Ten years ago, Apple launched the slogan “There’s an App for That.” At the time, there were about 100,000 apps in Apple’s App Store. Today, that number has skyrocketed to 2.2 million, with another 2.6 million in the Google Play Store.
Now, more than ever, there’s an app for something, and many businesses feel the need to jump on the bandwagon. It’s like the early 1990s, when everyone thought they needed a website. They weren’t sure why they needed a website, but everybody else had one, so they got one too.
Nearly half of small businesses
have a mobile app, and another 30% plan to have one soon. But are consumers using them? But before you go spending thousands (yes, thousands) of dollars on an app developer to build an app for your business, you need to ask yourself: Does my business really need an app? Usually the answer is no, and here’s why.
The Rise of the Responsive Website
Ever since Ethan Marcotte proposed the idea of responsive web design
in a blog post, every industry has been pushing to make their website responsive – i.e, looking the same on a mobile phone as it does on a desktop. In the past, developers had to build a mobile site and a desktop site, and mobile users usually got the short end of the stick.
With responsive design and Luke Wroblewski’s mobile first design approach
, mobile users are now at the forefront of user experience. If it works on the desktop, it has to work on a mobile device. And this is not limited to webpages. Web apps are also being built with mobile functionality, many times eliminating the need for a mobile app.
Most Apps Go Unused
People spend 92% of their mobile time on apps, and only 8% using a browser. But that time is spent on only 6-10 apps; Localytics
reports that 23 percent of apps are used only once, then deleted. Three months after users install an app, 8 out of 10 users don’t use it anymore.
What’s Your App For?
Of course, there are some reasons for having an app: being the first in your industry and beating your competitors to the punch; building brand recognition and loyalty; and streamlining processes and user experience. You also might be able to attract new customers through those people looking for your niche in the app stores instead of Google.
But first and foremost, people need to find your app indispensable. It has to have a user experience that surpasses what your website does or offer new functionality.
For example, here at Ninja Number, our app is the foundation of our product. The app is a business phone system that resides on your phone, allowing you to make and receive business calls on your personal cellphone without giving out your personal number. You can’t do that on the web; the only solution is to build an app.
Use the Phone’s Features
Take advantage of the built-in functionality of the mobile phone – location services, accelerometer, camera and notifications. For instance, you can do online banking on a bank’s website, but many bank apps offer mobile deposits in which you take a photo of a check with your smartphone and deposit the photo instead of the check. That’s new functionality that helps consumers.
If your business has a loyalty program, it might benefit from a mobile app. Starbucks customers can pay for their drinks with the mobile app, and it keeps track of their points and notifies them when they have enough points for a free item.Explore your company’s goals and customer touchpoints, and see if an app could benefit those goals and help the customer. Check with your competitors to see what they’re doing. And make sure that an app would do the job better than a mobile website would.