Smartphones are everywhere. At this point, you probably don’t need to be presented with just how many customers use smartphones, percentages of which smartphones are being used, or any other related stats. I can honestly say that I have more trouble naming people I know that DON’T have a smartphone than the other way around.
For this discussion, we’re going to assume that every single person on the planet has a smartphone. And, with that assumption in mind, we’ll begin to draft the question: Does my company need its own app?
Before you can decide if your business needs an app, ask yourself these 4 key questions:
1. What’s my app going to do differently than a website?
Is your app going to do anything different than your current website, or is your app going to be a link to a mobile website? I have uninstalled many an app that provided no additional functionality than the mobile website, because I only have so much homescreen real estate, and if I know the app doesn’t gain me anything than a link, adios. Apple devices can automatically save a page with the appropriate logo directly to the homepage anyways, no app necessary, so unless you’re bringing something to the table the site doesn’t do (push notifications, GPS, accelerometer, click-to-pay or NFC payments), it’s probably not worth an app.
2. Can my current business model handle what an app offers?
Nothing is worse than when you pull out an app at a store and the store clerk looks at you like you have five heads. I remember receiving a coupon in my email that I tried to use on my phone. However, the clerk told me I had to print it out first and hand in a paper version. I’ve also failed when trying to pay for a coffee in a “non-participating location” through an app. It took all of three seconds for me to uninstall that app in the store I was in. Therefore, if your business model doesn’t allow you to use all of the features of an app in all of your locations, it may be smarter to hold off a bit.
3. What would my customers do with my app?
Don’t get this confused with question No. 1.The question isn’t “What will my app do?” It’s, “Does my app offer a user experience that will have my customers take the time to install it?” Or, specifically, “Will my customers be able to use this effectively enough to make them loyal to my company because of the ease of use of this app?” Also ask yourself, “If they install the app, are they going to continually use it, or is it a once-and-done?”
4. What devices (and operating systems) am I going to need this for?
If you’ve answered questions 1-3, and everything is still pointing at an app, here’s the tricky part: What do you build for? Although Android has the market share now, app usage is still higher on IOS. Is one universal app going to cut it, or do you want additional features on one platform versus the other? For example, some Android devices can take advantage of NFC technology (great for making payments by phone), while IOS cannot. What about Windows Phones? They are growing in popularity. BlackBerry is still strong among some business avenues. Each app requires a different build, as they use different programming languages, and porting them from one device to another is costly.
If you have a solid answer for each one of these questions, congratulations! You may need an app. If any of these questions are stumping you, then it sounds like you aren’t quite ready for an app, and I’d suggest a website that is highly optimized for mobile devices.