Does your company need its own mobile app? If you’ve been asking yourself that question lately, you’re not alone. Most businesses realize that reaching today’s consumers requires a strong mobile presence. Google has developed a set of must-read resources on the phenomenon of “micro-moments”—the vital mobile interactions your business needs to be present for in order to reach potential customers. Google’s research makes it clear that a mobile-responsive website and an effective search engine marketing strategy are essential to success. But it doesn’t provide a definitive answer to your native mobile app question.
If you’ve reviewed some of the current statistics on mobile apps, your head is probably spinning. To date, over 100 billion—yes, billion—apps have been downloaded from the Apple Store alone, and the number of downloads continues to increase exponentially every year. Beyond the number of apps downloaded, it is important to examine how consumers spend time with them. According to Flurry Analytics, global app usage increased by 58% in 2015, with personalization apps (emojis, wallpapers, etc.) leading the way. News and magazine apps followed while utility and productivity apps rounded out the top three. Lifestyle and shopping apps came in fourth.
Do mobile users prefer to utilize apps or surf the web?
When it comes to how smartphone and tablet users divide their time between apps and mobile web, in-app time overwhelmingly trumps mobile web time on both devices.
This data appears to present a strong argument in favor of developing an app rather than relying on a mobile-optimized website to engage your customers. But beware of oversimplification. Consider this surprising fact: for most businesses, apps are not a means to reach new customers. They are a way to better serve existing customers through faster, more streamlined, more personalized, more robust user experiences that might not be possible through a mobile website alone.
So, rather than taking usage trends at face value, take the time to understand how your customers use their mobile devices. Ask yourself, your customers and your stakeholders what problems your app would solve for them. If you determine that an app is a good fit for your customers’ needs and a smart move for your company, there are several ways you can go about developing your own app:
Option #1: mobile web app
JT Mudge is among some of the best commentary regarding mobile web apps. Mobile web apps operate using a mobile web browser instead of being downloaded directly onto a device via an app store. Each has its own merits and disadvantages, and some companies, like Facebook, choose to develop both. In general, mobile web apps are potentially less expensive to develop, more freely accessible to users, and constantly operate on the most recent version. Native apps are generally faster and can access features of the mobile device, including the camera and push notifications. Ultimately, choosing between these two app delivery methods depends on how you need the app to work.
Option #2: white label app
These are existing apps that can be rebranded as your own and include certain features that can be tailored to fit your business’s needs. They are less expensive and less time-consuming than starting from scratch with your own custom app, though usually less robust.
Option #3: partner app
Hiring an agency or development company to develop and maintain your app is definitely the more expensive route, but is potentially worth the investment and longer time to market. If your app requires more features or more complex functionality than a white label option affords, a partner app is the way to go.
Remember, any app strategy needs to start with thorough research and a clear understanding of your end users’ needs. Shiv Kamal tells us the top 4 reasons why apps fail are poor market/audience research, ignoring platform nuances (i.e., Android vs. iPhone), poor user experience and improper testing. Avoid these pitfalls, and your investment should pay for itself over time.
We can help.
Of course, your app strategy must fit within the broader scheme of your marketing, communications and sales strategies. TN Media is seasoned at helping local businesses stand out from their competition, and we would love to help you navigate the changing landscape of digital marketing. Contact us with the questions we can help answer and the problems we can help you solve.