5 Reasons to Build a Mobile App for Your Small Business (and Tips for Getting Started)
October 1, 2022
Your small business has a website. That's the basic tool you need to create an online presence, draw interest to your company, and maintain a portal your customers can use to make purchases.
But is that enough? Do you need to create an app too?
Last year, global spending on app stores reached $170 billion, a 19% increase from the previous year. Meanwhile, downloads advanced 5% to reach 230 billion. With that kind of revenue and footprint at stake, it might be time to consider getting involved in the app market.
Even so, there are factors to consider. This article will outline the benefits you can receive by building an app, the ways it differs from your mobile website, and the steps you'll need to take during the production process. With this information, you'll be able to make a better decision about whether a mobile app is right for your small business.
The current state of app usage
Successful marketing requires a strong online presence. Especially in the wake of COVID, transactions have increasingly moved onto the internet. In 2021, there were nearly 6.3 billion smartphones in use, with projections putting that total above 7 billion before the middle of the decade.
Meanwhile, app usage continues to rise, despite the already-heavy penetration that has been accomplished so far. Almost 70% of internet users turn to apps for online purchases. Meanwhile, the average smartphone owner uses about nine apps each day and a total of around 30 for a month.
Still, the popularity of apps comes with a downside. Namely, you'll need to face massive competition. Apple lists more than two million offerings on its app store, while Google Play features more than three million possibilities. Given the difficulty of getting noticed in that crowded field, is the investment in creating an app worthwhile?
How to decide if your business needs an app
Before you launch into a debate about whether to build an app for your small business, it's important to clarify the discussion. Start with a basic question: what's the difference between an app and a mobile website?
A mobile website represents your current webpage optimized for mobile use. Your customers can visit it through their browsers, finding it with search engines from Google. You put special care into providing the best experience possible, assuming most clients will approach your content through phones and tablets. But they are still essentially looking at your website.
On the other hand, an app exists as a piece of software downloaded onto a mobile device. Once acquired, you don't have the intervening factors of browsers or search engines. Rather, you have a direct connection to your client — it just becomes a matter of if you can provide enough value to make that process worth it for both sides.
While the decision will ultimately come down to the specifics of your situation, having an app has significant upside potential over just having an online website. The functionality opens up possibilities for unique types of interactions. Here are some of the benefits you receive from a mobile app that you can't extract from a mobile-optimized webpage:
- Better Data: Information gathered through an app arrives earlier and can have more depth.
- Expanded Branding/Design Options: With a website, you're limited in what you can do in terms of design. An app opens up possibilities to get more creative.
- Push Notifications: Stay in better communication with your customers. The alert system at your disposal is much better than email lists or other functionality possible through the web.
- Added Features: An app can plug into other features on the phone or tablet, like the camera or GPS. These possibilities provide new avenues to generate additional value.
- Offline Value: Your website is only available when your user is online. However, information and other functionality can be downloaded to the app, leaving it for possible use in offline situations.
Having an app has significant upside potential over just having an online website. The functionality opens up possibilities for unique types of interactions.
Tips for creating an app
If you decide to move forward with an app, you want to get the most out of the investment. That means careful planning and a well-considered system. Here are a few tips for maximizing the project:
Know Your Customer
Before investing in an app, understand the features that will appeal to your target audience. That process requires data. Learn everything you can about your intended customers so you can build an app that fills the right niche.
As we've discussed throughout this article, don't just create an app for the sake of doing so. Think about what value the offering can provide. This will give you the framework to create something that will fit in with your other marketing and sales tools. At the same time, you can provide significant value to your customers, driving engagement on the app.
Have a Development Plan
Once you know what you want to accomplish with the app, it's time to think about the nuts and bolts. Will you hire a third-party developer? Build out an internal staff? Roll out the features in waves or attempt to release something fully formed?
Answering these questions will depend on your specific situation. Gauge the costs of various strategies and formulate a budget based on that research. From there, you can decide the best path forward for development.
Think about Design and User Experience
With an app, it's not just the features you provide. It matters how you provide them. Aesthetic qualities like design and user experience play a big role in long-term adoption of mobile applications. That’s why it’s critical to think strategically about the packaging around your core app functionality when going to development.
Design and user experience play a big role in long-term adoption of mobile applications. That’s why it’s critical to think strategically about the packaging around your core app functionality when going to development.
Expect to Upgrade Over Time
Releasing an app seems like the end of a long development journey. However, it also represents the start of a new voyage. You'll need to update your offering over time to stay as relevant as possible.
Track app usage to discover what features provide the most value. At the same time, engage with your target audience to discover what they'd like added. As soon as you launch your app, you should begin thinking about the 2.0 improvements. That way, you'll build a long-standing relationship with your customers.
Choosing whether an app is right for your small business
Anything you can do to improve the customer experience is good for business. Along those lines, building a mobile app might present the perfect opportunity to expand your startup or small business.
However, there are things to consider. Building the best-possible app requires a clear process and a firm understanding of how you can optimize its value. Use the information provided here to help decide if your business needs an app and how to get the most out of the project.