"There’s an app for that” has become a lame joke for whenever anyone imagines something pointless, like using your phone as a harmonica (wait, there is an app for that) or drinking a virtual beer on your phone (wait, there’s one for that, too).
The phrase, which was eventually trademarked, dates back to 2009 when Apple used it to promote its App Store and mobile devices.
As of July 2015, there were some 1.5 million apps for Apple users, as well as 1.6 million for Android devices (though a substantial portion of these are the same apps for the two different operating systems).
And, according to Ashish Parmar of mobile app developer Prismetric Technologies, app store downloads will increase 100 percent by 2020 compared to 2015.
Does Your Business Have an App? Do You Need One?
Asking if you need an app is sort of like asking if you need a website. Fifteen years ago or so, that happened to be a legitimate question.
Daniel Cristo at Marketing Land recalls that is was sometimes difficult for business owners to understand why they needed a website. The response was often, “We have a sign. We don’t need a website... In all fairness, it was 2002.
There was no Yelp. There was no Facebook, Groupon or YouTube... [W]hile businesses in 2002 didn’t depend on websites and the Internet as they do today, those that saw the potential and started building a web presence early benefited the most when consumers finally shifted their behavior to be more digital. This exactly where we stand today with mobile apps.”
We're Living in a Mobile World
Today, what business doesn’t have a website? It would be like not putting your company sign on the front door. Yet, some business owners don’t give much thought that they need a mobile app, the same way people once thought they didn’t really need a website.
One reason you might need an app is because people more and more go online using a mobile device rather than a desktop or laptop computer. A recent comScore study shows that we’re past predicting that mobile is about to become king, it has been crowned.
According to the study, “As of December 2015, mobile audiences for the top 100 digital properties, in the aggregate, have surpassed the desktop audience. And while the total number of smartphone owners has not yet trumped the PC audience, that will likely come either late this year or in 2017.
The comScore December 2015 smartphone penetration figure is 79 percent, but among 18- to 34-year-olds, the number is about 93 percent.” Okay, you might think, that’s great, there’s a mobile version of my website. No problem, right? Still could be a problem.
Related Article: Mobile Apps vs. Mobile Web: Do You Have to Choose?
What Your Mobile Website Can’t Do
While it’s true, according to some reports, that users split their time between mobile apps and mobile browsers (nearly a third report that apps provide a better experience), here are some things your mobile website can’t do that a mobile app can do with ease:
- Take a picture of something and share it on social sites.
- Notify customers of special offers or sales when they are near your premises.
- Provide special perks, discounts and customized messages to users with high social media influence
- Identify by name of someone entering your place of business.
- Adjust pricing based on an individual customer’s past buying habits and/or measure of social influence.
- Customize and streamline the individual user experience based on location and previous interactions.
Websites were built before biometrics, geolocation, cameras, and other capabilities become ubiquitous on mobile devices. They were built for people sitting in front of desktop computers, not a growing population relying on mobile devices daily for information, shopping and entertainment.
Mobile websites aren’t really much more than smaller versions designed to fit on smaller screens. Mobile apps are designed to do much more than provide information about your business. They are designed in many respects to literally be your business, to meet and greet customers, go where they go, and help them whenever they need it.
Related Article: Be Seen: 6 Mobile App Store Optimization Tips to Lead the Game
One final important difference, as noted in BuildFire, the average mobile user has installed 26 apps. So your app competes for attention among those 26. That’s actually good news, because your website is competing with millions of other online sites. Users don’t have to search for your website, because they already have your app.
Put a Billboard Right Where Customers See It Every Day
Mobile apps build your brand identity and engage customers in ways that encourage them to make purchases. As Jose Lopez explains in SmalBizDaily, “There’s a lot in common between mobile apps and blank billboard signs. You may make apps anything you wish to, informative, functional, hip, shocking or stylish.
However, in reality your app should be something that has features your customers find appealing, and your app should simultaneously be well branded with a great design.”
Your app should be attention-getting, because the more customers pay attention to your app, the more they engage with you and the more likely they are to purchase your product or service.
What Can a Mobile App Do Besides Advertise My Company or Incentivize Sales?
Your app can be a tool beyond being a shopping cart, though, of course, the more your tool is used, the more likely you’ll see sales increase.
Suzanne Kerns explains, “The key is to focus on solving a business problem. Apps that can solve business problems by allowing users to accomplish more in less time, use resources more efficiently, reduce waste, and present a more professional image to prospects and customers through better customer service will pay for themselves many times over.”
So, the question isn’t really whether you need a mobile app, it’s whether if you don’t have one, what are you waiting for?
Related Article: Mobile App Marketing: How Apps Contribute to the Consumer Journey