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To App or Not To App: What To Consider When Evaluating If You Need an App

Although having a website is fundamental for any business, there is a need for a business to have an app. In the past, mobile apps were a preserve for only large entities or corporations as it was prohibitively expensive to develop one. Today, it’s relatively less costly to develop an app, and small businesses are now creating their apps to attract more customers.

Many people spend more time with their mobile phones than any other device. Generating and retaining customers may mean that creating an app for their organization is a smart move. Mobile apps may provide greater accessibility and interactivity than conventional websites, and that may be something that will benefit specific business models.

However, before a business seeks professional app development, there are important things to consider.

The Needs of the Target Market

One of the vital evaluations a business should make when determining whether to app or not to app is the needs of their target market. Before jumping into conceptualizing an app, it is crucial to understand how it would be used by your target market. What needs does the app fulfill for your audience? How would it fulfill these needs better than other possible solutions? The objective at the outset is to decide if your market really needs an app or if this is a proposed solution to a problem that either does not exist or could be resolved more efficiently.

If ultimately the determination is made to create an app, then it’s time to think through specific characteristics of your target audience. For instance, if your brand targets a younger demographic, you might consider creating a responsive mobile app with features that evoke curiosity. A youthful audience is more tech-savvy; hence they may be immediately disinterested in less innovative or less user-interface savvy apps. 

If your target audience research reveals that your buyer personas use an existing app or show an affinity for a consistent set of brand names, you may also want to consider creating an app that adopts some of the features your target audience is familiar with, and you may want to take design inspiration from the elements their favorite brands consistently use. If practical, survey data in this area is useful and may be collected from existing customers.

The Value a Mobile App Adds to a Business

In addition to conducting market research on your audience, assessing the value add of a mobile app is essential. For instance, if the mobile app is meant to facilitate lead generation or conversion, it may make more sense to pursue its development than if it is simply meant as an information brochure.

Or, there may be a use-case for your app to provide customer success touch points, product or service use training, or other instances where the end use of the app clearly adds value to business operations.

Conversely, if the app does not plainly add value to the business model, the best option may be to simply rely on a responsive website. Taking this route may help shave costs, particularly if modifications can be made to an existing site, and still allow a business to engage its customers in ways that contribute to the bottom line.

What Are the Competitors Doing?

Organizations should check whether their competitors are using mobile apps and whether mobile apps are adding to the customer experience in ways that a website is not currently not, or is incapable of, doing.

If a mobile app is working magic for a competitor, it is a prime opportunity to learn from what is clearly resonating with their customer base. The opposite is true as well – you may uncover things that are not hitting home with your competitor’s audience and learn what to avoid in your app development. Assessing customer reviews on your competitor’s apps can go a long way to help isolate features that will likely have high appeal and return on investment in your app development initiative.

Ease of Integration with Existing Processes

Your organization likely has a lot of existing interdependencies between production or service, sales, and marketing teams, and these relationships are often layered over by financial management activities too. It is incredibly important to consider how an app interfaces with existing processes and associated technology platforms that support each department and that facilitate effective communications between each.

Will an app, for instance, need to communicate with specific platforms, like a CRM, or be able to provide information to a database? Will integration require an API or will legacy technologies that are currently used internally require manual data inputs from the app? What existing processes will be impacted and are there associated operating procedures that will need to be adjusted with an app release?

Assessing if a mobile app can be integrated with processes and technology platforms can be a significant lift, but a necessary one to help reduce challenges during and after its release, as well as to capture the full benefits of its proposed functionality.

Budgeting

While mobile app development has become more commonplace and less costly, it can still be a capital intensive initiative, especially for apps with complex functionalities. From security, user interface, optimization, and supporting workflows, many features can influence the overall costs of mobile app development. Does the cost ultimately make sense given the expected return? Ideally, an organization should not strain its budget to develop a mobile app if there aren’t considerable expected benefits.

There are a few ways that can help manage an app development budget effectively. The first and most important is scoping the project accurately. Answer the big questions first: what is the app intended to do, what are the features needed to support the intended use, and what are the required integrations with existing systems?

Consider also whether there is in-house talent that can help design, develop, and support an app or alternatively if this is strictly a contracted effort. If you plan to use a professional agency service, be sure to obtain multiple quotes and understand the differences in what is explicitly covered in the quote versus what will be add-ons (like additional revision rounds, app testing, integrations, etc.). It is important to understand billing terms as well. Often the cost of development can be spread over the duration of a project, consequently allowing the budgeting to be spread over multiple months or quarters.

User Experience

At the backbone of any application lies the user experience aspect. A mobile app should be easy to use, readily accessible, and provide the user a clear path to the experiences, information, or other outcomes they expect to find.

Whether they want to reach customer service or shop for their favorite product or service, a customer should be able to easily find what they’re looking for in a mobile app. They should also be able to do so without struggling with multiple obstructions, like repeated login information fields or other unnecessary gates to the app experience.

User experience planning really starts at the very outset of the project. If the scoping is off, so too will be the user experience. The app conceptualization and design must be made to support exactly what the intended user experience is or the user experience will be, at best, less than ideal and, at worst, fail entirely.

To App Or Not To App

If your target audience is using mobile devices, and with almost no exceptions, they are, an app may be a worthwhile consideration. However, from determining the needs of your audience and the intended user experience to whether the expected return makes sense financially, many factors should influence the decision on whether to app or not to app. Have questions? Feel free to submit them here.