The famous Apple trademarked tagline, "There's an app for that," implies not only that there's an app for whatever you are looking for, but also that if you want someone to find your company and what you sell, you'd better have an app for it.
But, for other than the sake of appearances, is it really a cost-effective way to market your business?
The Explosive Growth of Apps Portio Research expects worldwide growth to exceed 200 billion downloadable apps by the end of 2017, representing revenues reaching $63.5 billion. As of February 2014, there were more than 1 million active apps in the Apple App Store, with another million in Google Play for Android users.
While apps for small businesses are just a slice of this growing market, it nonetheless emphasizes that apps are a routine, if not integral, part of the mobile user experience. Given that mobile devices account for more than half of all Internet usage, and that apps in particular account for 47 percent of total Internet traffic, it might seem that having an app is as necessary as having a website.
Converting a desktop-accessible, CSS-based website into a mobile-friendly version isn't overly complex or expensive. Unlike apps, mobile websites are OS-agnostic -- they work the same on Apple, Android, Windows, and any other mobile platform that supports a Web browser. So if you have a mobile website, why would you need an app?
Here are six good reasons your business needs an app!
1. An app gives you a more direct connection.
The app displays on the mobile desktop and it opens with one tap. In contrast, to get to your website, the user has to open the browser and find the bookmark for the appropriate URL (if it isn't already bookmarked, add the steps to search for it). It makes it easier for customers to call you or leave feedback.
Moreover, negative feedback posted on a website is left for everyone to see; negative feedback delivered through an app, however, gives you an opportunity to deal with customer dissatisfaction before it goes public.
2. An app puts your brand front and center.
Your business logo is part of the user interface. Every day your app is advertising your business on premium real estate.
3. Apps are preferred over websites.
According to digital analytics firm comScore, mobile users access content with apps 82 percent of time.
4. Apps do more than websites.
A few things apps can do that websites can't:
- Deliver push notifications of product updates, sales, and other special offers and news.
- Provide fact sheets, product videos, and other information offline; in addition, this information is automatically synchronized whenever the user goes back online.
It can be designed as a game or an interactive experience.
5. Apps provide an easy loyalty or customer reward platform.
There's no need for printed coupons or easily lost loyalty cards. Coupons and vouchers are sent directly to the customer and, thanks to location technology, customized to the store where the customer is.
6. Apps make ordering easier.
No need to load a shopping cart, because the app itself can be an ordering portal. According to a PC World survey, app development can be expensive, depending on what you do, ranging from nothing (the self-taught and tech savvy) up to $300,000.
Bottom line: The question to consider is whether you can give your customers something they need via an app that you can't give them through your website.
If the prospective increases in sales, customer loyalty, or market share justifies the developmental costs, then it could be a worthwhile endeavor. Particularly if you consider that if mobile usage trends continue, what you don't do today may be something you'll have no choice but to do tomorrow.