Does your business need a mobile app?

Is another mobile app what we need?
Is another mobile app what we need?

As mobile apps continue to consume more of mobile device use, many businesses are thinking carefully about their technology marketing strategies. Even small local businesses may find that frequent customers are interested in interacting with their locations through an app rather than a mobile website.

Thanks to do-it-yourself app development tools, small businesses can create an informational app that gives customers the information they need without costing a fortune. But does your small business need an app? Before you begin the process of strategizing and creating one, there are a few questions you should ask to determine whether it’s the right route to take.

Can you afford it?

DIY tools have made it easy to create a simple app, but this still will take time away from your busy schedule. Additionally, many of the free or inexpensive app tools will allow you only to build the most basic of apps. For more interactive functionality, you’ll likely need an app developer to work on it, which will entail an hourly fee to a developer.

For your money, an investment in a mobile website may be a better idea. Unless your site was designed in recent years, it may not be optimized for mobile, which means your customers are having difficulty navigating it on tablets and smartphones. If you set up your site using a template from a site like WordPress, there are now numerous responsive webpage themes that automatically adjust to fit a visitor’s screen size.

Will your customers download it?

One of the most compelling arguments against an app is that your customers won’t download it. Unlike a responsive website, which can be called up on the fly, an app requires your customers to locate it in the app store, download it, and open it on their devices every time they want to use it.

Will your customers go to all that trouble simply to have access to your menu or your latest sales? Probably not. However, a restaurant could entice frequent customers to use an app to place orders for delivery. Domino’s Pizza’s app is the perfect example of this, giving customers the opportunity to order pizzas with just a couple of screen taps, since payment and delivery preferences are saved. You can even set up the app to list a customer’s previous orders for easy reordering.

A retail location can use an app to sell products or send weekly ads to customers. Target also allows customers to pull up coupons that can be scanned directly from their smartphone screen. However, much of this functionality can also be employed through a mobile website, which means a business may be wasting its valuable time and resources developing an app that will never be used.

Is it useful?

If you’re going to create an app, you’d be more successful if you provide something that customers will find useful and brand it for marketing purposes. A beach destination could offer an app designed to help tourists better navigate the area. A clothing retailer could design a fun app that allows fashionistas to create looks that they can then purchase in the store. If a customer sees a use for the app that will extend beyond simply finding out your operating hours and weekly discounts, that customer will be much more likely to download it and use it regularly.

Thanks to mobile web design, businesses don’t have to create an app to connect with customers on smartphones and tablets. However, an app can be useful if it is something a customer will find useful to their own lives. If your business can build in a way for loyal customers to place orders, you may have a good reason to build an app. Before investing the time and money, though, consider whether the same task can be accomplished using a mobile-friendly website.