask themselves: “Hey, does my business need a mobile app?” Good question.
To help you figure out the answer that’s right for your business, Distillery has put together a list of basic questions to help you process through the various considerations in the context of your unique situation.
Before we jump in, however, we’ll be clear that top business advisors and publications worldwide are increasingly on the side of YES on mobile app development. Why? Because mobile apps are where the world’s biggest audiences now reside. US consumers now spend more than five hours a day on mobile devices, and studies in the UK, Canada, Spain, Italy, Brazil, and Mexico show that mobile apps dominate the time consumers spend on smart phones and tablets, accounting for more than 80% of mobile minutes.
Nevertheless, every business is unique. And here at Distillery, we’re not in the business of talking people into things they don’t need. So without further ado…
1. What are your business goals?
Are you indeed trying to grow an audience from scratch? Or do you need to find new ways to expand an existing audience? If yes, that’s a pretty sizable vote in favor of yes. Whether your mobile app is free or paid, having a mobile app in the App Store or the Google Play Store provides you with a ready avenue to an always expanding pool of customers.
Are you focused on building or strengthening your company’s brand? A mobile app can act as a highly useful extension of your company’s brand. You can use it to push out new information, advertise your products or services, target your marketing, or provide increased value to your customers by offering them features they want (e.g., access to a specific service or capability, trustworthy reviews, social media integration, messaging, videos) or items of monetary value (e.g., promotions, discounts, special offers, loyalty programs). Ultimately, the functionality and features you choose to develop depend on your overall service and/or product strategy.
Are you seeking a way to increase employee productivity or improve your enterprise processes? Because mobile app development can also be focused on supporting your company’s internal capabilities. Enterprise mobile apps can help employees increase efficiency and save time in performing their job duties. They can also enable enterprises to streamline processes, increase quality control, and communicate more effectively, among countless other potential benefits.
Do you seek to better understand your audience? The majority of today’s mobile apps leverage data science in the form of in-app analytics that enable you to see which features are most and least popular, how your users are using and interacting with your app, and any issues users are experiencing. Accordingly, once you launch your mobile app and have your first pool of users, you begin to gather user data and the learning really begins. Smart businesses pay close attention to app analytics to better understand not only what features your users really want, but also how you can continue to improve your products or services to better serve your users’ needs.
2. What do you want your relationship with your customers to look like?
Do you seek increased visibility to, or interactivity with, your customers? If your business relies on cultivating long-term customer relationships, a mobile app can help keep your business and brand top of mind for your customers. Simply scrolling past your app’s icon on their mobile device gives you increased exposure. If you’ve made a good, user-value-focused mobile app, however, your customers are actively using your app on a semi-regular basis. Repeated usage that adds value to your customers’ lives cultivates loyalty to both your business and your brand. Mobile apps can act as a crucial avenue enabling businesses to stay connected with their customers.
Alternatively, given the nature of your business, would your customers prefer to have your company less front-and-center in their lives? Because let’s face it: there are some things people don’t want to be compelled to think about on a regular basis. For example, if your business provides psychiatric services and your customers largely associate your business with the stress and unpleasant events in their lives, they may not appreciate a mobile app that requires frequent attention. That being said, they may appreciate a mobile app that allows them to quickly and easily schedule appointments or communicate securely with their psychiatrists.
Finally, do you run the kind of business that subsists solely on one-time customers — customers who are likely never to return? If that’s your situation, you may want to think twice about mobile app development. Because if the majority of users download your app only to delete it once their first-and-only transaction is complete, a mobile app may not be the best place to focus your efforts. In that situation, a mobile-enabled website may be a better option.
Ultimately, the answer to this question is all about having a strong understanding of your audience’s needs and wants. Fortunately, if you’re leaning toward “yes, I need a mobile app,” you may rest assured that the UX and UI user and competitive research that takes place during the mobile app development process is focused squarely on making sure you fully understand those needs and wants.
3. What are your competitors doing?
Do your competitors have mobile apps that seem to be reasonably popular? If yes, then you can stop right here: because you DO need a mobile app. Today’s consumers can be merciless in their assessments of your company against the competition. A competitor who has invested in a mobile app may be viewed as more professional, more successful, or more interested in providing value to their customers.
If your competitors don’t have mobile apps, however, it only adds increased depth to the question. In that situation, mobile app development is one way you could potentially set yourselves apart from the competition. On the other hand, it’s possible that your audience isn’t interested in a mobile app — which means it’s possible your competitors have already researched that very question and found a firm “no.” That being said, we would still encourage you to undertake your own research to make certain that’s the case and you’re not simply sitting on a missed opportunity.
Do your competitors largely rely on websites? If yes, do they have mobile versions of their websites? For some businesses, a mobile-enabled website may be the right answer. In many cases, well-thought-out mobile-enabled websites can offer your audience exactly the functionality and features they seek. At Distillery, we don’t hesitate to make that recommendation when the research indicates it’s right for your audience. (Fortunately, we also help clients with web design and development for both desktop and mobile!)
4. What is your business’s financial situation?
Do you have the budget for mobile app development? If you’ve considered all of these questions and you’ve decided, yes, my business does need an app, you still need to make sure it’s the right time for your business to make the investment. In our experience, mobile app development is most often a six-figure endeavor. Is that an effort within your budget? If not, will your business be successful if you expend all of your capital or take on debt? While only you can answer that question, it’s crucial to make sure you’ve properly considered and planned for the cost of mobile app development prior to jumping in head-first.
Of course, the total cost for mobile app development will vary depending on many factors, including the complexity of your mobile app, any integrations needed, the resources you’re bringing to the table, and the project timing. For more information about how we provide accurate quotes to our clients, please check out our pricing page.
5. Are you still feeling confused?
If you’re still feeling clear as mud on whether mobile app development is right for your business, please let us know. We’ll be happy to talk with you about your unique situation and share our insight and experience to help you determine the right course forward. You can count on us for an honest, unbiased assessment.
Again, here at Distillery, we’re not in the business of talking people into things they don’t need. We turn potential clients away when we don’t feel we can help them succeed. After all, we’re only successful if you’re successful!
About the Author
As Distillery’s Partnership Director, Sam Wheeler is responsible for building strategic client and industry relationships. He’s passionate about matching clients with innovative, custom-fit solutions that help them grow their businesses. In a former career as an elementary school teacher, he learned the value of putting people at the center of everything you do. When he’s not working, he loves spending time at home with his wife and daughter, enjoying frequent hikes, BBQs, and trips to the coffee shop.