Since the advent of the smartphone, thousands of companies and individual developers have been vying for new consumers and added profits by creating mobile apps. These days, there are far more apps available than any mobile user could ever conceivably try out: Apple says that there are now over 300,000 apps in its mobile store.
It may seem tempting to hop on board the mobile app bandwagon, but think carefully first. Apps can cost tens of thousands of dollars to develop, and there’s no guarantee your app won’t simply get lost in the shuffle. Before developing a mobile app for your store or brand, consider these questions:
- Would a mobile app do anything new? If you can’t think of any added tools or services that would only work on an app, forget about it and focus on optimizing your website for mobile users instead.
- Would an app make it easier for customers to make purchases on the go? A recent Pew report says that 11 percent of customers have made purchases from their mobile phones — but most won’t bother if they need to spend time typing in addresses and credit card numbers on their tiny keypads or touchscreens. If you sell products that people may buy on impulse, it could be worthwhile to develop a mobile app that simplifies the shopping process; look to Amazon’s mobile app for a great example of this.
- Would an app improve your customer service? For some types of businesses, it may make sense to develop an app that lets customers complete transactions quickly and efficiently. For instance, if you own a local chain of restaurants, it may make sense to build an app that can give customers directions to the closest branch, and maybe even let them place their order online.
- Do your closest competitors all have mobile apps? If so, find out how popular their apps are before investing in the development costs. In some cases, they may have wasted money on apps that no one is using. However, if their apps have become popular, it’s probably time for your business to get mobile, too. Take a close look at their apps and see what you can do to make your own stand out.
- Can you justify the expense? According to Mashable, the average iPhone app costs $30,000 to develop — and that’s not the full cost of going mobile. You’ll also need to develop apps for other platforms like Android and Windows Mobile, and you will be obligated to provide ongoing technical support for all of the platforms. If you don’t know that you’ll have a significant return on your investment, you may want to sit out on this trend.
- Kathryn Hawkins